City approves two brownfield sites

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published April 16, 2014

ROYAL OAK — The City Commission approved the creation of two brownfield redevelopment sites April 7, one along Main Street in the downtown and the other along Woodward Avenue.

With the creation of the districts, the city will reimburse the owners of the buildings for the costs of removing environmentally hazardous materials from the construction sites.

The reimbursement comes from the increased taxable value that the reinvestment into the site will create.

Under the two approved brownfield sites, the new office for Genisys Credit Union along the 500 block of North Main Street will be reimbursed no more than $81,000 throughout the next 15 years.

Kramar Jewelry, currently located in Oak Park, is moving locations to 25766 Woodward Ave. and will be reimbursed no more than $80,000 over the next 15 years.

Both sites require the removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials, according to city documents.

Mark Schneider, the president of the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the meeting in favor of the commission approving the credit union site. He said it falls in line with the city’s goal of bringing more office workers downtown.

“This development ... will continue the growth of downtown along north Main,” he said.

George Kramar, owner of Kramar Jewelry, said that he had been wanting to move his location to Royal Oak for quite some time.

“We’ve been looking forward to moving for a while, and we finally found this location that we thought would be ideal,” he said.

Tim Thwing, the city’s director of planning, said there are four other brownfield districts in the city. He added that there likely will be three more coming to the commission in the near future.

While Commissioner Sharlan Douglas voted for creating both brownfield districts, she questioned if the city was ensuring that the current and future reimbursements were not going to stretch the city fiscally thin.

“At what point does the added development stress our public services to a degree that it isn’t going to be offset 10 or 15 years until those funds start flowing into the city?” Douglas said.

City Manager Don Johnson said that vacant buildings commonly create greater stress on the city.

“Oftentimes, empty facilities, empty buildings actually put a greater strain on police and fire than active buildings,” Johnson said.