Heritage Square
Makes Fourth NEZ Location

February 8, 2008
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All Heritage Square
needs is for the Michigan Tax Commission to award the near-downtown sector its Neighborhood Enterprise Zone certificate, as city commissioners gave this portion of Heritage Hill a NEZ designation last week.

"This is my route to work; I walk this every day. I think this is a perfect fit," said David LaGrand, 2nd Ward city commissioner.

Property owners in the Heritage Square NEZ will be entitled to reduced property taxes when they make improvements to their holdings. A reduction will be based on how much is invested in a property, and whether an owner or a hired contractor makes improvements or builds new.

"Instead of paying .29 mills, the owner will pay .17 mills for 12 years," said Haris Alibasic, an administrative analyst with the city, of the reduction for new construction in the NEZ.

Alibasic said property owners who make improvements won't pay property taxes on those improvements for a dozen years.

The Neighborhood Enterprise Zone runs along

State Street SE
, from east of
Lafayette Avenue
Morris Avenue
. State Street is situated between Cherry and Washington streets and close to the Saint Mary's Health Care campus.

City Assessor Glen Beekman reported there are 22 properties in the zone. Sixteen are commercial, two are residential and four are listed as tax-exempt. Beekman told commissioners the 2007 cash value of the commercial and residential properties is $6.6 million.

The Heritage Hill Association and Stratus Properties LLC co-submitted the designation request. The association said

Heritage Square
was the area within its boundary that is most in need of revitalization. Stratus Properties has plans to renovate the building at
345 State St. SE
, the former ParkProfessionalBuilding, for medical offices and add two floors with 14 condominiums.

"The new residents of the condos will benefit from the tax reduction. It's a great marketing tool," said Alibasic.

The city and the association view the $4.5 million remake of the building as the NEZ catalyst project. A catalyst project is almost considered a necessity to gain the tax certificate from the state.

"Adding the housing and businesses right in the middle of this small south-end business district, adjacent to the Saint Mary's Health Care campus, will spur additional development and help revitalize the area," said Alibasic.

Another project is on the drawing board, too, as Levco State Street LLC plans to invest $1 million to redevelop a vacant building at

311 State St. SE
for office space. Levco is asking the city for obsolete property status, which would abate some of the property taxes.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood told commissioners the structure meets the state's guidelines for such a designation and the project has the potential to add up to 15 new jobs in the city. Commissioners held a public hearing on the Levco request last week.

FirstWardCity Commissioner James Jendrasiak pointed out there are a lot of surface parking lots in the Heritage Square NEZ, but the lot owners won't automatically get a tax reduction.

"Those parcels will not receive any benefits until some construction goes up on them," said Jendrasiak.

Should the tax commission award Heritage Square a certificate, it would become the fourth NEZ in the city. Turner Gateway, North Baxter and Belknap Lookout already hold that status.

Public Act 147 of 1992, the Neighborhood Enterprise Zone Act, gives commissioners the authority to grant an NEZ.     

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