DDA preparing 3.5-acre site for redevelopment

December 24, 2009
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Instead of helping another developer with a project, this time the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority is taking on one of its own.

DDA members recently allocated up to $160,000 to either redevelop 3.5 acres and the buildings on the property or turn the entire site into additional parking for the city’s downtown shuttle service. The property is located just west of Ionia Avenue SW, between Wealthy and Logan streets.

Most of the money, $112,000, would go toward demolishing a metal structure on the property. Another $29,000 would be spent on making structural repairs to the six other small buildings on the urban site.

“There are some structural issues with the buildings,” said DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler.

Masonry and roof repairs are needed and a column in one building must be reinforced. The project’s engineer, FTC&H, recommended that the metal building be razed because it has little redevelopment value. The building served as a food warehouse and is likely to come down whether or not the board redevelops the property.

“The demolition part would have had to be done anyway,” said Fowler.

Money for the project is in the budget.

The DDA is leasing space in two of the buildings and wants to finish the repair work and demolition before the year ends. Fowler said going ahead with the project will allow the board to preserve the buildings for future use, whatever that may be, and gives the board time to figure out what to do with the property.

At a minimum, Fowler said the site could serve as interim parking for the public or the DASH shuttle service. The DDA has done a parking study there for the shuttle service, a city amenity the board has funded since its inception a decade or so ago.

“I think we may be able to rent some interim parking,” he said.

In the meantime, the Grand Action Committee, a private sector group that has been heavily involved in funding public projects since 1995, has identified the DDA property as one of three potential locations for an urban marketplace.

“This has been one of the sites they’ve been looking at,” Fowler confirmed.

The DDA bought the property, which consisted of four separate parcels, from two sellers for a little more than $2 million in December 2007. The board paid Sohogo Inc. $1.3 million for three acres and West Michigan Leasing Inc. $731,908 for the rest of the site.

The sale contract required the sellers to clean the site — contaminated because an underground storage tank leaked gasoline and oil — at an estimated cost of $350,000. That work was reportedly done last year, so Fowler said he isn’t anticipating any environmental issues to crop up during the repair and demolition work.

“We did an extensive environmental investigation before we bought the property,” he said.

The money for the property purchase came from the DDA’s local increment-tax fund, revenue the board receives from property owners within the district.

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