Luxury condos may be a possibility

Published 4:19 am Tuesday, June 7, 2005

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Will there be luxury condominiums, an apartment complex for seniors or anything new at all along Niles riverfront near the Broadway Street Clifford Edens Bridge?
It's too early to tell.
However, two developers made initial pitches to the Niles City Council at a committee of the whole meeting Monday night. Both want to purchase the property that formerly housed the Niles police and fire departments at the corner of Third and Broadway and develop it for residential use.
That's about as far as either's plans have gotten thus far.
Fred Schmidt, a native of Niles who now works in real estate sales and development in San Diego, Calif., has put together a partnership he's calling FCS Development Group, which includes several prominent Niles area residents, among them Art Perez, Tom Bybee and Mitchell Streicker.
Schmidt presented his vision of the property, which includes constructing about 12 condominiums. While he said his plans are flexible, when questioned, Schmidt said he'd expect the units to sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 each.
"I'm not sure high-end condos would work here," Schmidt said.
His plans include removing the existing Public Safety building and adding units that would have off-street parking, river views and possibly boat docks.
Schmidt, who has a degree in land use planning and presently is a licensed California Realtor, said he has "a big desire" to develop this project here.
"I want to do good things for my home community," he said.
Edward Beitzel, who is a project manager for Fiskars Properties of St. Joseph, said no decision had been made as to what his company would develop on the property, other than it would be residential. When pressed, he said he'd expect it to be condominium units similar to others his company has developed, of about 960 square feet each and that they would, too, sell for more than $200,00 each.
An obstacle for Fiskars' project is the moving of a City of Niles utilities power substation, located on the property.
Beitzel said Fiskars' development of the property would require removal of that substation, which Niles Utilities Manager Jim Lehmkuhl estimates would cost between $1 and $1.5 million.
Niles City Councilmember Patricia Gallagher asked Beitzel whether Fiskars would be willing to bear the cost of relocating the power substation.
"No, we would not," he said.
Beitzel said Fiskars proposal asks that the city transfer the property to Fiskars at no cost, that the city relocate the existing power substation at no cost to Fiskars, that the city provide a Phase 1 environmental report and provide a letter of no action from the State of Michigan regarding environmental issues. In exchange, Fiskars would demolish the existing public safety building at an estimated cost of $150,000 and would develop a multi-story condominium complex of about 20 units overlooking the river with parking on the river side and off Third Street.
Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin said at least two others, who could not be present at Monday's city council committee meeting, have expressed an interest in purchasing and developing the property. He said he would form a committee of council members to explore the issue of selling the property, as well as develop ideas as to how the property should be developed.
Niles City Councilmember Bruce Williams said others are likely, too, to become interested in developing the property. He questioned the need for a committee of the whole meeting to explore each project.