VICKSBURG — An ambitious $80 million project to transform a long-vacant Southwest Michigan paper mill moved a step closer to reality after securing a lucrative state incentive.
The transformational brownfield incentive approved in late July by the Michigan Strategic Fund will provide $30 million in tax capture for Vicksburg-based Paper City Development LLC, which plans to convert the former Lee Paper Mill into a multi-use venue.
The company, which was founded by Vicksburg native Chris Moore, who lives in Seattle and owns software firm Concord Technologies, is only the second to receive the incentive since the state Legislature approved the program in 2017.
Jackie Koney, chief operating officer for Paper City, told MiBiz the approval is a major milestone for the project, which could create an estimated 221 full-time jobs. The company, which submitted a 190-page application for the incentive, has been working on the project for about five years now.
“It’s exciting for a small town to get some recognition,” Koney said. “The word ‘transformational’ is there for a reason. It’s going to have a major impact on the whole region.”
Paper City’s plans for the former paper mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, include a brewery and distillery, restaurants, various commercial and residential spaces, a boutique hotel, and a museum dedicated to the American brewing industry. The Mill at Vicksburg development also features multiple event spaces and an outdoor courtyard for music and other events that can fit up to 10,000 people.
Moore called the process “a wonderful example of how public and private sectors can partner to transform communities.”
The transformational brownfield program (TBP) allows for the capture of five new sources of tax revenue associated with a project, in addition to incremental revenue from property taxes. The additional tax revenue includes various income, sales, use and withholding tax captures, which are limited to up to 20 years.
Developers anticipate a four- or five-year construction period. They expect the first completed projects, including Old Stove Brewery and Old Stove event space, will open as early as 2021.
Without the state incentive, the project would not be possible for Paper City, or likely any private developer, Koney said, noting the extent of remediation and demolition on the site.
“The TBP is really the difference between the project happening and not happening,” Koney said. “We didn’t even go down the road to figure out how to make it work without it.”