State Loan Will Aid GH Redevelopment

June 5, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — A $250,000 state loan represents “one more piece of the puzzle” in the city of Grand Haven’s efforts to redevelop a blighted industrial neighborhood on the north end of town into a residential and commercial district.

The city will use the loan to finance acquisition of 28 parcels totaling 29 acres along the Grand River’s south channel, just west of U.S. 31, raze existing buildings, extend public utilities and prepare the land for a redevelopment project that’s expected to total $30 million.

“It’s going to be money well spent,” Grand Haven Mayor Ed Lystra said last week as he accepted a $250,000 check from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Core Communities Initiative.

“This is going to go a long way to making this project a reality,” Lystra said.

Grand Haven envisions turning the north-end neighborhood into a new northern gateway to the city that would feature a mixture of residential and retail uses and professional offices. The city also wants to extend its riverfront pathway eastward from the downtown area.

The MEDC loan announced last week is the third time the state has provided financial assistance to the project. The MEDC previously awarded the city an $880,000 grant under the Clean Michigan Initiative. The city also received a $100,000 cultural arts grant from the state.

Jeff Kaczmarek, senior vice president of the MEDC’s Business Services unit, called Grand Haven’s North End Redevelopment Project a “perfect example” of “achievable” ventures the state sought to help through the $50 million Core Communities Fund. The loan helps to further the city’s 30-plus-year effort to improve and preserve its waterfront for public use, Kaczmarek said.

That kind of long-term commitment is “the essence of good economic development,” Kaczmarek said.

“It’s really a marathon, not a sprint. It’s continuous work at projects over a long period of time that make a difference,’ he said. “Grand Haven is doing it right. We think the opportunities that are here are real.”

The city plans to pre-qualify developers and then begin accepting proposals for the project later this year. Lystra hopes actual construction can begin within a year or two.

The North End Redevelopment Project is one of the largest projects the city has ever undertaken, he said.

“It’s probably the most significant initiative for the city for many, many years,” Lystra said.

The city hopes to secure additional public and private assistance to help cover the estimated $6.7 million cost to prepare the project area for redevelopment, Assistant City Manager Mitch Deisch said. No single contribution or grant can or will cover the entire price, he said.

“There are all these pots of money we’re trying to come together with,” Deisch said.

In addition to Grand Haven, the MEDC last week awarded four other Core Communities Initiative loans totaling $1.5 million to assist urban redevelopment projects.

“We feel that if Michigan cities don’t do well, the state of Michigan itself will not do well,” Kaczmarek said. “It’s critical that local communities, whether they’re big or small, thrive and have a bright future.”

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