$19.8 million loft/retail project pumping up downtown Pontiac

Construction has begun on a loft and retail project that is the largest construction development in downtown Pontiac in 30 years.

The building of Lafayette Place Lofts, a project of Pontiac-based West Construction Services, began last week at the site of the prominent and shuttered Sears department store on Saginaw, Lafayette and Perry streets, a part of the city's historic commercial district. The completion date is set for December, possibly sooner, says Kyle Westberg, owner of West Construction Services.

The 46 upscale-style, affordably-priced units will be spread over two and three floors taking up 80,000 square feet. They will sit atop two 10,000-square-foot businesses on the ground floor -- Anytime Fitness, a fitness center that will be a first for the city, and, Lafayette Market, a fresh food market and cafe. There will be 31 indoor parking spaces.

The project is a historic preservation and will include energy efficiency measures such as geothermal and photovoltaic power as well as the use of recycled and sustainable materials.

The $19.8-million project is funded in part by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program through the Michigan Land Bank and also through New Markets tax credits from the Michigan Magnet Fund.

"Lafayette Place Lofts multi-use development is a game-changer for downtown Pontiac, bringing great new living, working and shopping opportunities," Oakland County Treasurer and Michigan Land Bank Board Chairman Andy Meisner says in a statement detailing the project.

Magnet Fund Chief Business Development Officer Al Bogdan describes the lofts as "an innovative project that will stimulate Pontiac's downtown with new businesses and new residents."

KeyBank Community Development Lending, which is providing bridge financing, compliments the project for its affordability and plan to improve the health of local residents.

West says he, investors and local officials see this as a great time to invest in downtown Pontiac as dozens of companies from individually-owned to corporate-run have moved in or stepped up business. A number of other programs by local community and business development organizations are seeing success in the city, and investments in mass transit and by local health systems are bringing positive change to a town that's gone broke and been taken over by the state.

He says there's much for potential residents to be attracted to.

"From this location, you can get to about seven counties in a 45 minute-drive…We can hit 3 1/2 to 4 million people," West says. "We love the idea of being so centralized ... not only to the freeways, but the buses, the train from the new transit center, and the bike path ... You can reach hundreds of miles of bike path from downtown if you want…When you add in the architectural fabric we have, the historic nature we have, the walkable downtown … there is a lot here."

An important aspect, he says, was bringing amenities not found in the city to both residents and employees.

"...For the [60,000 residents, and] the employees -- probably 20,000 -- there is no fitness center. And the fresh food market and cafe downtown, that is something we don't have," West says. "We took a healthful, holistic approach to this development. We hope we're building a catalyst for other development to come to town."

Source: Kyle West, owner, West Construction Services
Writer: Kim North Shine