Two massive developments thriving in Romulus despite COVID-19

In a time when most businesses are freezing during the COVID-19 pandemic, two developments in Romulus are thriving. 

One is Vistar on Smith Road just east of Vining Road. It's is an essential provider of cold storage food products. The plan to bring this 165,000 square-foot facility was in the works right before the pandemic hit.

"Right in the middle of our approvals, COVID hit. So we said oh boy, here we go. We don't know what this means. Nobody knew what that meant. But what did the city do? The city of Romulus did something different than any other study that we do business within the area, and what they did was they said let’s keep going," said Tony Antone, a developer with Kojaian. 

The 50-year-old company helped bring an Amazon facility to Romulus pre-COVID and now they’re bringing in Vistar.  

The mayor of Romulus proud of both of these developments. With the Amazon development, some were wary. Mayor Leroy Burcroff was not. 

"We weren’t afraid of that size development but I really call it a game-changer-type development. The benefit to the community also for the residents, we call it the citizens' benefit, is that they've got a click away from the services to their door," Burcroff said.

Unlike Amazon, the Vistar deal was in the midst of the pandemic. Developers are thanking the city for moving quickly despite it. 

"Had the city not acted that quickly, we would’ve lost the deal. The deal would’ve died because these people had to be done by spring of '21. And if we couldn’t get the approvals and start construction, we weren’t going to get it done and it would’ve just been mothballed," Antone said.

"In a COVID pandemic, being able to still have meetings and discussion, having building inspectors available to go out and inspect - that’s what some communities are lacking right now. They get projects in-house, they get stalled either because of lack of resources of labor contractors or the local municipality doesn’t have the ability to get out and do inspections right away," Burcroff said. 

The Vistar project will be done by May or June of 2021. Kojaian says they have more land in Romulus and they're not done yet.