Three Escanaba parcels named brownfield eligible

ESCANABA — Three parcels on Stephenson Avenue were declared brownfield eligible Monday during a meeting of the City of Escanaba Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

The owner of the properties, Elementary Rentals, LLC., intends to develop the three parcels located at 320, 322, and 324 Stephenson Avenue as a single property. Two of the parcels are vacant land and the third is home to a commercial building that cannot be occupied due to a collapsed roof.

According to Sommer Watson, who co-owns Elementary Rentals with her husband Russell, the tentative plan is to demolish the existing building and construct a garage facility, which would be large enough to cover the three lots.

“My plan is to put up a community garage there. I have the building next door — on the corner (next) to it is an apartment building with a laundromat in it as well, and at some point in time we want to put more apartments in that building, and we want to put this community garage next to it for people in that building to rent and anybody else in the vicinity,” said Watson.

Elementary Rentals is in the process of disconnecting utilities to the building. A demolition permit was filed on Nov. 5, 2018.

Watson was advised by the brownfield redevelopment authority the parcels would need to be combined for a building to be constructed across the property lines. It was also noted any demolition or other site work done before a brownfield redevelopment plan was submitted to the city and approved by the city council would not be eligible for brownfield reimbursements.

Under Public Act 381, the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act, brownfield eligible properties can be reimbursed for some expenses related to their redevelopment. These reimbursements are funded through tax incremental financing. In the case of brownfield sites, this means a portion of the difference between a property’s taxable amount at the time it was designated a brownfield and the taxable amount for the property once it has been developed is captured by the authority and returned to the developer to pay for specific eligible expenses that are included in a plan approved by the authority and the city council.

The authority board did not discuss in detail the specific legal definition used to determine the property’s brownfield status. However, the structure fits the definition of blight, as the collapsed roof makes it “dangerous to the safety of persons or property” and it cannot be occupied.