More construction coming for Urban Market

May 29, 2012
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The environmental work on the 3.5-acre Urban Market site along Ionia Avenue SW has started, and work on the streets that surround the project will get underway soon.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, which has partnered with the Grand Action Committee to develop the year-round market, awarded a key construction contract for that street project to Georgetown Construction Co. City commissioners also did the same.

The contractor was the low bidder at $2.36 million for a six-block-long project that will reconstruct Ionia Avenue, Logan and McConnell streets, replace the water and sanitary sewer systems, install new street lighting and bury the electrical lines. The entire project is expected to cost $3.28 million.

“Ionia will go back as a brick street,” said Rick DeVries, an engineer with the city. Logan also will be reconstructed as a brick street.

The DDA’s share of the project is $886,000, the city’s sewer and water funds will commit $2.3 million to the work, and Grand Action will invest $35,000 into the project. “It is anticipated that Grand Action will reimburse the DDA for their share of (the) costs,” wrote City Engineer Mark De Clercq in a memo.

Part of the project’s cost is the $914,000 that Consumers Energy is charging the DDA to bury the power lines.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said the project is phase one of the overall work planned for those streets. The second stage will involve making streetscape improvements, including new sidewalks, tree planting, bike lanes and a handful of other upgrades. The city has applied for a transportation improvement grant of roughly $400,000 for that phase of the project and will solicit bids for the work at a later date.

The Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will sell $2.3 million worth of bonds, most likely in June, to finance the DDA’s share of these improvements. Then the DDA and the GRBRA will be responsible for paying bond buyers over the security’s 20-year term.

The DDA bought the market’s property for $2 million in 2008 and is leasing the site to Urban Market Holdings LLC, the for-profit entity the board and Grand Action created for the project. The lease is for 99 years at $1 annually.

The DDA got the market going by contributing $100,000 to its pre-design in 2010. Tax credits from the state’s brownfield program should contribute $5.2 million to its development. Tax-increment financing through the site’s brownfield designation is expected to return $3.3 million over a few decades.

The city’s Economic Development Office received a $1 million grant and GRBRA received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both EPA grants were used to remediate the site. The city’s Parking Services department contributed $200,000 to build a 33-space surface lot at the property.

A feasibility study commissioned by Grand Action reported the market would have an economic impact of $775 million over its first decade of operation and create about 1,000 new jobs. Food sales alone could reach $20 million a year. So far, about $7 million has gone into its development, including the acquisition price. The market will cost from $27 million to $30 million to build and is tentatively set to open in July 2013.

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