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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Hubel

Transforming Downtown Pontiac: State Allocates $50 Million for Oakland County's Satellite Campus

Exciting news for the development of Downtown Pontiac! Lawmakers have recently earmarked $50 million in the state's budget to support Oakland County's proposed satellite campus project. This one-time allocation is just a part of the total $85 million in state funding that Oakland County Executive David Coulter highlighted as necessary for the ambitious $114 million project.

The primary objective of the project is to relocate several hundred county employees into the Ottawa Towers office property, strategically located on the southern edge of the central business district. This move is expected to revitalize the area and create a transformative impact on Pontiac's historic downtown.

Expressing his enthusiasm, Coulter stated, "The Legislature's action today is an important step forward for this project that will help to transform Pontiac's historic downtown." He further added that they would continue working closely with the city of Pontiac, its residents, and the county Board of Commissioners to finalize the project details in the coming weeks.

The $50 million earmarked funds will be utilized for various purposes, including building purchases and renovations, blight removal, commercial and green space redevelopment, streetscaping, street connections, and the development of safe parking options for county and state government workers as well as residents. Bill Mullan, spokesperson for Coulter, mentioned that if the county proceeds with the property purchases, additional funding sources such as American Rescue Plan Act dollars, public-private partnerships, or other public funding options could be explored.

This project entails the county's acquisition of the Ottawa Towers office buildings, occupying one of them, purchasing adjacent parcels, and securing a 99-year lease on the Phoenix Center parking garage and amphitheater, although the fate of the garage itself is yet to be determined.

Pontiac Deputy Mayor Khalfani Stephens expressed his optimism about the financial earmark, stating, "We're extremely encouraged by the state's financial earmark which means the vision of bringing hundreds of employees to the heart of Oakland County is closer to becoming reality." He further added that the additional $5 million earmark allocated to the city would assist in clearing the remaining balance from the previous administration's sale of the office buildings. This debt elimination would enable the improvement and enhancement of the parking structure, benefiting both county employees and local citizens.

A rendering of what a downtown Pontiac outpost for Oakland County employees could look like.

The presence of county employees in downtown Pontiac would significantly contribute to the area's revitalization. The increased daytime population would support local businesses and provide much-needed foot traffic for restaurants and other establishments.

State Senator Jeremy Moss, a strong supporter of the earmark, emphasized the positive impact of bringing county employees downtown, calling it a potential "game changer" for the city, its residents, and businesses. Moss praised the state's involvement, emphasizing the significance of local elected officials driving the development of Pontiac rather than state-appointed emergency managers.

Downtown Pontiac has long been seen as a promising location for investors, but the progress in filling up the business district with apartments and office users has been slower than anticipated. Nevertheless, with this recent funding allocation and the commitment of various stakeholders, the transformation of Downtown Pontiac seems closer to becoming a reality.

Currently, the county is in a 60-day due diligence phase, set to conclude on July 18. Appraisals of the properties involved in the project are being conducted during this period, with results expected by the end of next week.

It is worth noting that the $50 million earmark is just a fraction of the substantial one-time spending approved in the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity budget. This budget includes almost $765 million dedicated to community enhancement, economic development, healthcare, public infrastructure, public safety, and workforce development.

With the resounding approval of the $82 billion budget, the potential for growth and progress in Pontiac has never been more promising. This moment marks a significant milestone, and we should all champion the efforts to transform Downtown Pontiac into a thriving hub of activity, opportunity, and prosperity.

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