Autodie receives industrial tax exemption

April 23, 2011
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A project that would redevelop three blocks on the southeast side and a proposal that promises to keep a few hundred employees working on the northwest side captured the attention last week of Grand Rapids city commissioners, who approved both measures.

Autodie LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chrysler Group LLC at 44 Coldbrook NW, plans to invest nearly $24 million into new technology and upgrades to its building. Largely a die-stamping operation, the company plans to retain its current work force of 202 through the investment. About $3 million will go into the firm’s infrastructure, while $21 million will be used to buy new equipment.

“They will have the newest generation of machinery there and they will be quite efficient,” said Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong. “I’m just so pleased that Autodie is willing to invest in the city and is staying there,” said Commissioner Ruth Kelly.

Commissioners gave the manufacturer an industrial tax exemption for the real and personal property it will acquire. The investment will generate $101,000 in new taxes annually, and the city will exempt half that amount for the next 12 years, the length of the exemption.

“By investing in new equipment and infrastructure, Autodie LLC will be able to implement new manufacturing processes increasing operational efficiencies. These efficiencies will keep Autodie LLC competitive in the global economy and anchor Autodie LLC in Grand Rapids for years to come,” said Kara Wood, city economic development director.

Acme Investors LLC and the city want to redevelop three blocks — nearly three acres — on the southeast corner of Wealthy Street and Division Avenue SE, with the work extending to La Grave Avenue to the east, Logan Street to the south, and west to Sheldon Avenue. The mixed-use redevelopment is expected to create 79 residential units and 14,400 square feet of commercial space. Ten row houses and 69 rental apartments would comprise the residential portion of the project, which is projected to cost $17 million.

“The developer will utilize green building systems in the project and may obtain certification as a LEED building or neighborhood. Approximately 30 new retail or commercial jobs will be created,” said Wood.

“It’s a fairly new certification from the U.S. Green Building Council,” said Mayor George Heartwell, referring to LEED neighborhood certification.

The city is investing $5 million of federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds into the project, which has the Inner City Christian Federation as a partner.

“It is a project that we’ve worked on for a long time with ICCF,” said DeLong.

Commissioners approved a brownfield for the project, which is seeking a Michigan Business Tax credit of $712,775. The project is expected to generate $334,500 in new tax revenue annually; the city stands to gain roughly $67,000 in new revenue annually from property and income taxes.

Commissioners also gave their conditional approval last week to allow Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids to pay a 4 percent portion of its income from a 60-unit senior housing facility instead of property taxes. The Madison Square Senior Apartments project will be developed by the Heartside Nonprofit Housing Corp., a Dwelling Place subsidiary, and will be owned by the Hall Street Limited Dividend Housing Association Limited Partnership once the work is completed.

The project involves redeveloping a senior apartment building at 500 Hall St. SE; the plan calls for expanding 25 of the 60 units. Rent for the one-bedroom apartments is expected to be $575 a month, including utility allowances. The work is projected to cost $5.2 million with about $4.6 million coming from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program fund.

City commissioners also gave a green light to the city’s Planning Department to hire a pair of consultants to help with its street corridor plan for Michigan Street, which has become congested due to all the medical construction that has gone up between Bostwick and College avenues. U3 Ventures LLC will look at the street’s anchor institutions and develop a report on their potential for economic and community impacts. Zimmerman/Volk Associates will develop a housing market study for the nearby neighborhoods.

The contract with U3 Ventures LLC can’t exceed $50,000. Funding from the Frey Foundation is expected to pick up much of that tab, with the rest coming from the Planning Department. The Zimmerman/Volk agreement can’t exceed $33,000. A $20,000 grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation and $10,000 from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation will cover most of the cost. The department has set aside $3,000 for the study.

“The Planning Department is about to undertake an extensive $400,000 planning process to evaluate the Michigan Street corridor with the participation of at least 14 funding partners,” said Suzanne Schulz, city planning director. “The entire planning process will address transportation and land use changes over time on and around Michigan Street that will impact infrastructure investments, neighborhood revitalization efforts, economic development strategies, and tactics to preserve the mobility and accessibility of the corridor to enable future growth.”

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