New York-based developer Ashley Capital has high hopes for Sterling Heights’ former Liberty Park site. The brownfield site will be redeveloped to host a multi-tenant industrial building and is expected to generate hundreds of jobs when complete.
The former sports complex at 33600 Mound Road closed in 2017 and new developers saw its potential. Ashley Capital’s Senior Vice President Susan Harvey says the good location, strong community, and solid manufacturing base drew their attention. “There’s not a lot of opportunity in older suburbs,” Harvey says. “Sterling Heights has historically had one of the lowest industrial vacancy rates of all of metropolitan Detroit.”
Harvey says the new, approximately 600,000-square-foot building will be a distribution and light manufacturing center, similar to their tri-county commerce center recently opened in Hazel Park. “It will be state-of the art,” she says.
With no signed tenants, the site is being built “on-spec” but it’s not something Harvey is concerned about. “We build our buildings so that they are flexible,” she says. “Depending on the size of the tenant - you could end up having one or two tenants, or you could end up having five or six tenants.”
The company also has plans for a second development on the site, a 150,000-square-feet space on Mound Road towards the front of the property, which will be marketed as a built-to-suit opportunity.
Senior Economic Development Advisor Luke Bonner says Ashley Capital’s reputation as a “top-notch” developer precedes them, and it’s exciting to have a project of theirs in Sterling Heights. Bonner says the limited real estate for industrial growth in the city has restricted businesses looking to expand, or invest, and redeveloping a brownfield space is an ideal chance to move forward.
Liberty Park was a community asset and it’s closing was disappointing, Bonner admits, but the new development could significantly contribute to the city. He believes the overall project investment would be around $38 million and the center would have the ability to create between 400 to 500 jobs. “It’s going to create quite a boon for new job creation and a new tax base in the community.”
It hasn’t all been a walk in the park though, explains Harvey. “The soil conditions were an issue,” she says. However the brownfield plan has been approved and they look forward to construction soon.
Harvey says Michigan is unique in its encouragement of redeveloping brownfield sites, which is one of the reasons Ashley Capital is becoming prolific in metro Detroit. The environmental laws here provide reasonable protection for brownfield site investors, Harvey says. Baseline Environmental Assessments (BEAs) mean that while the landowner is required to bring the property up to industrial standards, the investment isn’t as risky as it could be. “You don’t really risk litigation as if you were the one who contaminated the property.”