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Silverdome site still up in air

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The Silverdome holds a gun and knife show. Analysts have said the site is worth $350,000 an acre, or almost $50 million, if the Silverdome is knocked down.

Silverdome site still up in air

A decision could come next month as the Pontiac council considers two offers.

By Jennifer Chambers / The Detroit News

PONTIAC -- A decision on what will rise on 127 acres of prime Oakland County real estate to replace the Pontiac Silverdome is expected next month, but anxious observers shouldn't expect to see any major changes at the site until 2006.

Pontiac City Council President John Bueno said city leaders are completing their last round of negotiations with the two contending development companies. A decision should be made by the full City Council in February.

City leaders have spent the last two years examining proposals, including a convention center, high-tech research office park and exhibition space for auto suppliers.

The white-topped landmark sits near Interstate 75 and M-59, abandoned by the Detroit Lions in 2002.

In October, one of the developers, Schostak Brothers Co., announced it was teaming with another competing company, Danou Enterprises, on the project. Schostak's $300 million plan, which calls for a 386,000-square-foot International Automation Center with exhibition space for the region's auto suppliers, remains the same.

Bueno said the council's Silverdome subcommittee is looking at cost adjustments and obtaining additional benefits in the proposed deal, such as having the companies sponsor local philanthropic organizations in the city as part of the deal. Public informational hearings will be held once a developer is chosen.

Mayor Willie Payne, whose term ends on Dec. 31, said he is pushing for a decision and would like to see the process expedited. He is not a voting member of the council.

"It's a long time, but this is a major decision that has to be made with what we want to see on that site. Once you make the decision, you can't undo it. We want to make the right decision," he said.

Once a developer is chosen, city leaders must work out a development agreement, and then the process of site planning and approvals begins.

In addition, one last Super Bowl hurrah might be in the works for the Silverdome, which is under consideration as a practice site for Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in 2006. Payne said such an event would not interfere with redevelopment of the site and that discussions remain favorable for the practice option for either team competing in the NFL championship game.

"I think it's the best thing since sliced bread," Payne said.

John Graham has lived in Pontiac for 82 years and said it is time for city leaders to make a decision on the site and start generating tax revenue for the community.

"It's been a very long time to me. They seem to keep it busy with car races, and now they are (proposing) having a Super Bowl practice," Graham said. "I'd like to see something that could produce income so our taxes can come down."

Schostak wants to turn the Silverdome building into a Pontiac Towne Center that is part industrial park and part retail center, with six restaurants and a recreation center. The dome would be removed and rebuilt to accommodate a 300-room hotel.

Schostak's cash offer for the land is $18.5 million. Officials say it will generate 7,000 new jobs.

Etkin Equities wants to demolish the Silverdome and develop 20-22 buildings over 1.5 million square feet of space for a high-tech research office park with a small amount of space for retail stores and restaurants.

The company's cash offer for the property is $17 million, with development costs expected to be $200 million. The project is expected to create 6,000 jobs.

The proposal includes sharing 25 percent of profits from the property with the city. Curtis Burstein, Etkin's executive vice president, said project consultants have estimated Pontiac's share of the profits at $5 million.

The offer also includes a $1 million bonus if 80 percent of the property is put into use within the first five years of the development.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said he would like to see city officials make a decision soon to generate tax money for the city and county and bring jobs into the area.

"It's probably the most valuable property in Oakland County, and it's off the tax rolls." Patterson said. "They have a lot of cooks in the kitchen. They need to make a decision and get on with it."

Analysts have said the site -- situated near Oakland County's Automation Alley -- is worth $350,000 an acre, or almost $50 million, if the Silverdome is knocked down.

Pontiac officials began soliciting proposals from developers nationwide in 2001 after Detroit Lions officials announced they would be leaving the Silverdome to play football at Ford Field in downtown Detroit. The Lions paid the city of Pontiac $26.25 million to break their lease and almost $1 million in service fees the team had been withholding.

The Silverdome hasn't given Pontiac the financial boost predicted when it opened in 1975.

Studies had predicted a development explosion and at least $2.2 billion in spillover growth across Oakland County, especially in nearby Auburn Hills, Troy and Bloomfield Township. But with its location just off the interstate and accessibility to several highways, the Silverdome allowed fans to come and go quickly without spending money in the city.

Through the years, taxpayers have ponied up $30 million for the Silverdome and continue to pay a 1.3-mill tax for it. Taxpayers have received about $3 million in profit in 25 years.

You can reach Jennifer Chambers at (248) 647-7402 or [email protected]

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Officials began soliciting proposals from developers in 2001 after the Lions announced they would be leaving the Silverdome.

Silverdome proposals

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