Developer Has South Division Vision

    GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners approved a development agreement Tuesday to sell two long-deserted South Division Avenue properties to local developer Roosevelt Tillman.

    Tillman plans to construct a 16,000-square-foot commercial center on a two-acre site at 530 S. Division Ave. and an 18,000-square-foot light manufacturing plant on a 2.9-acre contiguous site at 630 S. Division Ave., site of the former American Laundry.

    He’s paying $140,000 and $160,000, respectively, for the sites.

    The two properties are part of the city’s Renaissance Zone and form a large industrial tract running from Division east to Sheldon Avenue and from Buckley Street south to Sycamore Street.

    Together, the properties have more than 800 feet of frontage on South Division. City officials say they’ve been a blight on the neighborhood for years.

    According to plans, the commercial center will house both office and retail space, including a Family Dollar store. The manufacturing facility will house a business that manufactures molds for the surgical instrument industry.

    Tillman will invest some $1.4 million in building and site development on the properties, according to the agreement. Each development is expected to create 18 new jobs paying $7.30 per hour.

    The city bought the land with a $750,000 loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund. Under terms of the loan, if enough new jobs are created on the sites, up to 90 percent of the loan amount, or $675,000, then becomes a grant. Each new job created writes down $20,000 of the loan.

    In the event that no jobs are created by Dec. 17, 2004, the entire amount must be paid back over 15 years.

    First Ward Commissioner Roy Schmidt referred to the agreement with Tillman as “a well-taken risk” and said he looks forward to the development’s success.

    The city spent six years and nearly $2 million assembling and preparing the two sites for redevelopment.

    “Where this property has come from and the potential for where it’s going — I’m just very excited about Mr. Tillman coming forth and the job creation,” said Commissioner Robert Dean of the third ward. “It’s going to be very exciting for that area.”

    First Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak said the tract of land is the city’s southern gateway into the downtown and had been neglected for far too long. Tillman’s project, he said, is a step in the right direction to bringing the South Division corridor back to life. 

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