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Wyoming Uses Tax Deal to Tie Former GM Stamping Plant to 'Living Wage' Jobs
The Grand Rapids Press
Matt Vande Bunte

March 22, 2011
View the Original Article

WYOMING — A deal approved Monday would use future tax proceeds to reimburse redevelopers of the former General Motors plant on 36th Street SW, so long as the 90-acre site gets revived by manufacturers that provide “living wage” jobs.

“That’s the chance we’re taking,” said Jason Horton, a partner with Bloomfield Hills-based Lormax Stern Development Co. “If we don’t produce, we’re out. National, international search

“This is a national and international search.”

Wyoming and Lormax Stern in January announced plans of a public-private effort to redevelop the site that for 75 years housed a major industrial employer.

Monday, City Council OK’d a development agreement, demolition plan and other documents that enable the developer by April 1 to close on its purchase of the site from Motors Liquidation Co.

Wyoming’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority then will pay $1 to take ownership of the property — reducing its tax base to nothing — while Lormax starts demolition expected to last more than a year. The development agreement stipulates the deal for the land between Motors Liquidation and Lormax must remain confidential.

Demolition will commence with removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials, which should last five to seven months. The plant then will be razed, starting at the south and west ends and going to the north and east. The top 4 feet of basement walls will be removed, with crushed concrete from the demolition used for fill.

During demolition, the non-profit regional economic development organization, The Right Place, will market the site to prospective tenants. And, the city hopes, Motors Liquidation will clean up soil and groundwater contamination at the site.

City planners last week reviewed a demolition plan for the site. The contractor, New York-based Demco, will hold a meeting with neighbors prior to starting work, officials said.

Most of the debris will be shipped out by rail, said Chris Brochert, a Lormax principal. Salvageable metals will be recycled, with the amount of any future tax reimbursement reduced by the amount reaped by scrapping the plant, according to the agreement.

The bulk of soil and groundwater cleanup are the responsibility of Motors Liquidation, City Attorney Scott Smith said.

A local Brownfield redevelopment plan details another $13 million in eligible costs to remediate the property “above the ground,” he said.

Those expenses — $7.7 million for asbestos abatement, demolition and site preparation, $3.8 million for environmental activities and $1.5 million for city administration — would be reimbursed by future city, county, school, transit and library taxes levied on the redeveloped property, assuming it gets redeveloped.

Lormax has a right to the property through March 2015, or through March 2016 if environmental cleanup by Motors Liquidation hinders redevelopment.

The agreement states a preference for one or two large advanced-manufacturing tenants, or one smaller user flanked by several suppliers, that will maximize the site’s railroad access. It also requires the site support “living wage” jobs, although that term is not defined.

“We want to bring good jobs to that site,” City Manager Curtis Holt said. “Our desire is jobs that support the families we have in Wyoming.”

The agreement envisions offices, medical buildings or restaurants on the former GM plant’s property on the north side of 36th Street. But that land will not be redeveloped until a re-use is identified for the main plant property south of 36th.