The Mill Seeks Transformational Resolution

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Chris Moore in the white shirt, was surrounded by well-wishers for the mill revitalization project during a tour in September that featured a visit by Congressman Fred Upton. Across the front row from left to right are Isabelle Newman, County Commissioner Julie Rogers, Jackie Koney, Moore, Upton, Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, Rudy Callen partially hidden, and Jim Shaw.

By Jef Rietsma

Plans for the redevelopment of the Vicksburg mill are moving forward: Representatives of the project have recently appeared before three local governing bodies.

In addition, a tour last month of the former mill included U.S. Rep Fred Upton. The Congressman spoke highly of the proposed development and threw his support behind developer Chris Moore.

During the Vicksburg Village Council’s Sept. 11 meeting, project representatives Jackie Koney and Lisa Phillips said they plan to apply to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to be a transformational brownfield project. This designation allows for sales tax and other personal-property tax capture under a bill signed by the governor in June.

“Our application will be stronger if we have the support of our local units of government, which include the village of Vicksburg and Schoolcraft Township,” Koney said. “We are not asking for money, just the council’s endorsement.”

They told village council members that they want to access the new incentives that work for brownfield properties in the state of Michigan. The Kalamazoo County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is the mill’s authorizing agent for its application.

The plan is to begin construction in the spring, depending upon approvals and funding.
Koney said the economic impact is substantial to the village, the township and the county.

Council member Gail Reisterer said the project seems well planned. The vote passed unanimously.

A presentation before Schoolcraft Township officials took place Sept. 12.

At that meeting, Koney and Phillips said 80 acres of the project are located in Schoolcraft Township. The property was used as overflow for wastewater when the mill was operational. Koney said the piece of land is important because it is connected to the infrastructure and adds to the revitalization.

Supervisor Don Ulsh asked about the transformational aspect of the project and how the demonstration area on the 80 acres ties into the plan.

Koney and Phillips said it may be dedicated to growing demonstration plots of hops and barley, as well as boardwalks and nature trails. Ultimately, it would hook up to a proposed bike trail.

“It will celebrate the wetlands, the rookery, fruit orchards, and possibly a cranberry bog which are all in the long-term plan,” Koney said. “Also, we plan to have a strong connection to the downtown as a strong downtown is critical to the success of the development.”

The board approved the resolution unanimously.

During the August 28 tour with Upton, Moore said he is excited to bring positive activity back to the mill.

“At a projected cost of $50 to $60 million, this is a major brownfield redevelopment. A mixture of funding sources is typical nationwide of such projects.” Moore said. “The community will benefit from the economic activity … it will provide jobs with good wages.”

Moore said the impact on the region is great, far beyond bringing the building itself back, and predicted the redeveloped mill will be a tourist destination. Upton said he supports the Community Development Block Grant concept and tax credits for historic places, which can revitalize rural and urban areas.

“Chris, you have a great group here with your vision and I want to help,” he said. “I want to watch it grow but I also know you can’t do it on your own.”

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