Developer Plans Hotel, Offices, Retail Space for Howell, Mich.

HOWELL -- Developer Dan Johnson wants to build a boutique hotel, banquet hall, parking deck, retail space and an office building -- all on Court Street, one of the downtown's more desolate streets.

The Court Street Crossing project would replace a vacant party store, parking lot, towing business, small apartment building and junkyard.

"We feel there is a substantial potential in downtown Howell that we want to be a part of," said Johnson, who owns a few businesses in downtown Howell.

The City Council will discuss whether to go forward with conceptual plans for the project on Monday night. Johnson presented the plans to the City Council in November and expects its decision on the conceptual plans before the end of the year.

Johnson sees it as a development that will bring between $18 million and $22 million in investment, create more than 100 jobs and increase foot traffic downtown.

"We believe it would act as an additional stimulus for downtown Howell," Johnson said.

The plans call for building up Court Street between Grand River and Sibley with two, four-story buildings, matching the aesthetic of downtown Howell. A dual-level 240 car parking deck is planned for the south side of Sibley.

The buildings on the west side of Court Street would have ground floor retail space and three floors of offices above them. The east side of Court Street would have a banquet hall and hotel combination.

The overall plan calls for 25,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space, 46,000 square feet of Class A office space, a 50,000-square-foot hotel with a 9,000-square-foot banquet hall seating 400 people.

The proposal comes shortly after the city received a $250,000 Cool Cities grant from the state. The grant provides technical assistance and training for improving Howell's downtown by establishing a Main Street program.

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Susan Novakoski, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. which is administering the grant, said such projects are key to making downtowns vibrant places.

"That's the name of the game," Novakoski said. "It's the recipe to get people to work, play and live downtown."

Several Councilmembers had questions about the project, but voiced support for the new conceptual plans, which replace plans for the Sibley Square Project.

The original proposal called for developing the north side of Sibley Street between Michigan and Court. Initial plans called for building shops, homes, a hotel and a five-level parking deck on what is now a surface parking lot.

However, opposition from local residents and business leaders along with a city planners' recommendation to build up Court Street killed the first proposal.

"I really like this one," said Howell City Councilman Paul Rogers. "I think we can make this work. There are a lot of questions. ... I'm much more comfortable with this one than the last one."

Many of the Sibley Square project's most vocal critics remained largely silent about the new plans. Peter Van Winkle, a lawyer who lives and works nearby in downtown, said he would reserve judgment on the project until he sees more concrete numbers.

John Cleary, owner of Cleary's Irish Pub, declined to comment until he gets more information.

Steve Delaney, who lives near the area, doesn't like the proposal. "There are enough restaurants around here already," Delaney said.

What's next

The Howell City Council will discuss whether to go forward with conceptual plans for the Cross Street Crossing project at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the basement of the Howell City Hall, 611 E. Grand River Ave. For information, call (517) 546-3500.

<<The Detroit News -- 12/05/05>>

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