Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 29, 2013

Grand Traverse County officials consider brownfield funds to redevelop 8th Street

TRAVERSE CITY — City and county officials will consider redeveloping Eighth Street by picking up the tab for private developers to raze old houses that line the corridor.

The county Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will consider granting almost $825,000 in tax reimbursements for two houses built in the 1890s that contain asbestos, lead paint, and coal dust. The brownfield authority meets Wednesday at 8 a.m. in the Governmental Center.

Some officials aren’t sure the potential payoff justifies the public support, but others believe the two at-hand projects could spur similar work on dozens of older residential homes that line city corridors if owners opt for commercial redevelopment.

“It could set the precedent for how we redevelop the corridors with brownfield (financing),” said Jean Derenzy, deputy county planner and brownfield redevelopment director.

Costs to abate contaminants at the two houses is set at $147,000, but state brownfield laws allow the developers to receive reimbursement for other costs such as site preparation, building demolition, and site improvements, including sidewalks and utility connections.

Dr. Debra Graetz wants to bulldoze a home on the corner of E. Eighth Street and Railroad Ave. to construct a physicians office. Graetz spent $207,000 to acquire the house, but had to halt the project because of unexpected costs and financing issues.

Graetz told brownfield authority board members she didn’t realize the extent of the asbestos in the drywall mud, linoleum, pipe insulation, window glazing, roofing and siding. Graetz declined to be interviewed for this story.

Graetz estimates it will cost her almost $1.3 million to demolish the existing house and replace it with a new one-story office building. But her bank estimates the value of the completed building at $500,000, and Graetz told officials she can’t afford to cover the difference.

A brownfield designation would allow the authority to capture all additional property taxes paid by the doctor’s company, Graetz Properties LLC, for the next 30 years and use that money to reimburse Graetz up to $493,000, including interest. The reimbursable costs include: $83,000 for asbestos removal; $148,000 in interest, and $262,000 in other costs.

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