Tax Break Idea For Condos

October 17, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Downtown Development Authority is on the verge of giving a tax break to the Robert Grooters Development Co. for the $80 million residential project the developer plans to build on the Bridgewater Place site at

333 Bridge Street NW

The break would actually be a reimbursement of $1.8 million over six years from the tax the new project would generate. Company owner Robert Grooters said the tax would total $1.4 million over three years.

"Zero dollars will be lost to the schools," said Mayor George Heartwell, also a member of the DDA. "From a taxing standpoint, it's long term and short term — especially long term. It's a win-win."

The reimbursement would come from the local tax-increment account, which is paid by property owners within the district. The money would cover Americans with Disabilities Act items like accessible ramps, electric door openers and light switches, along with a sidewalk snowmelt system, an elevator and the cost to spruce-up

Scribner Avenue

The project, known as the River House, will offer 198 condominiums across its 33 floors and having parking for 200 vehicles.

"There aren't too many opportunities to add 200 residents in one place in the city," said DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler.

Although board members made favorable comments last week about the project, they stopped short of actually agreeing to the reimbursement because the DDA doesn't have a policy in place yet that would let them do that. They reviewed one and sent it back for some revisions.

"The language needs some work or we need a clearer understanding of how the formulas work," said DDA Chairwoman Kayem Dunn.

A project would have to be in the DDA district, meet all city codes and zoning rules, and be worth at least $5 million to qualify for a tax-increment reimbursement, according to the draft policy board members saw last week. Reimbursement couldn't exceed 75 percent of a project's annual tax value and would stop after 10 years.

One sticky point with the board was what qualifies as a public facility, a standard that has to be met in order for a developer to have the tax returned. DDA legal counsel Dick Wendt said residential units meet that standard.

A revised policy and an agreement between the DDA and Grooters Development should be before board members for their votes in either November or December.

"Is it time to live downtown? It appears it is," said Grooters, who added that 120 of the 198 condos have been reserved.

In other action, the DDA agreed to give the Peninsular Club a $35,000 grant to help fill an areaway, a section underneath the sidewalk. The club at

120 Ottawa Ave. NW
is spending $371,000 to fill it, but only $141,000 worth of the project qualifies for DDA funds.

"This is the deepest and largest areaway I've ever seen," said Fowler. "They've got equipment 20 feet down."    

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