City Is Island Shopping

June 12, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Economic Development Director Susan Shannon said members of the steering committee that recently reviewed three letters of interest about the city-owned Public Works Island want more information from the senders of those letters.

So Shannon said she sent letters to Moch International, Grand Rapids Development Corp., and Barnes-Stevens Redevelopment asking each to supply more details, especially on their past developments and their financial capability to build a project on the 15.8 acres at 201 Market Ave. SW that the city wants to sell for $35 million.

The letters from the trio drew a lukewarm response from the steering committee a few weeks ago, and last week a few members of the Economic Development Project Team weren’t overly thrilled with what the three had proposed, either.

“We have some ideas of our own on how it should be developed, and none of them have that,” said Mayor George Heartwell, without elaborating on those ideas.

Heartwell suggested that the city should meet with the three developers to discuss those ideas. But Shannon said the city would have to invest in a project that it helped direct, and Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong said doing that would raise the city’s cost to market the Market Avenue property.

“Would it make sense to ask them to come back with a second proposal?” the mayor asked.

Third Ward Commissioner James White, also a member of the steering committee, said he was more concerned about the developers’ ability to finance the developments than about the projects they outlined in their letters. He said maybe the city should ask each to submit an RFP for the property, which is the second step in the city’s process to sell the land.

First Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak, though, said the city needs a replacement site for the island that can store its snowplows, trucks, street sweepers and rock salt, and to find out how much the site and the move will cost the city before going any further with the sale.

“Then and only then can we go ahead with this. I don’t think a developer is going to go to that (RFP) expense not knowing if we can afford to move our crap,” he said.

But DeLong said he was getting close to revealing where the city could relocate and how much the property and a move would cost.

“It’s doable,” he said.

Shannon said another option the city has is to open the call for RFPs to any developer that might be interested, and not limit the process to the three that submitted letters.

“This is a long, long process,” she said.

Moch International presented a multi-use plan with a performance and visual arts center at its core that would cost from $150 million to $250 million to construct. GR Development Corp. said the city’s land would be part of a 36-acre mixed-use project that would cost $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion to build. Barnes-Stevens Redevelopment proposed spending from $150 million to $300 million on a development that could include housing units, office space, a small marina and a hotel. 

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