Brownfield Redevelopment = Economic Development

by Shelbey Senkewitz
Oct 4, 2018

VIcksburg Mill slide

This summer, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) awarded the Kalamazoo County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (KCBRA) a $100,000 grant and $1.25 million loan. These funds will be used to conduct environmental investigations of contamination, soil cleanup, and other redevelopment activities at the historic Vicksburg Paper Mill at 300 W. Highway Street in Vicksburg, Michigan.

The Vicksburg Paper Mill began operations as the Lee Paper Company Mill in 1905. Once a vital part of the Village of Vicksburg, the mill was the village's largest employer and benefactor for many years. The Lee Paper Company Mill originally began as a rag-content paper mill, processing fine-quality writing papers from recycled textiles, but shortly after World War II it shifted to producing paper from wood pulp. Former mill operations ceased in 2001, and the 115-acre property has sat largely unused since. Site conditions were further exacerbated in 2012, when an arsonist burned down a portion of the vacant building; these fire-damaged sections will need to be demolished during redevelopment.

In 2016, the Vicksburg Paper Mill was listed as a brownfield due to contamination stemming from its previous industrial use. In the same year, it was also included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The current developer of the property, Paper City Development LLC, plans to invest over $50 million to redevelop the site into a mixed-use space that will include a brewery and beer garden, craft food and beverage production facility, restaurant, retail center, museum, arts community, events spaces, 40 apartments, hotel space, offices, and a mix of other commercial and production spaces. The mill redevelopment project is projected to result in 1,800 jobs within the first five years of operation including more than 200 full-time jobs, approximately 100 construction jobs, an estimated $80 million of total project costs, including over $56 million in private investment.

In preparation for this redevelopment, the previous property owners, the Kalamazoo County Treasurer and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority, have already completed activities at the site to promote health and safety, as well as emergency stabilization. As the KCBRA and KCLBA s environmental consultant, Envirologic was involved in many of these initial pre-redevelopment activities. Our involvement included completing initial site assessments and due diligence on a portion of the property west of the original mill building, overseeing the demolition of two hazardous waste water clarifiers, conducting a hazardous building materials survey throughout the mill structure, and managing the asbestos abatement activities. Envirologic also applied for and managed an MDEQ Site-Specific Brownfield Assessment grant, that was used for approximately $50,000 in additional sampling across the site.

The redevelopment project is considered significant in the State of Michigan and southwest Michigan. The developer is in the process of pursuing a Transformational Brownfield Plan which will provide additional revenue streams beyond real and personal property tax increment including pre and post construction period withholding taxes and construction period sales and use taxes. Envirologic, as the KCBRA s consultant, is part of the review team for the Plan.

The developer's next steps will be to demolish non-historic and fire-damaged portions of the building, stabilize the building's exterior, and regrade the ground surface. According to Jackie Koney, a project manager with Paper City Development, the first phase of construction (i.e., stabilization of the building) will likely start this year, and construction could be completed within four to five years.

As the Vicksburg Paper Mill project moves forward, Envirologic will continue to work as the KCBRA s consultant providing input as part of the team. The first sentence of our vision statement is "Do Good Work to Do Good." This project, like so many others, fulfills that vision. Preserving a historic site, cleaning up contaminated property, and providing a healthy environment to work and play are all pieces that come together on a redevelopment project such as this. We commend the vision and contributions that the developer and their team are bringing to Vicksburg and look forward to the completion of this catalyst project.

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vicksburg  papermill  paper city development  envirologic  redevelopment  transformational brownfield plan  lee paper company mill  kcbra  kalamazoo county brownfield redevelopment authority  environmental investigations 

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