Thursday, January 7, 2021

Development on track in city despite pandemic

Tony Antone has a lot of good things to say about the city of Romulus.

The developer, who works with the 50-year-old Kojaian Management Development Co., credits the ability of Romulus officials to work through the worst health crisis to strike the country and keep a major development on track and on schedule.

Vistar, a provider of cold storage food products, is expected to be operational in the city this spring in a new facility located on Smith Road just east of Vining Road in the city. Plans to build the 165,000 square foot facility in the city were under way just before the health threat of COVID-19 closed down many businesses in the state.

Antone said despite his trepidation regarding the pandemic, officials in Romulus surprised him. Rather than delay the project or approval studies, the city kept the project approvals on track and on time. He admitted that this was a different approach than other cities with whom the developer of industrial sites works. Kojaian was also the developer of the Amazon site in Romulus which opened prior to the pandemic. That distribution center, despite the negative impact of the virus on many other businesses, is thriving, officials said. 

Mayor LeRoy Burcroff was an enthusiastic supporter of the Amazon facility development, which prompted concerns from some others. 

“We weren't afraid of that size development but I really call it a game-changer-type development. The benefit to the community also for the residents, we call it the citizens' benefit, is that they've got a click away from the services to their door,” Burcroff said in a recent published interview regarding the Amazon facility.

Antone was not hesitant to express his gratitude and appreciation for the ability of Romulus to move the new Vistar project forward, and move it quickly through the necessary studies and permit phases.

“Had the city not acted that quickly, we would've lost the deal. The deal would've died because these people had to be done by spring of '21. And if we couldn't get the approvals and start construction, we weren't going to get it done and it would've just been mothballed,” Antone said.

“In a COVID pandemic, being able to still have meetings and discussion, having building inspectors available to go out and inspect - that's what some communities are lacking right now. They get projects in-house, they get stalled either because of lack of resources of labor contractors or the local municipality doesn't have the ability to get out and do inspections right away,” Burcroff said. 

That is obviously not the case in Romulus. The Vistar project will be done by May or June this year, according to Antone.