Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

Land bank adds warehouse

March 8, 2013
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The Kent County Land Bank Authority recently agreed to take ownership of a vacant commercial building on the southeast side of Grand Rapids for a buck, and did so with the bank’s and the city’s blessings.

It’s a three-story, 60,000-square-foot structure at 1515 Madison Ave. SE that sits on the south end of a revitalizing Madison Square Business District. The building is about 107 years old. It once served as a warehouse for P.B. Gast & Sons and was in the city’s nearly tax-free Renaissance Zone for 15 years.

The owner of an IT firm purchased the building in 2006 with the intention of creating loft-style offices. But the lender foreclosed on the building in 2011 when its sale price was $381,397, according to Kent County records.

The building has sat on the market for the past two years without any takers. The 2012 State Equalized Value on the building was $244,400, which represents roughly half the market value, and all taxes were current then. Commercial Bank, which is based in Alma, holds the mortgage.

Land Bank Executive Director Dave Allen said the bank’s branch in Greenville will attach a $200,000 lien to the building. KCLBA only plans to own it until it can find a buyer. Allen said there are four parties interested in purchasing the structure. He said a business in Hudsonville has expressed a desire to set up shop there.

“The city is very supportive of this building being redeveloped,” said Grand Rapids City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, also a KCLBA board member.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood echoed that sentiment. She said renovating the old warehouse would add to the $33 million worth of infrastructure and development upgrades that have been made to the district since 2005. She also said another $13 million has been secured for further improvements.

Wood added that her office and the city will work with the land bank to get the building redeveloped. LINC Community Revitalization Inc., Next Step of West Michigan and Bethany Christian Services also have pledged to help. LINC and Next Step are nonprofit developers.

The building reportedly has some significant environmental issues that need to be addressed.

Allen said renovation work was to begin last week on another commercial building in the city. Kangaroo Catering LLC is turning the former Believe in Music store at 1007 E. Fulton St. into a café and catering business.

“That’s going to be quite a transformation,” said Allen.

The land bank bought the two-story, tax-foreclosed building from the county last summer for $12,090 — the amount of tax owed — and sold it to the LLC for $50,000. Kangaroo Catering is investing $100,000 into the structure, which had an SEV of $54,100 last year.

Allen said the press conference originally set for this month to announce the sale of the former Sparta Foundry at 252 Gardner St. in Sparta Township to a European manufacturer has been pushed back to the middle of April. After meeting with township officials and the potential buyer, Allen said more information regarding the deal has surfaced, and everyone involved felt they needed more time to present the entire story.

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