City extends Ren Zone time sort of

November 25, 2008
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City commissioners agreed Tuesday morning to extend the Renaissance Zone designation for two properties for a dozen more years. As for a third extension request, commissioners gave it a “maybe.”

The commission unanimously agreed to grant extensions for True North Architecture, Construction and Investments and Via Design. True North wants to renovate a two-story building at 607 Dewey Ave. NW and add a third floor to it for the firm’s new headquarters and other tenants. Via Design wants to renovate a building at 563 Grandville Ave. SW to expand its business.

But commissioners had trouble granting the request from Wealthy Street Historical Development, which wants to renovate a building at 632-636 Wealthy St. SE for residences and retail.

“I have a real problem with the building on Wealthy. Let me tell you why; Wealthy Street doesn’t need the help anymore,” said Second Ward Commissioner David LaGrand, whose business, Wealthy St. Bakery, has benefited from the street’s current Ren Zone status.

LaGrand also said that giving Wealthy Street Historical Development an extension would result in unfair competition for other nearby developers that haven’t asked the city for any financial help.

First Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak said that perhaps Wealthy Street Historical Development be given an extension, though for less time than the maximum 12 years state law allows.

Commissioners tried to table the Wealthy Street Historical Development request to a later date, but weren’t able to do so because all extension applications are due at the state by the close of business on Wednesday in order to go into effect on Jan. 1.

So commissioners voted 4 to 3 to approve the extension this morning knowing that the tally would contain at least one “no” vote. Having a “no” vote at the morning committee meeting means the agenda item has to be added to the evening commission meeting for another vote. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

All three properties have been in the nearly tax-free zone since 1997. Only Wealthy Street Historical Development owns its building, having purchased it last year. True North and Via Design have options on their targeted properties and plan to go through with the purchases when the extensions are approved.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood said the three projects will generate about $9,360 in new property taxes each year to Grand Rapids. But since the sites aren’t on the tax roll now, the city won’t collect those levies until the zone expires at the end of 2023.

But Wood also noted that the city does expect to collect up to $18,114 in new income-tax revenue annually from the projects, if all the jobs are created.

The state to approve the requests for the extensions to go into effect next year.

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