OWOSSO — According to developer Randy Woodworth, a banner hung outside the Matthews Building in downtown trumpeting a Panera Bread restaurant coming to the city was nothing more than a prank.
“Somebody put a sign up as a prank. I think somebody thought it would be funny to put it up there so they took it from somewhere else,” Woodworth said Monday morning.
He called the placing of the banner a “pro-level prank.”
The sign was placed on a fence in front of the vacant building along Main Street over the weekend.
Woodworth took a photo of the sign and shared it on his company's Facebook page with a short message.
Monday he said the situation was confusing because Woodworth represents the new owner of the building, Nemer Haddad, and his realty company has been in talks with several national retailers, including Panera Bread, about the site.
Woodworth said when he saw the sign he assumed a deal had been reached and maybe he was just out of the loop, so he posted a photo of the banner to Facebook.
“It turns out I wasn’t out of the loop because there wasn’t one," he said. "As I’m talking with the developers and reps with Panera Bread this morning, nobody knows where that came from. It was just an incredible coincidence because as we’re talking to them this sign gets placed there.”
Haddad is from the Metro Detroit area and operates medical marijuana provisioning centers in that area, and in the Traverse City area. He purchased the building from Woodworth with plans to open a marijuana business in the building.
In June, the city conducted a lottery to award licenses to operate medical marijuana provisioning centers in the city. Haddad won one of four.
The financing package Woodworth had worked out with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to assist in redeveloping the building can’t move forward if a marijuana-related business is involved.
After plans for a provisioning center at the Matthews building fell through, Haddad and the city struck a deal to move the provisioning center to a different building and he promised to either rehabilitate or demolish the Matthews Building.
Now that Haddad has worked out a plan for the Matthews building and has an agreement with the city, he is in the process of finding another location for the marijuana business.
The previous plans for the Mathews Building site with the MEDC called for a brew pub-type of restaurant with potential apartments and retail space.
“Wer’e still looking at the potential for doing a restaurant on the river in the existing building, and we’re working with the MEDC. There is a lot in the works and nothing has been finalized yet,” Woodworth said.