A lakeshore improvement project designed to connect shoppers with the waterfront has received funding to conduct an environmental property report.
The Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority announced recently it has approved $4,000 in funding for the Phase I environmental site assessment, or ESA, of an improvement project in the South Shore Village shopping district in Holland. As part of the $400,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program, the Holland project is the first brownfield redevelopment assessment project for OCBRA.
The estimated $430,000 improvement project includes connecting the 500 block of West 17th Street in Holland to the Heinz boardwalk along Lake Macatawa with a pedestrian promenade. It also includes the construction of a parking lot to service retail establishments, and streetscaping. The project is anticipated to create recreational space, eliminate blight and serve as a catalyst for additional redevelopment projects.
Joel Dye, community development coordinator for the city of Holland, said the idea of creating a public parking lot and pedestrian walkway originated from a neighborhood design workshop back in 2005. According to Dye, businesses were looking to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere and to better position themselves as a lakeside neighborhood commercial district.
“The city of Holland feels that, once this makeover is complete, the area will become a destination district where visitors will come to shop, dine and utilize the waterfront boardwalk on a more regular basis,” said Dye. “This area will become more inviting to new development and possible redevelopment of existing buildings.”
OCBRA and the city of Holland are collaborating to conduct a Phase I ESA, which will identify previous uses of the property and its surrounding area in order to determine the presence of any contaminating materials. The process can include reviewing records, making site visits and conducting interviews with property owners and local government officials.
Past development at the property location included a carwash, gas station and dry cleaner, which prompted the assessment before the city can complete acquisition of the remaining land that would be developed in the project. If contamination is detected, a Phase II ESA is then required to take samples of soil and water, and test buildings and other areas for the presence of hazardous materials.
Kelly Getman-Disette, Ottawa County economic development coordinator, said the county applied for a grant to conduct environmental assessments on potentially contaminated properties to assist developers in the first step of the redevelopment process.
“The assessments can be costly for developers and property owners, and they can be somewhat time consuming,” said Getman-Disette. “The brownfield sites are difficult to redevelop because they are contaminated or perceived to be contaminated … so for that reason developers may shy away from those properties.”
The EPA’s Brownfields Program allows states, communities and individuals to work together to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfield sites, according to its website.
“Often they can be located downtown or in the business district or near the water, and for that reason they can be very desirable sites. They can have a lot of impact on the community when they are redeveloped,” said Getman-Disette. “They can improve the tax base, revitalize the neighborhood, in general, aesthetically. They can sometimes create jobs and eliminate contamination.”
After gaining approval, funding for the South Shore Village improvement project will come from a Brownfield Tax Increment Financing District and the possible creation of an assessment district, which is a levy designed to recover costs of improvements. According to Dye, the Brownfield TIF was created as a result of current construction on the Waterfront Condominium development project.
Through the use of a Brownfield TIF, the local government can continue to collect property taxes, receive increased tax revenue from the redevelopment project, and allocate the funds to reimburse the developer, according the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Dye said Holland is actively looking into new opportunities in terms of redevelopment projects for the future; however, the pedestrian promenade project is the only one started at this time.
OCBRA selects proposed projects on a first-come basis after the completion of a nomination application form and approval granted by the redevelopment board.