Health center passes exam

August 31, 2009
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A new integrated health center proposed for downtown had its prescription filled by city commissioners last week when they approved a brownfield plan for the $20 million project.

Cherry Stone LLC, a collaboration between Cherry Street Health Services, Touchstone innovare and the Proaction Behavioral Health Alliance, plans to build an 82,000-square-foot, LEED-certified, medical office building on Cherry Street SE between Sheldon and LaGrave avenues.

The Heart of the City Health Center, which will feature integrated physical and mental health services and serve low-income residents, will go up over a 400-space parking facility that will be built below ground.

“This is going to be a real asset to the neighborhood,” said David LaGrand, 2nd Ward commissioner.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood said a baseline environmental report revealed the building site is contaminated with arsenic, and the groundwater contains heavy metals that include lead, aluminum, iron and manganese.

Cherry Stone isn’t seeking tax-increment financing from the brownfield, which still has to be approved by the state, because the property is in the Downtown Development Authority district. The DDA, though, did award the project a reimbursement worth up to $705,650 for the public improvements planned for the site.

“They are seeking a business tax credit from the state of Michigan,” said Wood of the $2.2 million request.

Wood said the project would retain about 190 jobs and create 80 new ones. The positions are expected to pay from $35 to $50 per hour.

“This isn’t a misprint of the wages. These are professional jobs in the physical and mental health professions,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

The city expects to receive roughly $70,000 a year in new income-tax revenue once the center opens, which should be the end of next year or the beginning of 2011.

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