Land bank receives $200K grant to clean up downtown Ishpeming property

ISHPEMING — A local developer will return a former gasoline filling station in Ishpeming to productive use with help from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Marquette County Land Bank.

The land bank authority received a $200,000 brownfield grant to address environmental conditions, which will allow the reuse of the former service garage filling station at 1400 N. Third St., according to an MDEQ press release.

The authority and MDEQ have partnered with Gauthier Enterprises, LLC to redevelop the blighted property — formerly Third Street Auto Salvage — into a coffee shop and bakery.

The grant funds will be used to assess and mitigate environmental contamination, demolish the existing building and remove abandoned underground storage tanks, the release states.

Authority Chair Anne Giroux said the Land Bank Authority will retain ownership of the property during the clean-up phase of the project, which is expected to begin in August.

“The environmental assessment work has been done,” Giroux said. “And the first thing that people are going to see is the removal of the three underground storage tanks. The timeline all depends on the contractors, because there aren’t many that can do that kind of work.”

Once clean-up is completed, Giroux said, Gauthier Enterprises will retain ownership of the property and construct a new building for occupancy by Restoration Bakery and a coffee shop, which is expected to create up to four full-time and 10 part-time jobs.

The state equalized taxable value of the property is expected to increase from the current $14,400 to $175,000 following redevelopment.

Giroux said the project is important to the community for a variety of reasons.

“This is definitely taking a blighted property, a property that over the years has had junk cars parked around it, and repurpose it,” Giroux said. “New construction in Ishpeming is always welcome to revitalize the tax base and we are excited to be able to facilitate the clean-up of a brownfield site.”

The MDEQ partners with communities to protect public health and the environment and revitalize contaminated property. MDEQ grants and loans pay for environmental investigation and cleanup on brownfields. Brownfields are vacant or abandoned properties with known or suspected environmental contamination.

Unlike local brownfield funds, which use tax increment financing to provide reimbursement of “eligible activities associated with redevelopment of the subject property though tax increment capture,” for the developer, the DEQ grant funds will not need to be repaid, Giroux said.

“There is no brownfield plan on this one,” she said. “It’s a straight-up grant.”

According to the press release partnerships between MDEQ and communities have created $4 billion in private investment and 29,000 new jobs over the life of the Brownfield Redevelopment Program, according to the release. Each grant and loan dollar invested by the MDEQ in 2017 to protect residents and the environment is expected to return an average of $32 to the state’s economy.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.