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Housing projects keep moving ahead

As part of a report on summer concessions business activity at Thornapple Plaza, Hastings Mayor Dave Tossava (center) receives a check for $1,847 as reimbursement of city expenses from Kiwanis Club member Phyllis Fuller and Rotary Club member Dave Solmes. The two service clubs invested 553 volunteer hours during summer events at Thornapple Plaza and realized a profit of just under $16,000 – up from last year’s $10,000 profit. After presenting the city’s check for expenses on Monday, the two service clubs each received a $7,064 contribution.


Contributing Writer

If at first you don’t succeed … dust off the plans and try a different location.

After coming up short two months ago with its bid to construct a three-story, 41-unit apartment project on the former Moose Lodge property at 128 N. Michigan Ave., Grand Rapids-area developer Kendall Place Limited was back before the Hastings City Council Monday evening to finalize a purchase option agreement to build a similar structure on vacant city-owned property at South Park, West Court and West State streets.

“We’ve got a bigger footprint here, there’s an extra acre,” said Nate Heyboer, owner of DHE Plumbing and Mechanical in Hudsonville and principal of the Kendall Place group. “We heard what you said about parking, and we’re going to make sure here that we have on-site parking.”

The plan submitted by Kendall Place in August for the Moose Lodge property was rebuffed because it included only four on-site resident parking spaces. The city council voted, instead, to award the project to Grand Rapids developer A.J. Veneklasen Inc., which will build a four-story, 30-unit structure along with a 30-car parking garage on the ground floor. Construction is expected to begin as soon as financing arrangements are finalized.

Kendall Place’s renewed interest in a Hastings housing project apparently came in a phone call from the city’s community development director, Dan King, the day after the council’s 6-2 vote Aug. 26 to choose A.J. Veneklasen as the developer of the Moose Lodge property.

“Dan reached out to us, and we feel like we really have a good partnership with the city,” Kevin Moore, a partner in the Kendall Place group, said. “We were interested in what he proposed, so we came back to take a look.”

Both Moore and Heyboer confirmed that the new project would cost more than Kendall Place’s original plan for the Moose Lodge property site due to the comprehensive process of re-applying for state funding assistance through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program. Kendall Place’s original plan called for 80 percent of its 41 units as affordable housing based on the average median income in Barry County.

The property at Park, Court and State streets, however, provides more room for not only on-site parking but also for a possibly larger building, perhaps as many as 50 units, Heyboer told council members. The property is part of a planned-unit development and has been on the market for more than 10 years. According to the $5,000 purchase option agreement approved Monday, Kendall Place will have until Dec. 31, 2020, to exercise the right to purchase the property at $77,000. The current estimated assessed value is $200,000. That fact along with other details in the purchase option agreement generated considerable discussion.

“That’s a good price for a square we’ve been mowing for the past 15 years,” council member Bill Redman said. “Let’s get it back on the tax roll.”

King cited restrictive aspects of the PUD were likely the reasons for no offers having been made on the property.

“The structure of the PUD was prohibitive for development of that property,” King said. “Because there’s no access to State Street, it had no marketability as a commercial property.”

The $77,000 purchase price derived from the amount that Kendall Place offered for the Moose Lodge property in August. Although council members questioned the difference in that figure and the property’s assessed value, most expressed interest in moving forward with the possible construction plan presented by Kendall Place.

“When we had the old library [on Church Street], we offered it to the Gilmore Group for $1,” Mayor Dave Tossava pointed out. “Even if we take $77,000 here, I’d like to see more people living downtown and spending their money downtown.”

Though Council Member Brenda McNabb-Stange agreed with that perspective, she was the only dissenter in the 8-1 vote to approve the purchase option agreement.

“I think it’s quite low,” said McNabb-Stange of the purchase price, “but if there’s no requirement for a tax abatement, this is one way to help [the developers] out – but I don’t see both.”

In comments made following the meeting, McNabb-Stange said it was her understanding that, in order for the developer to obtain state funding, MSHDA would require a tax abatement for the project.

 “I think it’s a great idea what they’re doing, and I’m fully supportive of them,” she said, “but I think [the reduced price and a tax abatement] is a bit much.”

In other business Monday, the city council:

-Re-tabled discussion and a decision to purchase a new “vactor,” a combination sewer cleaner with a vacuum system vehicle, at a price of $423,184 until the Oct. 28 meeting, due to the illness that prevented City Manager Jerry Czarnecki from attending Monday’s meeting. “I’d rather have Jerry sitting here,” Tossava said. “I don’t want to rush approval because he’s the one that’s got to answer these questions.”

-Approved a traffic-control order at St. Rose School that would limit parking to bus parking only from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the east side of the street in front of the school in the 700 block of South Jefferson St. “This is much like what we had previously dealt with around the Hastings Middle School and Central Elementary,” said Police Chief Jeff Pratt, citing safety concerns.

-Provided permission to close Green Street from Broadway to Cass Street Oct. 31 as has been done in the past several years to provide a safe place for many Halloween activities.

-Waived parking restrictions in the First Ward Park areas for Hastings Manufacturing employees while the company completes its parking lot repaving project in the coming weeks.

-Endorsed an amendment to the joint planning commission zoning ordinance defining terms in its electronic messaging board requirements, including a 500-foot distance from any street intersection or residence location, unless approved by the zoning administrator.

-Approved an amendment to the library special revenue fund, taking $5,500 from its budgeted fund balance to replace computers that were not included in the original budget. Library Director Peggy Hemerling explained that the transfer of funds will not involve additional expenditure but will simply result in reducing this year’s projected fund balance from $454,271 to $448,771.

-Entered an agreement with Municode for self-publishing computer software at an annual cost of $3,000.

-Approved a replacement to the 1992 sewer agreement with Rutland Charter Township that will expire Sept. 9, 2022.

-Accepted a gift of $8,630 from the Baum Family to purchase a laser projection system at Thornapple Plaza as a means of providing programming outside the annual concert series.


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