City Mulls Enterprise Zone

October 17, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners took a big step last week toward establishing a third Neighborhood Enterprise Zone (NEZ) in the city by setting a hearing date to designate one for Belknap Lookout, an older residential district just northeast of downtown.

Designating the area’s 28 acres as an NEZ would give homeowners an opportunity to get property-tax breaks for improvements made to their homes that increases the value of their properties. New homes built within the area would also qualify for a reduction.

“It is consistent with our master plan,” said Victor Vasquez Jr., assistant city manager for planning and community development.

About 140 parcels are being considered for an NEZ in Belknap Lookout, an area that is bordered by Matilda Street, the railroad tracks, Lafayette Avenue, Fairbanks Street, Coit Avenue, Newberry Street, Hester Avenue and Fairview Avenue.

“The neighbors are very supportive of this,” said 2nd Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala.

In fact, the Neighbors of Belknap Lookout requested the designation in hopes that gaining one would bring significant investment into the neighborhood — exactly what the $3.5 million, 20-unit condominium project being done by the Grand Rapids Co-housing Community (GRCC) is doing.

“The NEZ designation would offset some future development costs by having the lowered tax burden on the residents at GRCC. This is the first project of its kind in West Michigan, and the NEZ will help to market and attract additional homeowners to this project and area,” wrote GRCC President Steve Farber in a letter to the city that was co-authored by Kristi DeKraker, executive director of the neighborhood association.

NEZ status for Belknap will get an afternoon hearing before commissioners on Nov. 22.

“This is another one of our economic development tools that will improve the neighborhood and create jobs,” said James Jendrasiak, 1st Ward city commissioner.

The city has already granted NEZs to Turner Gateway on the city’s near west side and to North Baxter on the city’s southeast side.

Commissioners will also hear requests for industrial tax abatements tomorrow evening from Grand Rapids Sash & Door Co. and Wolverine Printing.

GR Sash & Door is in the process of consolidating its operations to a 250,000-square-foot facility at 219 Canton St. SW by moving work from other Midwest locations to the structure’s north side. The company, which manufactures pre-hung doors and windows, also plans to purchase $3.9 million worth of new equipment.

The consolidation would relocate 115 jobs to the city, and GR Sash & Door would create another 15 jobs from the project. Should the city grant the company an abatement, roughly $330,000 of a projected $800,000 in new property taxes generated by the project would be exempted over the next dozen years.

The Robert Grooters Development Co. is assisting with the consolidation.

Wolverine Printing plans to buy new digital printing and finishing equipment that will cost nearly $700,000 and create five new jobs from the purchase. The commercial printer would save $33,000 of an estimated $85,000 personal-property tax bill if the city endorses Wolverine’s abatement request.

Both hearings are part of the commission’s meeting that gets under way at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the commission chambers.    

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