Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Save the Freep Building!


I love it when we can save old buildings and make them useful again. I think future generations will thank us for it. Today's MEGA announcement was filled with brownfield redevelopment projects, two of which I had shot before in my travels because I thought the buildings looked cool. I'm not sure what the inside of the Freep building above looks like, but the outside is pretty ornate, as most of those old buildings are. They designed with some style back in the day, and featured decoration that would cost an absolute fortune to produce now. From the Wiki page:

The Detroit Free Press Building is a building designed by architect Albert Kahn and constructed in downtown Detroit, Michigan, in 1924 and completed a year later.

The high-rise building has two basement floors, and 14 floors above the ground, for a total of 16 floors. The building features Art Deco architecture style, and incorporates a great deal of limestone into its materials. Its design features stepped massing in the central tower and flanking wings. The building is adorned with bas-relief figures, sculpted by Ulysses A. Ricci, symbolizing commerce and communication.

Today, they received a state credit that will help clear the way for development. And that means jobs, both now and in the future.

Among the Detroit-area projects is the redevelopment of the former Detroit Free Press building in downtown Detroit by Free Press Holdings, LLC. That project will receive a $10 million state brownfield credit, and $443,000 in state and local tax revenue. The $73.2 million renovation will create first floor retail and restaurants, commercial space and apartment space in the second through 13th floors. It’s expected to create 211 new jobs.

The other I had a shot of is the Knapp's Building in Lansing. It sounds like they have been trying to do something with this one for years - and get this - the outcome of this situation may be dependent on the tax bill in Congress.

knappsBut at least one - the Knapp's project - needs several other financial components to fall into place before construction can begin.

The renovation of the former J.W. Knapp's department store, owned by East Lansing-based Eyde Co., got a $4.9 million boost from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board in the form of a brownfield redevelopment tax credit.

The $36.4 million project will turn the dilapidated downtown landmark at 300 S. Washington Ave. into a building with retail and commercial sites on the lower floors and residential space on the fifth floor. Once complete, the structure's tenants are expected to employ approximately 200 people.

Mark Clouse, chief financial officer and general counsel for Eyde Co., said more financial backing must be secured before construction can begin. The company is reapplying for a $2 million grant from the federal Housing and Urban Development office and hopes to get a New Market Tax Credit from the federal government as well.

The New Market credit is anticipated to be part of the tax bill currently before Congress.

Doh! Well, if it doesn't happen, I hope that the developers can find other ways to finance this. My picture of it doesn't do it justice.

Sometimes brownfield projects include demolition too. Today's MEGA announcement tears down buildings in Detroit and Grand Rapids that are obsolete. But there are others, such as a low-income housing project in Detroit and the School for the Deaf in Flint, that are slated for renovation along with the ones featured above, and also some cleanup and development on vacant lots which will bring new business and jobs when they are done. Helps with the urban blight issue, to be sure.

The grand total on today's MEDC announcement - Gov. Granholm's last shot before Snyder does whatever he is going to do - was 11 brownfield redevelopment projects in Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint and Hamtramck, which will generate over $406 million in new investment and create and retain 1,401 jobs, and six companies, with $69.6 million in investment that create 1,596 total new jobs in the state. Not a bad haul for the day. You can read all the details on the projects and the companies involved here.

Thanks go out to the Governor, to MEDC CEO Greg Main, and to everyone at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for all your hard work over the past eight years. Ya done good. I hope that our new governor appreciates the importance of these efforts and keeps on with the program - if he doesn't, there are many, many other states that will be happy to take our place.