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Flint, MI—After several postponements, a $14.25 million plan to redevelop a brownfield site at 1809 James P. Cole Blvd. received the green light from Flint City Council last week.
The plan offers the developer, a group of investors known as James P Cole Venture, LLC, a little over $2.5 million in eligible reimbursable expenses under brownfield tax increment financing. It also calls for 110,000 sq. ft. of renovated industrial space and another 190,000 sq. ft. of new industrial space.
“This will give existing companies the option to expand and new companies the option to locate in the city of Flint,” said Khalfani Stephens, Flint’s economic development director, who has been working with the developer’s consultant on the plan.
“The current industrial vacancy rate is very low and this added space will be welcomed in the market,” Stephens added.
The approval comes after a series of postponements, some due to a legal definition in the plan’s language and others at the request of council members, since the plan was introduced in February of this year.
But even after months of scrutiny, not everyone was ready to see the plan approved.
“I’m not saying vote it down. I’m saying take it back to committee—I’m asking to take it back to committee,” said Arthur Woodson, a Flint resident, during public comment.
Woodson told city council that one of the plan’s investors was formerly connected to C3 Ventures, a company that had promised to bring 360 jobs to the same brownfield site back in 2016—a benchmark the company ultimately did not meet after receiving a $5.7 million performance-based loan from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“Why are we getting ready to give him some more money? I mean, why?” asked Woodson.
The investor Woodson referenced is Bob Waun, now a minority investor with James P Cole Venture, and someone the group’s consultant, Attorney Nicholas Maloof, said should be viewed as a positive part of the project.
“They brought him in because he had institutional knowledge of the property,” said Maloof to council.
Maloof added that within the structure of tax increment financing, James P Cole Venture LLC is not “given money,” but rather reimbursed based on delivering on their promised plan.
“Again, this project, if they do not spend the money—if they do not redevelop the site—they get zero dollars,” Maloof said.
In a separate interview, Waun himself reiterated that James P Cole Venture LLC is in “no way affiliated or aligned with” C3, though he is grateful to the City of Flint and looking forward to continuing the clean up work he began while working for the latter company.
“We’re thankful that the city of Flint wants our investment,” said Waun. “This was a sign that they do want investment here—from me and other people that have the desire and ability to make Flint a better place.”
Waun noted that even without the brownfield plan approval, work has been happening at 1809 James P. Cole Blvd. in preparation for the renovation and construction ahead.
“We’ve gone from 35 test wells… down to three,” he said of contamination testing at the site, a sign of improved conditions for the site’s soil and groundwater.
The group has also begun reviewing roofing and solar panel proposals, as well as secured a new tenant—Lear Corporation—who will be moving in on Dec. 1, 2021.
“I and my partners’ desire is to have a first class cutting edge industrial park here that we can be proud of for many years to come,” Waun said.
Flint City Council voted 8-0 to approve the James P. Cole brownfield plan on Nov. 22.