(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 17, 2013)
From storage facility to high end office building, Blue Water Financial is looking to transform the property at 535 Woodward Heights into their new world headquarters with a little help a Brownfield Redevelopment grant, and a lot of help from the City Departments who are working quickly to bring the firm to its new home.
At the Jan. 14, 2013 City Council Meeting, Economic Development Director Derek Delacourt explained what the $49,000 grant will help Blue Water Financial accomplish in their $500,000 remodel of the site. And Jeremy Goldstein of Blue Water Financial explained his firm’s hopes and dreams in moving to the community.
Currently housed in Royal Oak, Blue Water Financial does financial planning and insurance sales. They have 22 employees who will be transferred to Ferndale, and the capacity for 15 more. Goldstein explained that they “hope to secure the building across the street,” and to “try to put an industrial type kitchen so we can cater a 16 person classroom, a private gymnasium and several offices over there as well.”
He told City Council that they are “excited to be in that corridor that has good communications [businesses], and some of the tech companies that are moving in there. We like to think that we are being very innovative in respect to the use of our dollars and I’ve run this by a lot of people who do planning all over the country and they think it’s a brilliant idea. We’re very excited and we appreciate your help.”
While some firms build their headquarters from the ground up, or move into existing office facilities, developing old industrial and warehouse spaces is a growing trend. Often the costs can be less expensive and the buildings can have history and character.
According to the Brownfield Redevelopment proposal, 535 Woodward Heights is a .28 acre lot that in 1931 had one residential home. In 1940 another home was built. In the mid-1940s through most of the 1950s, one home was used as storage for a roofing company. A portion of the current building was constructed between 1963 and 1967. The northern dwelling was demolished between 1980 and 1990 and converted to a parking lot for the subject building. The property was occupied by Detroit Design Specialties, a high end furniture design and manufacturing operation, from 1967 until approximately 2007. A majority of the operations ceased in 2007, and the property has been predominantly utilized for storage. It sits on the corner of Woodward Heights and Gainsboro and it noticeable by the eclectic landscaping in front and long thin vines that stripe the side wall of the building.
In order to help encourage the development, the City of Ferndale worked with Blue Water Financial to obtain a Brownfield grant of about $49,000, and has approved giving them the money up front through the Revolving Loan Fund. The City’s Revolving Loan Fund will be paid back over the course of 16 years through captured TIF (tax increment financing) funds for the duration of the loan plus an additional five years.
Brownfield grants are given to businesses to help with specific expenses such as environmental testing and remediation. While there is a risk in using Revolving Loan Funds to advance the company’s grant, Delacourt said that the risk is low given the fact that Blue Water Financial is investing $500,000 of their own money to upgrade the property.
The grant went through the Brownfield Redevelopment Board and was reviewed and approved before coming before City Council, where it passed unanimously. Mayor Dave Coulter praised Delacourt for working with Blue Water Financial to make the move to Ferndale so easy, pointing out that it only took 90 days from initial contact to completion of all the required permitting, site plans and the granting process.
Because of an increased emphasis on business attraction and retention since hiring Delacourt in 2011, Ferndale’s industrial properties are filling up quickly. The vacancy rate has gone from 23% down to 10%, with many exciting projects moving in.
Those who are considering opening a business in Ferndale can contact the Economic Development Department through email at email@example.com.
The State of Michigan offers many resources for those interested in starting or relocating a business. Their website gives more thorough explanations of what tax incentives are available and how they work. http://www.michiganadvantage.org/Locate-In-Michigan/.