GRAND HAVEN — With $880,000 on the line, the stakes are a little higher for the city of Grand Haven to make a decision on the Grand Landing development project.
If the city agrees to a purchase agreement with Grand Landing or another developer by Sept. 21, it will receive a portion of the money spent on amassing the property, thanks to a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grant.
“It’s certainly something that we are taking a look at and are concerned about,” said Grand Haven Mayor Roger Bergman. “It’s $880,000. That’s a big chunk of change.”
Bergman said losing the grant would have an impact on how affordable the total project is for the city, but the city council is looking at the bigger picture.
“The loss of the grant would mean that it would be more difficult for us, certainly, to put something together, but it doesn’t mean the end of the plans or our opportunity to redevelop that piece of property,” he said. “We’re looking at the long-term benefits, not the short term.”
Grand Haven Finance Director Jim Bonamy said the city is set to be reimbursed $880,000 from a state Waterfront Redevelopment Grant that was awarded in 2000. The grant was given to help with the $1.2 million purchase price of the Ottawa County Road Commission, ASP and Manufacturing Co. and Weavers Iron and Auto properties that make up part of the site.
“We’ve been waiting for those dollars to come back for four or five years,” Bonamy said.
DEQ Grant Administrator Susan Sandell said this is the first time a grant has been given three extensions.
“They’ve been working on trying to get a developer there for several years,” she said. “We thought, ‘This is what you really want; you’re really close on it. We’re not going to cut you off right now.'”
The last six-month extension was granted March 21.
Sandell said the DEQ has made it clear there will be no further extensions if Grand Haven cannot produce a purchase agreement arrangement with the buyers.
“They don’t have to have closed on the project,” she said. “But we do need a purchase agreement.”
Grand Haven was granted the extensions because the DEQ thought the project was worthwhile and because the city showed that it was working to find a developer, Sandell said.
“We’re not necessarily opposed to providing extensions,” she said. “They need to show that they’re making progress toward meeting the goals of the project.”
Sandell said the goals of the grant were to provide development that includes public access along the lakeshore. Most of the grants awarded have gone to demolition costs for abandoned industry sites.
“Most of them are finished or very near finished,” she said of the other projects that were awarded CMI Waterfront Redevelopment Grants.
If Grand Haven is unable to provide a purchase agreement by Sept. 21, the grant money may go back into the Waterfront Redevelopment program, which is currently broke.
Because the funding for the program has been used, Sandell said this particular $880,000 may be moved into another category within the Clean Michigan Initiative.