City’s EDC receives more EPA dollars


Federal EPA funds will assist remediation of the former Morton House on Ionia Avenue. Photo by Chris Pastotnik

The Grand Rapids Economic Development Corp. revealed last week it now has enough federal dollars on hand to assist with the remediation cost to redevelop a vacant downtown building.

The office’s Jonathan Klooster told board members the corporation has received an additional $260,000 in grant funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the EPA’s Revolving Loan Fund that can be loaned to developers who propose to restore a contaminated site.

Those additional dollars will be combined with the $140,000 the office has left from the initial $1 million grant the EPA awarded the EDC, giving the office a total of $400,000 for its loan fund.

Klooster said Rockford Construction is getting ready to renovate the former Morton House at 55 Ionia Ave. NW into ground-floor retail space and about 100 market-rate apartments and the firm could use those funds for the structure’s clean up.

Rockford Construction and the RDV Corp. bought the vacant 13-story structure in June 2011 for an undisclosed amount, according to Kent County property records. The 2013 State Equalized Value of the 170,000-square-foot building at the northwest corner of Monroe Center and Ionia Avenue is $1.8 million.

The firms formed 55 Ionia Partners LLC for the project and are expected to invest $27 million into the 91-year-old building’s remediation and conversion.

The partners approached the Downtown Development Authority in February for a 10-year obsolete property rehabilitation tax exemption for the project, but the request was pulled from the board’s agenda prior to the meeting.

An exemption would allow the developer to capture about 75 percent of the tax-increment revenue that would surface from a finished project, revenue that was estimated by the DDA as being $317,000 over the exemption’s decade.

Although DDA staff recommended the exemption be awarded, the request was removed from the agenda because an agreement the board has with bondholders reportedly restricts the organization from giving up tax revenue to ensure the bond payments are made. It’s uncertain when, or if, the request will come before the DDA again.

The Economic Development Corp. made loans from the EPA’s initial grant to the Fulton Street Farmers Market, the Downtown Market on Ionia Avenue SW and to Rylee’s Ace Hardware for its newest store on Fulton Street.

“Next year we can request more if we have a shovel-ready project,” said Klooster.

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