Editorial

Walker, GR boundary transfer is a ‘win-win’ for regional economy

April 1, 2016
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The cities of Grand Rapids and Walker will hold public hearings next week on a “boundary transfer” from Walker to Grand Rapids to accommodate a developer eyeing a multi-million dollar mixed use industrial park. The proposed agreements include what the Business Journal believes to be an almost unprecedented revenue sharing proposal, the only similar example being the cities of Grand Rapids and Wyoming regarding former Steelcase property.

The Business Journal notes and applauds the effort, especially after reporting in consecutive years on the severe depletion of industrial property for manufacturing. Industrial real estate professionals have repeatedly noted the need for new development especially because the size of the limited number of sites and the number of available buildings is inadequate.

The governmental partnership is not unprecedented, but it was not that long ago governmental units in some parts of Kent County quarreled over boundary lines, and “annexation” was a fighting word. That bit of recent past underscores the positive nature of the GR/Walker proposal and is another positive point for continued economic growth throughout Kent County. The newest information released last month from the U.S. Census Bureau showed 39 percent growth in manufacturing jobs in the Grand Rapids area from 2010 to 2015.

The agreement covers approximately 200 acres of land in Walker between the boundaries of Walker Avenue, Four Mile Road, Bristol Avenue and I-96. Kurt Hassberger, chairman and president of development for Rockford Construction, indicated the $15 million project is attractive to industrial users who would benefit from the highway access.

Hassberger told the Business Journal: “With vacancies at historic lows, the industrial market is in search of new product. New construction is needed to meet the demand. With little vacancy along the Alpine corridor, it is a great option for companies in need of commercial frontage. Activating the Walker exit is a natural next step.”

The agreement would allow Rockford to potentially receive some cost reimbursement through the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act in Grand Rapids. If approved, the property would remain in Walker’s jurisdiction, but the city of Grand Rapids would assess and levy property taxes at the Grand Rapids millage rate, which is currently about 9.15 mills.

Walker would also be reimbursed for the amount of taxes levied against the 2016 taxable value based on its millage rate for the duration of the agreement, which would last for a period of up to 15 years and end in 2031. Grand Rapids would retain the difference.

It’s a win-win deal for both municipalities, but especially for the West Michigan economy.

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