PLAINFIELD TWP. — The side wall of the Witmark building came crashing down Thursday as workers began demolishing the blighted building that has sat vacant for about 20 years.
Local residents commonly refer to the 45,000-square-foot, boarded up building at 4189 Jupiter Ave. NE as an eyesore. Citing safety concerns, Plainfield Township issued an order to property owner Regency Equities Corp. on June 28 to demolish the blighted building. The company appealed the order, but it was upheld by the township’s construction board of appeals on Sept. 21 because of the building’s dangerous, vacant and blighted conditions.
Plainfield Township Superintendent Cameron Van Wyngarden said the property owner is voluntarily paying for demolition costs and is complying with the township’s order.
Grand Rapids-based Pitsch Contractors Inc. is leading the demolition, which began around noon today as crews took down the building’s side wall and roof.
Van Wyngarden said the township considered pursuing eminent domain to take ownership of the property because of the blighted nature of the structure but instead pursued demolition.
Meanwhile, the 3.82-acre property has been listed for $3.2 million, according to a listing by Plainfield Township-based broker MOXIE Holdings LLC.
“It’s interesting how one vacant structure can be such a flashpoint for a community, such a rallying point,” Van Wyngarden told MiBiz. “I hope the community can see this as a point of progress. It’s funny to say that about a demolition, but hopefully we can then put the property back into productive use.”
The property size and location opens a variety of potential reuses — including a mixed-use space with housing, office and retail — for future developers, Van Wyngarden added.
“The door is really open to creative developers to come in and propose something,” Van Wyngarden said.
As well, redeveloping the site aligns with the township’s Reimagine Plainfield Corridor Plan, a broad vision to redesign Plainfield Avenue north of Grand Rapids to encourage more mixed uses and pedestrian-friendly features along the stretch north of I-96.
“With our Reimagine Plainfield plan, we’re really focusing on changing the suburban community corridor into more residential uses, and we’re looking to build a vibrant, mixed-use community. (The Witmark property) could be a huge part of that,” Van Wyngarden said.
The Plainfield Township Board formally adopted the Reimagine Plainfield Corridor Plan on May 24. Planning commissioners have since butted heads on some of the zoning changes recommended in the plan. Commissioners were split in a 3-3 vote during their Oct. 26 meeting about implementing zoning changes in the plan. The township board will consider a first reading of the proposed zoning changes at its Nov. 8 meeting.
As part of the process of creating the Reimagine Plainfield Corridor Plan, the township has placed a moratorium on single-story developments along the corridor that has been extended through the end of 2021. If the zoning changes in the plan are adopted, they will go into place right before the moratorium lifts, affecting future developments in the area.