A rendering of the proposed Factory Yards mixed-use project in Grand Rapids. A rendering of the proposed Factory Yards mixed-use project in Grand Rapids. COURTESY OF FACTORY YARDS DEVELOPMENT LLC

‘We come in peace’: Rezoning OK’d for $150M GR development over concerns from industrial neighbor

BY Thursday, February 09, 2023 04:51pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The city Planning Commission has signed off on rezoning key parcels to facilitate a $150 million mixed-use redevelopment, despite concerns from a nearby business about whether the project conforms to surrounding industrial uses.

The city’s Planning Commission voted today to rezone six railroad right-of-way parcels that will make way for the proposed Factory Yards project, a $150 million reboot of a World War II-era manufacturing site in the city’s Roosevelt Park neighborhood. The six parcels total nearly 2.5 acres and would be incorporated into the adjacent 14-acre property at 655 Godfrey Ave. SW.

The city previously rezoned 655 Godrey in 2018 for a similar redevelopment plan that never came to fruition. 

The Factory Yards developer plans 375 apartment units, with space for an additional 100 units in a new multifamily building on the south end of the site. The plan also calls for 60,000 square feet of commercial space and 80,000 square feet of self-storage space. A portion of the commercial space would include a food hall, bar and event space, while the remainder of the site could include office and hospitality uses.

The $150 million project would be built in three phases over several years, Crain’s Detroit Business first reported last week. Construction could start this fall, pending financing agreements and other approvals.

The six railroad parcels were rezoned today from special district-industrial transportation to traditional neighborhood-transitional city center.

Attorneys for BRI Holdings LLC, which owns the nearby commercial scrap metal recycler Beacon Recycling, said Factory Yards does not conform to surrounding industrial uses. Specifically, the company is concerned about potential noise and nuisance complaints filed by residents against the company. The company expressed similar concerns in 2018 about the unsuccessful development.

“Beacon remains very concerned that if the rezoning is authorized and the property is developed per the plans submitted to the Planning Commission, future residents and business owners will raise complaints about Beacon’s operations and/or argue that those longstanding operations are a nuisance,” Thomas Amon, partner at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP who’s representing Beacon Recycling, state in a letter to the Planning Commission.

“The proposed use is simply not suitable to this intensive industrial zoned area, and certainly is not a use that is appropriate to place adjacent to Beacon’s recycling yard,” Amon added.

Dennis Griffin, a member of the Factory Yards development team, said the project aims to incorporate “really diverse uses.” Griffin also was part of the development team that unsuccessfully attempted to repurpose the site in 2018.

“We understand there is a necessity for truck traffic, crane use and noise,” Griffin said during today’s Planning Commission meeting. “Our clients appreciate grit and we wouldn’t expect our residents to make a complaint. … Our intent is we come in peace.”

Griffin said the metro Detroit-based development team, which also includes Ben Smith and Scott Magaluk, has completed all of the land purchases necessary for the Factory Yards development.

“Certain businesses need to be in these areas like Beacon (Recycling) and others, and housing also needs to expand, and that’s the best use of these properties,” Griffin said.

Grand Rapids Planning Director Kristin Turkelson said any potential noise or nuisance complaints would be handled on a case-by-case basis, though she noted that the city lacks enforcement mechanisms when responding to complaints about industrial uses.

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