Brownfield Status Energizes GE Site

December 9, 2002
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HOLLAND — Redevelopment of the former General Electric factory site may not occur for some time, as the owner awaits the right time and the right opportunity to proceed.

Having the 38-acre site at 16th Street and U.S. 31 rezoned to accommodate retail development and securing a brownfield designation from the city were merely steps that lay the groundwork for the eventual redevelopment of the property, said Bret Docter, vice president of Space Source Inc. in Holland, a commercial real estate developer and manager.

Any activity toward redeveloping the site is at least a year away “and could be much longer,” as leases for existing tenants are fulfilled, Docter said.

“We’re not under a timeframe to do anything. It was just the right time to do these things,” Docter said. “It’s just a matter of bringing the right people to town and at the right time.”

Space Source acquired the General Electric complex in 1994, four years after GE closed the factory. Space Source uses the complex as an incubator facility for small and start-up businesses. The facility typically houses between 15 and 20 businesses at any given time, Docter said.

Using the GE site as an incubator facility was only a temporary plan. The ultimate goal was to redevelop the site for retail uses, Docter said.

The rezoning and brownfield designation, which brings with it local and state tax incentives, will enable Space Source to react quicker and better accommodate any potential retail user that wants to lease or acquire part or all of the site, Docter said.

“It functions very well right now. It’s been very successful, but it’s been underutilized,” he said of the GE complex. “At least now we’re positioned to do something with that property if people envision that as a potential site.”

Even with the massive retail buildup in Holland over the last 15 years, Docter and others believe there’s still a market for another major commercial development.

Industrial growth in the Holland area has outpaced retail growth over the years, said Chris Byrnes, president of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce. Combine that with the area’s continued population and housing growth, and the retail sector is still catching up to the market demand, Byrnes said.

“The retail never really kept up,” Byrnes said. “The market’s still there as far as the community goes.”

Possibly helping the future redevelopment of the GE site is the pending relocation of the Menards home improvement store at U.S. 31 and 24th Street a few miles to the north in Holland Township, Docter said. That may help to create a new demand for retail development on the city’s south side, he said.

The tax incentives offered under the brownfield designation include tax-increment financing that would generate $1.24 million to demolish the existing building, construct a new facility, and make site improvements and infrastructure upgrades.

Any party redeveloping the site also would become eligible to seek approval from the state for credits on the Single Business Tax.

The GE site is one of two brownfield designations recently approved by the Holland City Council. Also receiving the designation last month was a group of developers, Landmark Industrial Center LLC, who want to turn the former Micromatic Textron plant on 48th Street, vacant for three years, into an incubator facility for small businesses.

The brownfield designation made the difference in the decision at Space Source to begin preparing for the eventual redevelopment of the GE site, Docter said.

“It’s definitely a carrot to hold out for future buyers or tenants,” he said.    

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