MSU Trustees Joel Ferguson and Brianna Scott were awarded a bid on a ruined downtown Muskegon building in a Sept. 10 Muskegon City Commission meeting.
The building was formerly an Ameribank, but is now being redeveloped into a mixed-use property with commercial and residential spaces.
Ferguson has been criticized in his handling of concerns from sexual assault survivors in the wake of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's sentencing in January 2018.
The two trustees have close ties to real estate, Scott has practiced real estate law in the past and has been searching for developments downtown.
Ferguson, with Ferguson Development, is an investment partner in the $250 million Red Cedar development in the Michigan Avenue corridor. He has also been a prominent developer in the Lansing and Detroit areas.
“Brianna has been interested in development and construction projects for about 10 to 15 years,” said her spokesperson Debra Hendrickson.
Hendrickson said Scott has owned a construction business since 2007 and always sought to develop downtown Muskegon.
“The Ameribank building is very near and dear to her heart because that is where her mother first went to work in banking … She has wanted to have an African American presence in this downtown development," Hendrickson said. "Nobody is really stepping up and saying 'well African Americans and minorities can do this.'”
“In our business, of course, we want to build something that the community wants," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he seeks to make a statement in Muskegon, drawing more community use.
“Brianna and myself are partners, and we want to show young African American kids that working hard and applying yourself is a great opportunity for you."
While the terms of the deal are still being worked out, the proposal calls for a market rate housing development with amenities to accommodate downtown housing.
Ferguson spoke well of Scott's intentions as well.
"She wanted people of color to be active role models and do something special for the community,” he said.