West side grocery store is on city commission agenda

January 15, 2010
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Grand Rapids city commissioners will hold a public hearing next week on the construction of a new west side grocery store.

Last week, they agreed to commit more federal housing dollars to the renovation of a Heartside apartment building.

Robert and Jeanne Enell, doing business as 3R Foods Inc., want to replace their existing Ralph’s Food Market at 655 Leonard St. NW with a new and larger state-of-the-art grocery store on properties they purchased immediately to the west of the store.

The new store’s sites are at 1212 Davis Ave. NW and 667 Leonard St. NW, which make up the northeast corner of Leonard and Davis. The Leonard Street property, which will house a majority of the new market, has a vacant building on it that most recently was a Blockbuster Video store. The site was also home to a gas station.

The building will be razed, but the property is considered contaminated and needs to be remediated, as underground storage tanks are thought to be present.

The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority approved the construction plan last week and used a $20,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Authority grant to help with the ecological assessment of the site.

The Enells plan to invest $2.6 million into their new store, which will be about 20,000 square feet, roughly 8,000 square feet larger than the current Ralph’s Food Market.  The new store will feature the latest energy-efficient refrigeration equipment, an expanded deli and produce section, and a new bakery.

The existing market will remain open during construction. Once the new store is built, the current building will be demolished to provide parking for the new store. The Enells plan to add 15 new jobs, including two managerial positions, raising the number of employees from 30 to 45.

“The hourly positions will range (in pay) from approximately $9 to $12 per hour, while the managerial positions will likely range from $40,000 to $50,000 per year,” said Kara Wood, city economic development director.

The existing store was built in 1948 and is considered to be outdated in today’s market.

3R Foods will apply for a Michigan Business Tax Credit worth approximately $315,750 and for tax-increment financing worth about $155,000. 

City commissioners are expected to approve the project Feb. 9.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority also has to ratify the development in order for 3R Foods to collect the brownfield tax credits and capture property taxes.

The Wolverine Building Group is managing the project.

In another matter, city commissioners authorized an additional $200,000 in federal HOME funds last week to Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids Inc. for its renovation of the Goodrich Apartments at 333 S. Division Ave.

The $3.2 million project is set to upgrade 14 low-income apartments in the building, with the actual construction work costing $1.3 million. But the project’s budget is short $426,000 due to the loss of an investor and potential tax credits.

“Other financing was intended to come into the project, but that’s not going to happen at this time,” said Connie Bohatch, managing director of community services. “This is a good project.”

The HOME award to Dwelling Place, a nonprofit developer, was the city’s second. City commissioners first authorized $500,000 in HOME funds last April. Dwelling Place is also applying for $150,000 in brownfield tax credits to help fill the budget gap. Closing for the project is set for the middle of February.

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