October 3, 2023

Half-built Saline hotel could soon emerge from construction freeze

SALINE, MI – It’s summertime, construction season in Michigan, but the warm weather hasn’t been…

SALINE, MI – It’s summertime, construction season in Michigan, but the warm weather hasn’t been enough to thaw a two and a half-year construction freeze on a half-built Best Western hotel in Saline.

The hotel still stands unfinished in a commercial strip at the city’s eastern boundary.

But that could soon change.

A sale of the property and hotel project to a new developer is expected within a month, according to Saline Mayor Brian Marl, who said the project was initially halted due to a “lack of financial resources.” The potential sale was also confirmed by an attorney involved in the bankruptcy proceedings of the investment group that initially got the project off the ground.

“There is an entity based out of southeast Michigan who has a number of hotels in their portfolio who is looking to acquire the property, and if we stay on the current trajectory they may be looking to close sometime in early August,” Marl said.

The mayor and city officials have met twice with the potential buyer, who he declined name, including an on-site walk-through of the hotel building at 1250 East Michigan Avenue, which has been at a standstill since late 2019.

Read more: Half-built Best Western in Saline could be auctioned to new developers

City officials have pledged support to expediting approvals and getting construction back up and running, with the hopes the sale goes through and the hotel is operational next year, Marl said.

“Certainly something could change. This is an ever-evolving process. It’s very fluid, but again if we stay on the current trajectory, I would expect them to close sometime early next month,” the mayor added.

The property is currently owned by Saline Lodging Group, LLC, whose members are a collection of mostly local businesses, individuals, family trusts and husband-and-wife teams that invested in the project, according to court documents.

Contacted by MLive/The Ann Arbor News about the status of the hotel, Beth Ann Rentschler and William Long, two members of an advisory board guiding Saline Lodging Group’s reorganization, directed a reporter to recent legal proceedings in federal court, where the company has been mired in a protracted case since filing for bankruptcy in September 2021.

It could soon come to an end. A liquidation plan confirmed by the court on July 22 provides for the payment of $129,901 in back-taxes to Saline and Washtenaw County and roughly $400,000 in construction debts, among other outstanding claims.

If it takes effect, Saline-based Your Enterprise Solutions, LLC (YES), a separate company which holds a mortgage on the property, would pay the debts and take control of the hotel.

“YES intends to take title and then promptly sell the property to an experienced hotel operator who will complete the construction and operate the hotel,” said an attorney representing the company, Geoffrey Silverman, in an email.

Another party could still file an appeal and freeze the process. “I will be shocked if that happens. I fully expect the property to be sold on or before August 20,” Silverman said.

The unfinished three-story, 63-room Best Western Premier hotel with a restaurant and banquet space and the property it sits on was appraised in 2020 with a $2.7 million market value, according to court filings.

Saline code enforcement officers recently cited the building for broken windows, and the exterior building wrap is peeling in some places, the documents state.

Still, Marl says, the building has been “well-preserved” since construction stopped, and much of the work that would need to be completed for the hotel to open involves interior construction, like putting in flooring, lighting and fixtures.

The mayor said the local investors behind the project have faced many hurdles. “I have to say I applaud their tenacity and all the efforts that they made to try to move this project forward,” he said.

The city isn’t formally involved in the project but has long advocated for it to be completed, according to Marl. “We don’t want to see a derelict property languish and detract from our resident’s quality of life,” he said.

“We are very interested in seeing a functioning hotel on our city’s eastern border. I think that would benefit the community in innumerable ways, not just the services and amenities, but it also grows and expands our tax base while also creating jobs,” Marl said.

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