Battle Creek Secretary of State Office Moving …why not to the Mall?
The Battle Creek Secretary of State office is moving to the Minges Brook Mall and will shut down after close of business on Friday March 22nd. It’ll re-open on April 1st.
So why the move, and why this location?
A spokesman for The Hinman, Company, the owner of the current location, says the old lease was up and the state wanted a space with opportunities to expand, and there weren’t any contiguous options at the current site. The new Secretary of State Office will be in the Minges Brook Mall, between the UPS Store and Big Lots.
Shawn Starkey is the Michigan Department of State’s Communications Director. He was a guest on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins. “This is something that has been in the works for close to two years, “said Starkey. “We really need some more usable square footage in the lobby for the increased volume of business in that branch. Customers were feeling crammed in the tight quarters in the current location and we even were having some issues with crowing in the vestibule where we have our self-service kiosks set up.”
The Michigan Secretary of State offices have embraced new technology in recent years, allowing a lot of business to be done on line, begging the question: Does the Battle Creek office really need more space?
“I think we do feel that we do need more space, and it’s about another 500 square feet of space at the new location“, said Starkey. “What’s also nice is that we picked up more square footage and more parking for less money per year.”
Starkey says the current location holds 239 parking spaces and he says the new location has 329 parking spaces, with 85 directly in front of the new office. But the new location will be sharing the parking lot with several large businesses, with heavy traffic, which isn’t the case at the current location. Customers of Hobby Lobby, Big Lots, Joanne’s Fabric, La Cocina Restaurant and several other smaller businesses will be fighting for those spots, and a large portion of the spaces are on the east end of the lot, far away from the new Secretary of State office.
Why Not the Mall?
Many people in Battle Creek were hoping to see the office move to the Lakeview Square Mall. Sharkey says they considered that location, but he says it was priced too high compared to the location that was selected. He says the new space will cost the state $80,000 per year, which he says is about $1,100 per year less that they were paying at the old location. James Kolomian, Leasing Agent at Lakeview Square mall confirmed that they did talk with the Secretary of State office about possibly locating there. He says they submitted a proposal. On January 25th, 2018, he says they received notice saying their proposal was rejected and that the state had agreed to lease a different location. "It turns out we had one shot at it, " said Kolomian. "We were very surprised that there was no further discussion or negotiation." Kolomian admits that Lakeview Square's number was higher than the $80,000 lease the state signed with Minges Brook Mall. But he says they would have lowered the amount, had they been given the chance to negotiate.
The owner of the new location is LSPV-Minges LLC, and is managed by Versa Properties, located in Southfield. Todd A. Wyatt is listed as the principal with those companies and about 21 others in Michigan. Wyatt is also the chairman of the Michigan State Transportation Commission (STC). The STC is the policy-making body for all state transportation programs. It is comprised of six members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate. Wyatt has served on the board since 2010. Wyatt and Versa Real Estate are also listed as a major contributor to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’ s election campaign, donating $6,800.00. But Sharkey notes the new lease was signed last June 15th, well before the gubernatorial election. But Wyatt also contributed $8,741.20 to Governor Rick Snyder's campaign in 2014.
Sharkey says the workers from the Battle Creek office will be temporarily reassigned to other nearby branches, which anticipate higher traffic during the week the Battle Creek office will be moving. The closest locations are in Hastings, Albion and Portage.
The city building permit posted at the new location was applied for by DA Contracting LLC of Southfield. It lists the taxpayer as LSPV Minges LLC of Royal Oak. Sharkey says they’re confident the new location will be good for the community. “Give the new location a chance. It’ll open on April 1st.”
So when all is said and done, in the opinion of this writer, the new Battle Creek Secretary of State office will save the taxpayers $91 dollars a month and get extra space equal to your garage. And it's possible that they could have been going into our mall for even greater savings. Something doesn't seem right about this.