WALKER—The massive and formerly active Lear Corp. plant could soon become a little less massive but much more active.
The state House passed a measure last week introduced by Rep. Dave Hildenbrand that would turn the vacant 41-acre property at 2150 Alpine Ave. NW into a tax-exempt Renaissance Zone through the year 2017.
“The loss of jobs when the Lear plant closed was a devastating blow to the community and its economy,” said Hildenbrand, a Republican from Lowell.
“Now we have a chance to revitalize the economy by including this property as part of a tax-free Renaissance Zone. This measure will tell businesses looking at moving and expanding in our great state, that Walker and the state of Michigan are ready to welcome them to our community.”
Blue Bridge Ventures LLC holds the purchase option on the property and the firm’s CEO, Jack Buchanan, hopes to close on the acreage this spring. Buchanan has plans to partition the 800,000 square feet of space into smaller sites for multiple tenants, possibly four. He told the Business Journal that most of his tenants are likely going to want from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of space.
Buchanan also plans to renovate the exterior and add a retail strip in front of the main building along Alpine Avenue.
The Walker City Commission applied last month to the Department of Environmental Quality for a Brownfield Redevelopment loan. The $1 million loan would go to Blue Bridge and be used to help pay for the environmental cleanup the property needs and for upgrades to the parcel’s infrastructure. Tax revenue generated by the development would pay off the loan over a 15-year period.
If the state Senate passes Hildenbrand’s bill, tenants that locate at the former automotive parts factory would be exempt from paying state and city income taxes, city utility taxes, and single business taxes for the next dozen years.
“I don’t have anything in writing, but it is great news if it goes all the way through,” said Buchanan last week.
The bill in the Senate would modify the Michigan Renaissance Zone Act of 1996 and passage of the measure has to come before July 1.
Roughly 1,500 jobs would be added to the Lear property, according to an early estimate, if Blue Bridge Ventures can renovate and fill the site.
“It is important we make every effort to enhance not only job growth and retention,” said Hildenbrand, “but also provide incentives for companies that are committed to investing in the community.”