City Imports Steelcase Parcel

July 31, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners finalized a property transfer with the city of Wyoming last week that will bring all 200 acres owned by Steelcase Inc. into Grand Rapids in about a month.

Steelcase intends to sell the land north of

44th Street SW
to Ashley Capital, a New York real estate firm that plans to develop the industrial property. Before the commission's action, a small triangular piece of the parcel was located in Wyoming

"The advantage in doing this is Ashley Capital gets to work with one city," said Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong.

"It's a great opportunity to take an unusable industrial property and turn it into a powerhouse for Grand Rapids and Wyoming," he added.

Although Ashley Capital hasn't revealed what it aims to build on the site, other than it will likely be a mixed-use development, the project made the list of economic development projects the city sends each year to the West Michigan Regional Planning Commission.

The city needs to file such a list with WMRPC if it hopes to secure funding from the U.S. Economic Development Authority.

The city listed the Steelcase property as a capital improvement project and hopes to get $1 million from the EDA to help with infrastructure work, which is likely to include some demolition and other expensive efforts that could run as high as $14 million.

"There will be a lot of infrastructure cost associated with that project," said Susan Shannon, city economic development director.

One property commissioners deleted from the list was the 16 acres the city owns at

201 Market Ave. SW
, also known as the Public Works Island. The city received three potential offers for the riverfront site, which is valued at $35 million. The city initially put the property on the list with the intention of requesting a $10 million grant from the EDA.

But 2nd Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala asked that the property be removed from the list because the local contribution to the project was set at $70 million. He said he couldn't support spending that much money on the project when he didn't know how much it will cost the city to move its trucks and snowplows to a new site.

Mayor George Heartwell agreed with Tormala, and commissioners pulled the property from the list by a 6-1 vote. Only 3rd Ward Commissioner James White voted to include it. Heartwell said the site could be put on next year's list.

The committee evaluating the proposals for the

Market Avenue
property is set to meet Wednesday. The panel could make a final recommendation to commissioners on what they should do with the site then.

To receive EDA funding, a project has to create jobs and a city has to have a local match for funding in place. Of the 14 projects on the list, Shannon said the city has secured local funding for street work in the Monroe North Business District, sewer upgrades on the city's east side and a new water supply line. The city is asking the EDA for $12.5 million for the three, and has about $53 million in matching funds for those projects.

Shannon said it was smart to include projects for which the city doesn't have a funding share because it can take years to get a project approved by the EDA. Most, she added, don't receive federal funding the first time through the process.

Steelcase signed a letter-of-intent to sell the property that borders its headquarters on

44th Street
to Ashley Capital earlier this year. The transaction is expected to close later this year.

Wyoming approved the land transfer of the Steelcase property two weeks ago, and Grand Rapids will share the property and income tax revenues with the city. Grand Rapids has also agreed to hold Wyoming harmless from decisions it makes on the property.

The transaction lets Grand Rapids control the zoning of the property for 50 years. The transfer becomes official on Sept. 1.    

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