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State playing key role in brownfield development

December 6, 2012
The Mining Journal

The state of Michigan is proving to be an important partner in Marquette's downtown development and redevelopment.

Marquette's Veridea Group, which is planning a $31 million 150,000-square-foot high-density, mixed-use center commercial, retail and residential development on the west edge of the downtown, got a major boost recently from the Michigan Strategic Fund's board. The project site - the former Sara Lee Bakery at 857 W. Washington St. - was classified as a brownfield, allowing reimbursement for environmental costs, infrastructure improvements, demolition and site preparation costs through the capture of property taxes. As the property is rebuilt and grows more valuable, the developer can recoup these costs.

The site had already been deemed "functionally obsolete" by the city assessor and is thus eligible for brownfield status. Establishing the site's status on a state level will allow the capture of state, as well as local taxes, and speed up the recovery of costs.

State moves like this can provide great incentives to developers looking to take on major projects in areas which otherwise might remain abandoned for years.

Veridea has estimated it will spend more than $10 million in brownfield cleanup activities: site remediation and preparation, lead abatement, asbestos abatement, demolition and infrastructure work. It's hard to envision projects of this magnitude on brownfield sites moving forward without some public sector assistance. Veridea has said the brownfield designation made a much greater density development possible on the site than would otherwise have been feasible. With brownfield support, they estimate the project will return over $11 million in property taxes over 30 years, as opposed to a much smaller conventional development that would return approximately $4 million over the same time period absent brownfield support.

In addition to the brownfield designation, the MSF Board awarded the project $1.875 million in low-interest loans under its new Community Revitalization Program. This is the same state program Marquette Food Co-op officials are seeking to tap for up to $1 million to rehab a former retail building for their new store, a few blocks east of the proposed Veridea development.

This kind of economic growth - rehabbing and redeveloping underused parts of downtown - bodes well for the city's future.

The Veridea project is designed to tie commercial space into the adjoining city bike path and park system and should greatly boost the esthetics as well as the economics of the surrounding neighborhood. These new state incentives will help the developer, certainly, but they'll also help revitalize a languishing part of downtown Marquette.

That's an example of public-private cooperation at its best.



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