The City of Grand Rapids experienced a record year for building construction activity in 2019.
Grand Rapids Community Development Director Rob Mattei presented a year-end report at the Nov. 12 regular meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council. As Mattei explained, building permit valuation through Nov. 1, 2019, reached $73.5 million - three times the 15-year average.
Mattei said construction of the two new elementary schools made it “a very big year for permitted value.” Of the $73.5 million, $54.29 million was governmental construction activity with the two schools and the armory remodel; $4.55 million was residential for 12 new single family homes as of Nov. 1; and $14.62 million was in commercial including new buildings for Paul Bunyan Communications (510 SE 21st Street) and Anytime Fitness/Rapid Nutrition (110 Golf Course Road) as well as remodels at Rapids Brewing, Sammy’s Pizza, Miskovich Dental Clinic and Anderson Glass.
Mattei gave updates on redevelopment project activity within the city. At the site of the former Sawmill Inn, the new subdivision Rebound Commercial Addition, demolition was completed by the developer Rebound Hospitality and platting of the property as well as design of the public infrastructure and site grading are nearing completion by Rebound’s engineers. Construction of the grading and public infrastructure was expected to commence this fall but may have to wait until spring given the fall frost, said Mattei. The new subdivision will extend 23rd Street SE from Highway 169. The new street, sanitary sewer and water will serve five commercial lots, one of which will be the location of a new Best Western Plus hotel, scheduled to break ground in the spring. The city secured a $100,000 grant from Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) for demolition and approved the use of Tax Increment Financing to offset the added site development costs for that project. Other redevelopment activity took place at the former K-Mart site where the owner, the Hartley Trust, demolished the structure allowing it to be marketed as a site. The Hartley Trust sold the north two acres which is now being developed for Anytime Fitness and Rapid Nutrition. The city secured a $58,700 development site infrastructure grant from IRRR for that project.
Further commercial redevelopment activity includes Block 19 - Rapids Brewing which Mattei said was a significant enhancement to a key site identified in the Downtown Redevelopment Master Plan.
The city was recently successful in an application to IRRR for a $350,000 development infrastructure grant to support North Homes in their planned establishment of a new 52-bed psychiatric rehabilitation treatment facility for youth and young adults on River Road. This project involves 65-80 new jobs with wages ranging from $32,240 - $75,000 annually.
At the former Ainsworth industrial site, Mattei explained that the city in continuing partnerships with IEDC, APEX and IRRR and the City of Cohasset to promote redevelopment. The city and GREDA are anticipating the need to assist the future developer of the site with the extension of infrastructure (sanitary sewer and water).
Housing activity this year included the plat of Great River Acres to be located in SW Grand Rapids off Golf Course Road and County Road 76. The Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority (GREDA) is marketing the area for 15 single family home sites and one 15-acre multi-family site for sale and development. GREDA has recently secured the first purchase and development agreement for the sale and development of a single family home that will be built next summer.
Soon after acquiring property from the school district at the site of the former Riverview Elementary School, the city entered into a purchase agreement with Itasca County HRA for the proposed development of a 38-unit apartment, an eight-plex and two five-plex condo-style rental units for a total of 56 affordable units. This development, described as Aurora Heights is being developed by DW Jones in conjunction with Itasca County HRA and Northland Counseling Center.
Excelsior, Minn., based developer Oppidan has proposed the development of a 118 unit senior housing development project on land owned by and located west of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital. If developed, the project would create approximately 68 independent senior apartments along with 30 assisted living and 20 memory care units. Oppidan has requested TIF business assistance from the city for this $27 million project, which is in the review process.
Unique Opportunities LLC, a Fergus Falls, Minn., based multi-family housing developer has entered into a preliminary agreement with the city and GREDA for property located at the southwest corner of 21st Street SE and Seventh Avenue East (Airport Road). Unique is proposing to build a 48-unit apartment with 20% of the units being proposed as affordable and the remainder market value.
Mattei explained that if the three multi-family projects (Aurora Heights, Oppidan and Unique projects) advance, the city will reach a highpoint for annual residential development at 220 units.
During his report, Mattei also highlighted the Commercial Building Improvement Loan Program (CBID) and Small Cities Development Program (SCDP). Mattei explained that the Blandin Foundation has recently provided a $500,000 program related investment (PRI) to GREDA to ensure the CBID remains capitalized. This allows GREDA to draw funds from the foundation, as a loan, for use in providing CBID loans. The Blandin Foundation has also recently re-established a $1 million PRI with GREDA for the city’s Redevelopment Loan Fund which allows timely access to short-term bridge and gap financing for commercial acquisitions and activities that lead to redevelopment of blighted/substandard/underutilized commercial property.
In conclusion, Mattei reported that GREDA has been working with an economic development sub-consultant in the development of an updated economic development chapter to the city’s comprehensive plan. The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee will be seeking additional public input on the draft update at a public meeting/open house scheduled for Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Area Library.