Economic Development, Manufacturing, and Real Estate

Cities eye land transfer as part of $15M project

April 1, 2016
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Collaboration between two cities could result in a major industrial park.

The Grand Rapids City Commission has scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m., April 12, to discuss whether the city will enter into an agreement with the city of Walker for a proposed Act 425 boundary transfer of approximately 200 acres of land to be developed into a mixed-use industrial park.

The land is located in Walker between the boundaries of Walker Avenue, Four Mile Road, Bristol Avenue and I-96.

If commissioners approve the agreement between Grand Rapids and Walker, the transfer will allow the developer to seek reimbursement of eligible public infrastructure improvement costs from Grand Rapids for the project.

RDG-Walker LLC, an affiliate of Rockford Development Group, plans to construct an industrial park called Walkerview that will feature industrial facilities, restaurants, retail, professional services and office space, and hotels.

Rockford Development’s initial investment in the project is approximately $15 million.

Kurt Hassberger, chairman and president of development for Rockford Construction, said the location is attractive to industrial users who would benefit from the highway access.

“With vacancies at historic lows, the industrial market is in search of new product. New construction is needed to meet the demand,” said Hassberger. “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 developer purchased the property in 2012 and has been working with Colliers International West Michigan to market the available land sites. Nearly 100 acres have been “sold or are in serious discussions,” according to Hassberger.

A long-term plan also includes a FedEx distribution center as part of the overall development project but is not part of the conditional transfer of property at this time.

Walker has rezoned the property and has approved the first phase of infrastructure improvements but can’t offer “reimbursement of public infrastructure costs” for the site through its Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, according to a press release.

A conditional transfer would allow the developer to potentially receive reimbursement for some of the costs through the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act in Grand Rapids.

If the agreement is approved, the property would remain in Walker’s jurisdiction in terms of enforcing ordinances, regulations and municipal services, but the city of Grand Rapids would asses 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 the Walker 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.

“We have been in really close communications with them throughout this whole process,” said Rosalynn Bliss, mayor of Grand Rapids. “This is an incredible opportunity and another example of cities partnering together to really do what is best for our region.”

Walker has scheduled a public hearing for April 11.

Mark Huizenga, Walker’s mayor, said the Public Act 425 agreement is designed to keep Walker financially whole.

“It is the best mechanism that we have to assist the growing manufacturing, warehousing and distribution industries in the city.”

Public Act 425 of 1984 allows two or more local units to have a conditional property transfer if the purpose of the project spurs economic development.

Bliss said it is beneficial for all three parties and a victory for regional economic development.

“Past conditional transfers that we have participated in have successfully promoted regional economic development, private investment and new job creation,” added Bliss.

Eric DeLong, deputy city manager for Grand Rapids, said Walker and Grand Rapids have a long history of collaboration, including a long-standing water and sewer partnership, joint flood mitigation improvements and conditional property transfers for residential housing.

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