City delays zone filing

December 22, 2008
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The Michigan Strategic Fund did not take up the requests for two Renaissance Zone extensions in Grand Rapids last week, as was initially planned.

The city’s Economic Development Office decided not to submit the applications, but plans to do so in either January or February.

“We just delayed it. We originally planned to take (the requests) in December. Then we decided to get (the requests there) in January or February, and the developers are fine with that,” said Kara Wood, city economic development director.

The developers requesting zone extensions are Via Design and Dan Henrickson, owner of True North Architecture, Construction and Investment. City commissioners approved their applications earlier this month.

Via Design plans to buy and renovate a 4,000-square-foot building at 563 Grandville Ave. SW for its growing custom-furniture design business. The company will invest $300,000 into the project.

Henrickson plans to spend $1.9 million to renovate a two-story structure at 607 Dewey Ave. NW that he plans to buy. True North would move to the building from its current Belmont site, and Henrickson would lease space to other businesses.

“We just had some technical issues with the application. There is no specific reason,” said Wood, as to why the city didn’t get the requests to Lansing.

Delaying the extension requests means the Ren Zone clock won’t start over until January 2010, if the state board approves the applications. The properties have been in the city’s nearly tax-free zone since 1997, and owners without extensions will begin paying 25 percent of the exempted taxes next year.

The Dec. 17 Michigan Strategic Fund meeting was the final chance this year to have a zone extension go into effect Jan. 1 and fully exempt taxes for 2009.

“It probably won’t start until the next calendar year, so 2010,” said Wood.

But both Via Design and Henrickson could start their renovations in 2009 if their requests are granted at the state level. Both would have to pay a quarter of the exempted taxes next year, but would have full exemptions in 2010.

The delay in submitting the requests may give Wealthy Street Historical Development LLC another chance at an extension. The firm, headed by Todd Ponstein, owns a pair of small, connected buildings at 632-636 Wealthy St. SE and wants to renovate both into ground-floor retail space and upper-level condominiums.

WSHD planned to invest $1.2 million into the project, but city commissioners only gave the firm half of an extension this month, just for the retail space. Ponstein decided not to go forward with either the request or the project because he needed an extension for the entire property to make the investment worthwhile.

“He evidently has had some conversations with commissioners,” said Wood of Ponstein.

“I’m curious to know what the outcome of those conversations was because there is a chance he could go back to the commission for full approval, which would then put him back on the same timeline as the other two projects.”

The Business Journal tried to reach Ponstein for comment, but he was not available at press time.

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