Event is a big draw for leaders, partners & supporters
Posted on 05/14/2024
Mayor Brian Turnbull addresses the audience at the Downs groundbreaking. Photo by Liz CezatHunter Pasteur hosted a groundbreaking on Monday, May 13, at the northern-most side of the 48-acre property being transformed from a former race track to a new mixed-use development with single- and attached-homes, apartments, luxury condominiums, parks and retail/restaurants/office space. The site featured a vast tent for the speeches, a ceremonial ground-breaking, and refreshments prepared by Tuscan Cafe. At the start of the private event, as approximately 150 people started to arrive, a Renascent water truck was spraying down the actual Downs site to keep dust at a minimum.

Hunter Pasteur COO and Partner Seth Herkowitz opened the event by thanking all who came. He also served as the master of ceremonies.

Mayor Brian Turnbull said the Downs is a “phenomenal piece of property” that will include a 10-acre park with a bioswale and daylighted river – in total the site will have more than 30% of green space. He noted there is waterfront on two sides of the property where the Rouge River and Johnson Creek converge. In the long-term, he said the Downs will be transformational not only for Northville residents, but for all in southeastern Michigan.

U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell referenced the mayor’s intensity, passion and “never giving-up” spirit. She gave a nod to the state legislators, county commissioners and mayors who attended the groundbreaking, noting, “This is about the southeast community coming together. Our strength is our unity.”

She touched on the water aspect of the project, saying that daylighting the Rouge River portion under the Downs racetrack property will help prevent flooding downriver and reduce sediment. She said clean water is a priority for her office. She said the river walk being planned will become a part of the pathway between the city and township, county and state, linking to the state trail system.

“Time moves on,” she said. “History moves on. It’s great to see so many people here. It’s an important moment in our future.”

Deputy Wayne County Executive Assad Turfe said he wants to be remembered during his tenure for bringing people together. He noted that the groundbreaking event also represents people from surrounding communities. He said it took a long time to bring the $350 million project to this point and he looks forward to being at the ribbon-cutting in the coming years.

Several of the speakers mentioned the public/private partnership at work with the Downs development, which shows how big projects can be achieved.

Herkowitz called the project a generational redevelopment, and said Randy Wertheimer, Hunter Pasteur CEO, brought sheer determination to the project to make it a reality.

When Wertheimer went to the microphone, he said Seth played a major role in getting the project approved and earned the trust of the staff, City Council, Planning Commission – “who held our feet to the fire” – and the Historic District Commission.

He praised Mayor Turnbull’s leadership and cited his role in creating the task forces that provided greater input into the project, even though he (Randy) had to be convinced of the value of doing so. Half-jokingly, he said he was the only developer ‘delusional’ enough to take on this project, not knowing that it would take 5-1/2 years to get to this point.

He gave a nod to the task forces for helping to design a project that will “make you and your family proud.”

He appreciated the residents’ role, giving kudos to Nancy Darga as chair of the River Task Force and for her involvement with the development agreement. “She believed in us and our project, which was not easy or popular.”

Wertheimer mentioned that his brother-in-law, Nate Force, who manages Somerset Collection Mall, is also involved in the project. “We will create a destination to make all proud for generations to come.”

He expressed gratitude for all involved with the project, referencing the architects, builders, HP consultants, city staff and consultants, and government officials, noting, “It took a big team to execute.”

After the speeches ended, a group of 20 individuals picked up a shovel engraved with the event name and date, and dug into the dirt from the trough they stood behind to symbolize breaking ground.

Top photo: From left: Hassan Sheikh, Wayne County Economic Development director; Wayne County Commissioner Terry Marecki; Scott Hansen, Toll Brothers Land Development director; Hunter Pasteur COO and Partner Seth Herkowitz; (person behind Randy, not on camera): Nico Schultz, SVP, Soave Enterprises; Hunter Pasteur CEO Randy Wertheimer; Deputy Wayne County Executive Assad Turfe; U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell; Mayor Brian Turnbull; and Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Moroski Browne.

Bottom photo: From left: Omar Eid, Hunter Pasteur VP, development/partner; State Rep. Matt Koleszar; Council Members Andrew Krenz, Laura Genitti and John Carter; Oboran partners Tim O’Brien and Randy Doran; and Brett Yuhasz, Hunter Pasteur partner and VP, construction. Not pictured (at end with shovel): State Rep. Kelly Breen and Oakland County Commissioner Gwen Markham.

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