Groundbreaking in April for downtown midrises, condos

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Construction of two midrise buildings in the west Michigan Avenue business district likely will begin in the spring following a Wayne County judge’s recent ruling.

It is the latest development in the city’s ongoing lawsuit against Burton-Katzman Development Co., B-K subsidiaries, and company executives, and came at a Dec. 4 hearing in front of Judge Michael Sapala. The lawsuit claims that B-K breached a contract on the West Village Commons development by not completing several agreed-upon components.

According to the order, Burton-Katzman must commence construction on two midrise buildings no later than April 3. At the same time, the company must begin work on two condominium complexes containing six units each. Per the terms of the original contract, the buildings must be completed within 15 months of groundbreaking.

“Judge Sapala is making (Burton-Katzman) fulfill the terms of the agreement they signed with the city,” City Attorney Debra Walling said.

Also at the Dec. 4 hearing, Sapala was supposed to hear arguments on the city’s request for more than $21 million in damages stemming from projected related expenses and lost tax revenues. But because city attorneys are seeking to add additional defendants to their complaint, the matter was pushed back to January, Walling said.

The current legal proceedings are a marked departure from when city officials selected B-K in 2003 as the preferred developer for the former Jacobson’s department store site, which the city acquired when the store closed. With two mixed-use complexes containing retail and office space, 48 condominiums, and two midrise buildings, Burton-Katzman’s proposed project was touted as catalyst for economic growth.

But by 2007 the project – and the developer – became a poster child for economic struggles. After completing the mixed-use portion of the development and 36 condo units Burton-Katzman ceased construction, saying that the remaining aspects of the project were “not economically viable.”

Since the lawsuit was filed in January, company officials have not returned numerous voice mails seeking comment. On Thursday, however, Chuck DiMaggio, Burton-Katzman senior vice president of project development, formalized the company’s mum stance and returned a phone call for this story, saying, “We have no comment to make on the litigation.”