(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
A public hearing for a tax abatement request on the Matthews Building on Main Street in downtown Owosso was rescheduled during the Monday, June 15 Owosso City Council meeting because the applicant (Owosso REI Group, LLC) did not phone in or make a show during the virtual meeting. The public hearing will now take place sometime later this summer. The city has a policy regarding tax abatement applicants that the applicant and/or a representative must be in attendance for a public hearing.
It was stated by council that the owner, Nemer Haddad, was served a notice of the hearing.
The city clerk received the tax abatement application in March, along with the application for an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate. The suggested rehabilitation project is valued at roughly $8,000,000, with plans to employ 20 full-time employees and 45 part-time employees. Under the application, the project calls for a complete renovation of the property – now in a state of disrepair – that will allow for both commercial and residential use of the structure. Plans will include retail/office space and 17 residential apartments on the upper floors. If approved, after a public hearing is held later, the tax abatement will be granted for 12 years at just over $560,000.
The application describes the property as containing three adjacent buildings that are currently vacant and in major disrepair. Plans suggest a riverside restaurant with Vibe Pizza and Fosters Coffee Co. occupying the northeast corner of the main floor and Leo’s on the corner of Main and Water streets. The upper floors will offer 17 “market rate” apartments, four with 2-bedrooms and 13 with 1-bedroom.
Some of the property issues listed include the roof, with areas in need of repair and replacement (the roof is caved in toward the southwest corner), the electrical system, wiring for modern technology, damage to the exterior metal façade, damaged and cracked brick walls, a complete replacement of the heating and cooling system and numerous window replacements. Only a few entrances currently meet barrier free requirements.
The Matthews Building sits directly across from city hall, aligned with the Shiawassee River. Originally, the property was developed as the Owosso Steam Flouring Mill and eventually was even used as the Owosso Brewing Company. The original structures were destroyed by fire in 1898, though the east and annex (center) building were constructed in 1899. Through the decades, the Matthews Building has been utilized in numerous ways, but by around 2000, half of the office spaces were vacant. It has been completely vacant since 2015.
Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne stated that Owosso REI is qualified for the Obsolete Property Rehab. Certificate/tax abatement.
In recent months, the Matthews Building has raised concern from some residents due to its highly questionable condition. Owosso Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika has been proactive in asking council for updates on the structure. The city sent a letter out in January to Haddad and he was given 30 days to comply – to address the collapsed roof and broken windows. After nothing was done, the city then cited Haddad for city ordinance violations, which has now culminated in city fines and a misdemeanor offense hearing at the end of June.
Originally, Haddad had been one of four businesspeople granted a medical marijuana license in the city lottery and original plans had entailed a retail marijuana store to go into the Matthews Building.
In 2014, Randy Woodworth had purchased the Matthews Building with similar plans for redevelopment, too.