Like many communities across the country, Grand Rapids has had to deal with its share of abandoned and obsolete industrial plants and environmentally contaminated sites, often referred to as brownfields.
“Brownfields,” says the Michigan DNRE, “are abandoned, idle, or under-used industrial and commercial properties, often in urban areas, where expansion or redevelopment is hindered or complicated by real or perceived environmental conditions. In Michigan brownfields are considered properties that are either contaminated, blighted, or functionally obsolete.”
“The City of Grand Rapids started our Brownfield program back in 1996.” says Kara Wood, the City’s Economic Development Director. “The Michigan Brownfield program allowed us to create the authority in 1997. The City’s first brownfield project was the Coca Cola Bottling plant on Butterworth SW. That was a contaminated site and a $25 million investment that created 50 new jobs.”
One of the current brownfield projects Wood noted is at 607 Dewey NW. “The building was functionally obsolete. It was a warehouse operation with a freight elevator and it was highly unlikely that it could be used as a warehouse in the future.” She added, “The redevelopment will add 15 new jobs.”
The Dewey property is owned by True North Architecture in Belmont. “We will be moving our headquarters to the third story of the building,’ says President, Dan Henrickson. “Two other tenants will use the remaining space.”
True North is incorporating several energy saving architectural elements. “We are putting a green roof on half of the building in the first phase and will complete the remainder in the second phase,” says Henrickson, “We’ll also be adding up to four wind turbines in the second phase, as well as a solar component. This building will actually showcase what we’re capable of doing.”
Henrickson credits Wood and the City of Grand Rapids for their help. “We have had to work with the City, the County and the State. Kara Wood was able to help us navigate though everything to get it done.”
Henrickson estimates the total cost of the project at $2.3 million. True North is planning to move their operation to the Dewey location in late June of 2010.
Wood praised Michigan’s Brownfield program as one of the best in the country. “To date we have had more than $1 million committed by developers to brownfield projects, totaling 7,400 new jobs. This means more than 275 acres in the City will be redeveloped. So far we’ve leveraged over $88 million in State brownfield tax credits.”
Grand Rapids is one of 285 communities across Michigan designated as a Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
In spite of the hardships brought about by a struggling economy, there is an unmistakable wave of change brewing in Grand Rapids. Leaders like Wood and so many others, are working to create new opportunities. Transforming 275 acres of blight into vibrant commercial, residential and retail mixed use development is a monumental accomplishment that will impact the City for decades to come.
This is the first part in our series on Brownfield Redevelopment. Our next article in this series will feature additional Grand Rapids brownfield redevelopment projects.
To stay in touch with West Michigan Environmental News, subscribe to this section by clicking on SUBSCRIBE or the RSS feed button at the top of the page for the latest updates
For more information: