Senior Housing: County aids $10-million project

Plans to demolish, clean up and redevelop portions of the former Leelanau Memorial Health Center in Northport received a boost Tuesday following action by the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners.

At the request of the Leelanau County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (LCBRA), the board held a public hearing on a brownfield plan that will allow owners of the new Northport Highlands assisted living facility to take advantage of special tax incentives, grant funding and low interest loans to expand their development on the 14-acre site adjacent to Northport Public School.

Following a public hearing and a briefing by county planning director and LCBRA director Trudy Galla and county brownfield consultant Jeff Hawkins of Envirologic Technologies, Inc., the board voted 7-0 to approve the brownfield plan.

Northport Highlands is owned and operated by Parkside of Michigan, L.L.C. which purchased the former Leelanau Memorial Health Center facility from Munson Healthcare in 2007 after Munson decided to reconfigure its regional operations.

Since 2007, Parkside has renovated approximately 40,000 square feet of the existing structure on the south end of the property and completed an additional 10,000 square feet of new construction.

“These areas are now a 27-unit assisted living and 14-unit Alzheimer care facility called Northport Highlands Assisted Living,” Hawkins told the county board. “This portion of the development included an investment of $6.2 million from the developer and created approximately 45 jobs.”

Hawkins went on to explain how Parkside intends to demolish the remaining portion of the vacant former hospital along with a separate garage. In the area where the hospital will be demolished, Parkside will build a four-story independent living facility with approximately 40 living units. In addition, 16 villas will be constructed for independent living on a portion of the surrounding campus.

When complete, the project will involve approximately $10 million in investment and create approximately 35 jobs, according to Hawkins. The plan calls for Parkside to complete demolition in 2010. Construction will likely get underway in 2011 and continue into 2013.

Hawkins said the developer is seeking assistance through the LCBRA through a brownfield plan that will help cover some of the costs related to preparing the site for redevelopment. The Village of Northport recently declared the portion of the property slated for demolition to be “blighted” due to the utilities being disconnected, thereby allowing the site to be considered a brownfied, he explained.

Designation as a brownfield will allow Parkside to take advantage of “tax increment financing” to help cover some of the costs of cleaning up and redeveloping the property. The arrangement allows developers to use the portion – or “increment” – of taxable values that increase as a result of the property being redeveloped to cover some of the cost of demolition, cleanup and redevelopment.

The “total capture” of tax increment financing for the project will be $904,607, according to the brownfield plan. Of that amount, $51,500 will be reimbursed to the LCBRA for its work on the project; $516,544 will go into a “local site remediation revolving fund,” and $336,563 will be reimbursed to the developer.

The only public comment offered during this week’s public hearing on the brownfield plan was a question posed by Northport Public School business manager Karen Hammersley. She wanted to know what effect the tax increment financing arrangment would have on local school taxes and the local tax base.

Hawkins explained that the school district and other units of government will continue to get the same amount in property taxes that they currently receive from the property. The “increment” above that amount based on an increased taxable value resulting from redevelopment will be “captured” by the LCBRA between 2012 and 2019 under the brownfield plan. According to a resolution adopted by the taxing authority, the Northport Village Council, the brownfield plan will be limited to eight years, he said.

“This is a very important project for Northport, its economy, and the whole county’s economy,” said county board chairman and District No. 4 commissioner Mary P. Tonneberger, who represents Northport and Leelanau Township on the county board.

[leelanaunews.com]

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