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Historic grain elevator could be moved for new office development

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 23, 2020

 Frank Rewold & Sons plans to build a four-story office building on the site of the Rochester  Elevator Co.

Frank Rewold & Sons plans to build a four-story office building on the site of the Rochester Elevator Co.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

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ROCHESTER — A new development could soon take the place of Rochester’s oldest business, the Rochester Elevator Co., at the corner of University and Water streets in downtown Rochester.

The property, at 303 E. University St., is now under contract for purchase by Frank Rewold & Sons to build a four-story office building, according to Rochester City Manager Blaine Wing.

Wing said Michelle Bakun, the brownfield redevelopment coordinator from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, asked the city of Rochester if it would be interested in submitting a formal letter and application to her requesting a $1 million grant from her division to assist with the environmental cleanup of the Rochester Elevator site — which the council unanimously agreed to do June 8.

“Getting funding to clean up a contaminated site makes a lot of sense,” Councilwoman Amanda Harrison Keighley said during the meeting.

Over the years, Wing said, a number of industrial uses on a nearby property left behind a host of contaminants in the soil that spread to the site of the Rochester Elevator Co.

“There is fertilizer and some other contaminants, as well, just because of the type of business that is still operating there,” he said. “We’re very excited and we’re hopeful that that $1 million grant will be allocated to clean up the contaminated site in Rochester.”

Frank Rewold & Sons is no stranger to brownfield redevelopment. The company cleaned up the city’s largest vacant property, an environmentally contaminated site formerly occupied by ITT Automotive, to build its new 45,000-square-foot four-story headquarters on Water Street in 2018. Approximately $1 million of the cleanup costs on the site were provided by a state grant.

Frank Rewold said the state’s brownfield redevelopment grants are “highly sought after by everybody else in the state.”

“It’s pretty unusual that they would give two to the same city, and the only reason they’re considering that is the success we had on the last project,” Rewold explained. “We either get in line and get this, or we’re going to lose it. And, quite frankly, without that grant, that property doesn’t make sense to do anything with, so I think it’s a golden opportunity for us.”

If the city receives the grant and approves the project, Deputy City Manager Nik Banda said Frank Rewold & Sons and Rochester Elevator owner Lawrence Smith have agreed to donate the historic elevator building to the city.

Wing said the historic portion of the building would likely be disassembled and stored by the city until enough funds were raised to have the building reconstructed elsewhere — most likely in Rochester Municipal Park.

“We walked around some sites and narrowed it down to two or three potentially that could take that reconstructed structure. ... Rochester Municipal Park is the most logical spot to still acknowledge the history of that building and make it a functional building that could potentially be rented out so that families and groups could utilize it as an actual facility and understand its historical significance in our community, as well,” Wing said.

The Rochester Elevator Co. grain elevator was built by Charles K. Griggs in 1880. The building consists of one building constructed in 1880 and two additions, which were added to the main building in 1909, according to the city’s Historic District Study Committee. The establishment is recognized by the Historical Society of Michigan and was added in 2010 to the National Register of Historic Places in Michigan.

The development is currently in the conceptual phase, and Banda said the developer will eventually have to go to the Planning Commission, and ultimately the City Council, with a special project request because the underlying zoning of the property is I-1, Industrial 1 and B-1 General Business.

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