Allegan Site Begs For Redevelopment

July 26, 2004
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ALLEGAN — The city has been actively pursuing redevelopment options for the old Rockwell International site located along the Kalamazoo River and is offering tax increment financing and Single Business Tax credits for eligible investments.

The 16-acre brownfield site, in the 400 block of North Street, is home to a set of connected, abandoned buildings that are in “considerable disrepair,” but it’s located in what the city considers a highly developable waterfront area.

“We’re always looking for a developer,” said City Manager Lisa Sutterfield.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) designated the property a Superfund Site in 1985 due to “questionable past disposal practices” and put it on the National Priorities List.

A Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health or the environment or both.

Because of default on property taxes, the property reverted to the state in 1995 and then to the city. That same year, the EPA worked with the city to complete an investigation and a risk assessment for the unsaturated landfill materials.

A Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was completed in 2001, and the EPA issued its proposed cleanup plan for contaminated soil, pond sediment and ground water at the site in 2002.

“We’re in the process of remediation,” Sutterfield acknowledged.

“It has taken us this long to get this far. However, EPA has promised that cleanup will be beginning in 2005,” she added.

“We’re about three-quarters through the planning process right now,” she added, “and we are looking for an end user. If we can find an end user before the remediation plan is totally put together, we can help if there needs to be footings or anything as part of the remediation plan.”

Most of the $1 million in fiscal year 1999 Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) monies appropriated for the site has been spent, she noted.

“Hopefully, by the end of this fall we’ll have a good picture of exactly what’s going to happen so the phasing process can be put in place at the beginning of the year,” she said.

Sutterfield said the city doesn’t know specifically what the end use of the property will be.

City officials have come up with four alternatives, including a business park, a recreation area with recreation facilities, an institutional use such as a college, and an industrial park.

“I think what everyone is leaning towards right now will be more of a public use and general education focus.”

A series of interconnected buildings on the site are in considerable disrepair and will be razed in order to clean up contamination underneath them.

A local company now owns a 500,000-square-foot former Rockwell facility that is not located in the Superfund Site and is in great condition, Sutterfield noted.

The owners have listed the building for sale in the past.

“It’s a very good building, if we could ever attract someone there and that could lead to industrial development expansion to the site.”

The site has full infrastructure access, including cable and three-phase electric.

“It’s actually one of the most gorgeous sites in the city,” Sutterfield remarked.

“There’s a very large incentive package that would go along with this, as well as potential additional help from the state and EPA in the remediation process.”

Most likely, if a developer is interested in the property for a use that the city deems a benefit for the community, it could be sold for a minimal amount, she added.

The site is on a peninsula of the Kalamazoo River, so it has beautiful views, she said.

It’s within walking distance of downtown, and the city has just invested quite a bit of money to create a walking trail into the downtown.

“Our downtown is really turning into a quaint downtown,” Stutterfield said. “It’s just an attractive area to be in.”

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