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TROY, MI-The Troy administration is drafting language for a ballot proposal that would allow the sale of 11 acres of city property for the development of a conference center and hotel project. After decades of wrangling with what to do with a patch of a city-owned site along Big Beaver Road, across from city hall, plans for a $252 million public-private project seem to be moving ahead.

City Manager John Szerlag said to jump-start the project, 11 acres of city land must be sold for the development. He said the City Council has directed him to create language for the public to vote on the proposal. “It’s my understanding the council would want to have the vote during the city’s next general election in April 2004,” Szerlag said.

The move was made after six local developers reviewed city development plans for the property, according to Szerlag. Most of the developers believe a performing arts theater portion of the project, which also includes a large conference center and hotel, should be removed or set back as a second phase. The developers include: Acquest Realty & Management, Frankel Associates, Garfield Taub Development, Hines, Liberty Property Trust and the Marriott Corp.

The Downtown Development Authority has proposed a conference center of 100,000 sf to 250,000 sf, a hotel with up to 400 rooms, a 5,000-seat performing arts theater, up to three restaurants and up to 6,000 sf of retail space. Public space would include an amphitheater, water elements, landscaped festival areas, a skating rink, trails and benches. A 100,000 sf office building was proposed, but the city council rejected that part of the plan for now.

Szerlag recently told GlobeSt.com that he has to gauge the true level of involvement by the state. State officials have told the city that it would take two years to raise the estimated $40 million of state money needed to help fund a conference center.

According Szerlag, most of the developers say that public financing is a must for the project. “That $40 million, that underpins everything,” Szerlag said. “We never had a firm commitment from the state, they just said it was a good idea.”

For the conference center, Szerlag said the city would seek a special financing arrangement. An authority would be created, which would sell bonds to pay for construction of the conference center. When the bonds are paid back the city would own the building, Szerlag said.

A city committee has been established to again examine what site elements would be good for the property. A Marriott hotel and office buildings are already located at the western edge of the property, located across from the city hall, police and fire stations, the library, a community center, an aquatic center and a nature center.

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