The city of Wixom is crossing its fingers that the former Ford Wixom Assembly Plant will soon be sold.
Ford Motor Co. informed the city that it is inching closer to finalizing a deal with several companies interested in purchasing nearly all of the shuttered site.
According to Wixom City Manager Mike Dornan, Barrow Development Corporation, a New York-based company, and Trident Capital Group, based in Columbus, Ohio, are partnering on a deal and have signed letters of intent to purchase about 240 acres of the site.
Trident Capital Group acquires, manages, and redevelops industrial properties.
“As far as I know it’s sold with the contingency upon finalizing final documents,” Dornan said. “These are young, smart guys who move quickly and have experience in development and demolition.”
Ford Land officials, however, can’t comment on the potential sale quite yet.
“We maintain confidentiality agreements with parties during negotiations,” said Ford Land Communications Manager Becky Sanch. “We are pleased with the progress we are making in contract negotiations.”
Barrow Development’s co-founder Brian Wilson and Trident Capital representative David Pizotti have worked alongside Ford and the city to put a plan into action.
“They love the (Wixom) location and are looking at different models, but they plan to pretty much knock down the whole thing,” Dornan said.
Another 45 acres is anticipated to be sold to the Menards chain of home improvement stores as a separate parcel, according to Dornan. The $8-billion-a-year company has stores across the Midwest.
Ford has decided to retain ownership of the site’s 32.13-acre landfill to deal with environmental issues, given the potential for any future liability.
Prior to inking a deal, the new potential buyers requested that the Wixom Planning Commission consider accepting a zoning ordinance amendment that revises the master land use plan that overlays the Ford plant site, located off Wixom Road just north of I-96. This plan, called the gateway planned unit development, would reclassify the site as mixed-use site to allow for research and development, manufacturing, and some commercial use.
After a public hearing held on Monday, Oct. 1, the Planning Commission recommended that the City Council consider the proposed master plan amendments. The council will take up the issue on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Menards is also expected to approach the Planning Commission for a rezoning request under a gateway planned unit development approach.
“There’s a lot of good things happening and coming to a head, but it could take several years to redevelop the site,” Dornan said. “While it’s good news for Wixom, it doesn’t resolve the serious financial picture the city faces, and that’s why the millage is so important.”
During the Nov. 6 general election, voters will be asked to authorize a new dedicated millage of 3.5 mills (which is equal to $3.50 on each $1,000 of taxable value) for four years to fund municipal operating expenses, including police and fire, public works and parks and recreation services, beginning in July 2013.
Townsend Energy Solutions, headquartered in Baltimore, Md. expressed an interest in the Ford plant property last year. However, it still has not executed any purchase or lease agreements with Ford.
“Townsend is still in the picture, but they need to decide what their start and finish lines are,” Dornan said.
Ford has already begun demolition of a portion of the property’s structures.
“We are in the process of demolishing and readying the site,” Sanch said.