A Canadian redevelopment firm has taken possession of a northern Kent County industrial property that hopefully will result in the expansion of several manufacturers and a new rail connection to take finished goods and produce to market on a less costly basis.
Blueforest Ventures of Waterloo, Ontario, closed on its purchase transaction of the former Sparta Foundry site with the Kent County Land Bank Authority June 28. The four-acre parcel is located at 252 Gardner St. in the village of Sparta.
The vacant and contaminated property went into tax foreclosure in 2009 and was offered at public auction. The Kent County Board of Commissioners transferred the site to the land bank early last year. The land bank then worked with the state and village to get the property cleaned up and received help from The Right Place Inc. in finding a buyer for the site.
Blueforest Ventures specializes in redeveloping distressed industrial sites. The company, which has an office in Troy, contacted the land bank last year and asked to be a part of the redevelopment effort. A purchase price wasn’t immediately made available, but the land bank was asking $180,000 for the property.
“Actually, business in Sparta is booming and we need to shed a little light on that,” said Paul Veldman, Blueforest Ventures managing director.
Consumers Energy will relocate an electrical substation. Blueforest Ventures will build a rail spur that will connect with an existing rail line just east of the site to create an import-export rail hub. Elm Street will be reconstructed and tied into Averill Street to form a new truck route to the property.
“The rail hub that will be built will be the first of its kind in the Midwest,” said KCLBA Executive Director Dave Allen.
“Lots of foundries in West Michigan are very excited to have a rail hub there,” said Stan Ponstein, KCLBA board member and county commissioner. Ponstein added that fruit growers and crop farmers also are looking forward to having the rail connection available.
The site also will get a new rail dock, warehouse and export facility as part of the redevelopment plan.
General Formulations, Federal-Mogul Corp. and Tesa Tape are three manufacturers operating in Sparta that are expected to make good use of properties on the site Blueforest Ventures will lease or sell.
“Each business will be expanding,” said Allen.
Village of Sparta Manager Martin Super said having Blueforest Ventures buy the property turned out to be a better outcome than having a single manufacturer take possession of it, which was the initial plan.
“Blueforest will be the third-party entity that will be running the rail-to-road loading dock, and they will either lease or sell the remaining land that will not be used by that project to whoever wants to use the remaining facilities,” he said.
Super said that arrangement will give more area businesses a chance to benefit from the developed site and make rail transportation more accessible and affordable for everyone who needs it.