Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

New charter school will receive brownfield tax reimbursements

But work on two other former elementary schools hasn’t begun.

February 15, 2013
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New charter school will receive brownfield tax reimbursements
Work on the former Eastern Elementary has yet to begin. The developer is planning to build apartments in both Eastern and the former Lexington Elementary.
Now that Charter Development LLC has finished its transformation of the former Oakdale Elementary School into a charter school, the firm submitted its brownfield reimbursement invoice recently to the Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

The agreement Charter Development made last year with the authority had a maximum reimbursement of $1.5 million for the eligible public activities it would pay for to turn Oakdale into the River City Scholars Academy, 944 Evergreen SE. The actual reimbursement will be less.

A recent review by the authority of the costs Charter Development submitted shows the developer qualifies for nearly an $800,000 reimbursement. That money will come from the tax-increment property revenue the project will generate.

Charter Development is part of National Heritage Academies Inc.

“It was completed several months ago. There are no revenues from the project yet, but there will be in 2014,” said Jonathan Klooster, of the city’s Economic Development office and brownfield authority.

“They did not make a request for any more than this,” said Klooster of Charter Development. “Some of the costs are contingencies.”

Once the revenue is generated, Charter Development will be put on the authority’s reimbursement list.

According to the brownfield authority, Charter Development invested $6.5 million into the project and 47 new jobs were created from it. Part of the work resulted in a new public park for the neighborhood.

“This is great for the neighborhood,” said City Commissioner Walt Gutowski, also a member of the brownfield panel.

Oakdale Elementary originally was sold by Grand Rapids Public Schools to GR School Lofts LLC, a development firm and then a division of Ojibway Development in Berkley, Mich. GR School Lofts then sold the school to National Heritage Academies, a noted developer of charter schools.

GR School Lofts also purchased Lexington Elementary at 45 Lexington Ave. NW and Eastern Elementary at 758 Eastern Ave. SE from GRPS. The developer has pledged to build apartments in both buildings by investing $3.5 million into Lexington and $5.4 million into Eastern.

According to the brownfield authority, the developer is eligible for roughly $2 million in tax-increment reimbursements for both former schools when the projects are completed. GR School Lofts hasn’t started work on either building.

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