City approves first brownfield redevelopment plan

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 5, 2017

 Frank Rewold and Son Inc. plans to develop an office building that will serve as its new headquarters and house the offices of Service First Logistics and AKA Architects on Water Street in downtown Rochester.

Frank Rewold and Son Inc. plans to develop an office building that will serve as its new headquarters and house the offices of Service First Logistics and AKA Architects on Water Street in downtown Rochester.

Rendering provided by the city of Rochester

ROCHESTER — The Rochester City Council recently approved a $2.3 million brownfield redevelopment plan to help clean up the city’s largest vacant property, an environmentally contaminated site formerly occupied by ITT Automotive.

Over the years, a number of industrial uses on the property left behind a host of contaminants — including metals and a chlorinated solvent called trichlorethylene — in the soil and the groundwater, which have migrated into the Paint Creek.

Although the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and ITT worked together to build an underground contaminant wall and install monitoring wells to stop pollutants from entering the creek, officials said the land still can’t be redeveloped without remediation — which has left the property, approximately 3 acres near Third and Water streets, vacant for over 20 years.

On Nov. 17, the Rochester City Council unanimously approved the city’s first brownfield redevelopment plan, which will allow for the cleanup of the site through a nine-year tax increment financing agreement.

“This is a great project, but more importantly, we are cleaning up a site that really needs it,” Mayor Cathy Daldin said.

The TIF is paid for with local tax dollars captured based on the incremental growth in the value of the property. Officials estimate that property taxes on the site will increase from $3,000 to $160,000 per year.

Under the plan, $1 million of the cleanup costs on the site will be provided by a grant from the MDEQ, which also agreed to loan the city $1 million to address environmental contamination at the site.

“We got a $1 million grant to the city of Rochester to help clean the site up, which was important to the state. There are so many communities in the state trying to get that limited pot of money, and we are really appreciative of that,” Deputy City Manager Nik Banda said.

Frank Rewold and Son Inc. — which will contribute an additional $300,000 in cleanup costs — plans to develop a multistory commercial/office building with parking on the property following the cleanup. The over 40,000-square-foot office building will serve as the new headquarters of the family-owned construction services company and will house the offices of Service First Logistics and AKA Architects — creating over 150 new jobs in downtown Rochester. The three-story building will have a mezzanine floor and a rooftop deck. Frank Rewold and Son Inc. also plans to spend approximately $200,000 to remodel the city’s Amphitheatre Park and make improvements along the Paint Creek riverbank in the park as part of the project.

But one of the biggest improvements to the site, and the local environment, is the addition of a 60,000-pound pre-treatment structure for stormwater, according to Jason Rewold, of Frank Rewold and Son Inc.

“It’s a huge improvement to the stormwater management on this site, which is what this contamination is all about, because this rainwater and stormwater leaches in the soil and eventually makes its way to the river,” he said. “We are going to direct the water where it should go — into the catch basins, into the new pipe, which is going to go to the storm treatment structure before it goes into the river. That is not happening right now, so it’s a huge improvement for this site.”

MDEQ Brownfield Coordinator Michelle Bakun said brownfields are properties where known or suspected contamination threatens environmental quality and public health, and interferes with productive reuse of the site.

“A brownfield is a piece of contaminated or blighted property that can’t be used for its intended use because of the contamination that’s there,” she said.

Bakun — who is overseeing the Rochester brownfield plan, the grant and the loan — said she has been working closely with the city and Frank Rewold and Son Inc. on the project.

“Things have been going really well,” she said.

With the plan approved, Banda said the environmental cleanup could begin as early as this winter. If all goes well, he said the new building could be in operation by the fall.

“We are very close to starting,” Frank Rewold said during the council meeting. “We are fired up about that.”

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $12 million.