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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Hubel

Revitalizing Pontiac: Oakland County's $19.2 Million Pontiac Project

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

In a bold move aimed at transforming downtown Pontiac, the Oakland County commissioners have given the green light to the $19.2 million Pontiac Project. This ambitious initiative involves the acquisition of nearly 12 acres of prime land, including the Ottawa Towers buildings and four vacant lots. Additionally, the county will take over the Phoenix Center parking garage lease, with plans to demolish the aging structure. The project has been a subject of partisan debate, with all Republicans voting against it, but after a series of negotiations with city officials, the agreement received an 11-5 approval.

A central focus of the Pontiac Project is the demolition of the Phoenix Center parking garage, a long-standing endeavor that previously faced numerous challenges. The county's clear ownership and the removal of this aging structure are expected to attract developers and spur significant urban development. Pontiac city officials have been pushing for this demolition, and the county's involvement will also help the city eliminate a $6 million court-ordered judgment, making it a win-win situation.

The Pontiac Project's acquisition includes the Ottawa Towers building at 51111 Woodward Ave., Ottawa Towers II, a vacant office building at 31 E. Judson St., and several vacant land parcels. The Ottawa I Tower offices and the remaining 99-year lease for the Phoenix Center parking structure are also part of the deal. The county's plan aims to renovate the Judson building to accommodate around 500 to 600 county employees. By moving these workers to downtown Pontiac, the county hopes to revitalize the area that has seen disinvestment in previous years.

During negotiations with Pontiac city officials, concerns were raised regarding the county's verbal promise to provide greenspace. To address this, a city park with a 226-foot by 390-foot rectangular design has been agreed upon. Its location will depend on the final site plan and the placement of the new parking structure. This greenspace addition is seen as a valuable asset to the residents, further enhancing the overall appeal of the Pontiac Project.

The ambitious project is estimated to cost the county between $120 to $140 million to begin. The state has already granted $50 million, and the commissioners plan to set aside $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Additionally, the county intends to apply for an estimated $30 million in brownfield aid and explore other redevelopment grants. The financial backing reflects a commitment to see this revitalization plan through, recognizing the significant benefits it will bring to the community.

The Pontiac Project marks a significant turning point in the relationship between Oakland County and Pontiac city leadership. With the project's approval, for the first time in decades, the two entities are working together for the betterment of the community. Commissioner Angela Powell, a Democrat representing Pontiac, praised this collaborative approach and acknowledged that it marks a departure from the past, where decisions were often unilateral.

The $19.2 million Pontiac Project represents a transformative step towards revitalizing downtown Pontiac and fostering collaboration between the city and county. By acquiring and repurposing key properties, including the Ottawa Towers buildings, and demolishing the Phoenix Center parking garage, the county is set to attract developers and create a vibrant urban space. The addition of a city park further enhances the project's appeal to the community. With financial support secured and a commitment to working together, the Pontiac Project promises to be a catalyst for positive change, drawing residents and businesses back to the heart of Oakland County.

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