A local developer presents a new proposal for 300 N. Zeeb Road in Scio Township

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Here's a look at the site and the assessment done by the planners. Image was a slide from the presentation given at the Jan. 10 Scio Twp. Board meeting

There’s a new proposal for the long vacant property and building at 300 N. Zeeb, which was the former headquarters for University Microfilms, Inc., later known as Bell + Howell, ProQuest, and National Archives Publishing.

The Scio Township Board held a special meeting on Jan. 10, to discuss the potential Commercial Rehabilitation and Brownfield Policies for 300 N. Zeeb Road. The plan is still very early in the process, but an overview was given on a proposal. 

If fully successful, the plan would see millions of dollars invested into the site.

However, there are some challenges ahead. Specifically, there is significant environmental abatement needed to be able to use the site.

In giving some background on the proposal, Scio Township Supervisor Will Hathaway said in the meeting information packet, “The commercial/industrial facility at 300 N. Zeeb has been vacant for 12-15 years. There is now a proposal to rehabilitate the existing structure and turn it into a business incubator. The proposal comes from Mark and Linda Smith who have a successful track record with other, similar facilities. The Smiths have a proposal to purchase and restore the facility as industrial research lab space. There proposal would utilize two government programs: 1) commercial rehabilitation tax abatement, and 2) Brownfield remediation funding. This work session is an opportunity for the Township Board to learn about these two economic development resources and how they might be used in Scio Township.”

The Smiths are with Michigan Innovation Headquarters or MI-HQ, which is located in Scio Township at 600 S. Wagner Road. This is at the former location of Gelman Sciences. In the presentation on Jan. 10 to the Scio Board, Mark Smith said MI-HQ is a community-based, co-working business incubator that in 2015 got their start by successfully converting a Brownfield site in Scio into a thriving innovation campus.

On their website, MI-HQ is described as a high-energy, cooperative entrepreneurial community with 160,000+ square feet on Ann Arbor’s westside that helps local companies grow by providing functional, affordable space in a collaborative environment that fosters acceleration. Its members at the Wagner Road location include professionals from startups and established companies across several sectors: life sciences, drug discovery, medical devices, alternative energy, mobility, robotics, business development, and more.

In looking to expand, Smith said it would be their goal with 300 N. Zeeb to re-invigorate the site that in many ways stands as a front door into Scio Township. The planners envision having different companies with technologies such as energy storage, Polymer Chemistry and battery testing lab calling the location home.

The project summary states the estimated investment is $15,000,000 (real property) and $100 million (personal property). The property description said it is approximately 29.14-acres in size and is bounded by residential development to the north and east, I-94 to the south, and North Zeeb Road followed by retail development to the west.

The developer is named in the summary as A2 Zeeb LLC (DBA MI-HQ). In his presentation, Smith said they have met with neighbors of the property and discussed the issues with the site and potential impact.

The summary, which is in the meeting information packet, states:

“The project will consist of complete rehabilitation of the existing building intended for occupancy by companies in the high-tech industries. The main building on the site has been vacant for around 12 years due in part to functional obsolescence. Current building configuration does not meet market demands. Moreover, the site is contaminated and requires asbestos abatement for renovation. The total estimated cost of brownfield conditions associated with the redevelopment is $2.7 million.”

“Mi-HQ's redevelopment plans include a complete interior strip-out, followed by a building reconfiguration to support office, R&D and pilot scale manufacturing of several different green tech, life science and microelectronics products.”

“Chlorinated solvents at concentrations exceeding EGLE screening levels and criteria were encountered during previous environmental assessments beneath a section of warehouse. MI-HQ plans to cut the concrete floor, excavate impacted soil, and dispose of the contaminated soils in an appropriate landfill.”

“Once the interior of the building is abated of contaminants and partitions, a new space configuration will be framed out to accommodate the needs of multiple tenants. Specialized infrastructure including, clean rooms, dry rooms and wet labs will be installed as part of the new floor plan.”

“The grounds surrounding the building will be landscaped utilizing a combination of native grasses, trees, raised beds and traditional grass. Along the north property line, a berm planted with trees will be constructed to help screen nearby residential neighbors from the industrial use of the site. Stormwater management systems, including bio swales and other best management practices will be used to improve stormwater quality.”

The developer’s request says, “In order to make the project financially feasible, the developer is requesting support through brownfield tax increment financing and a P.A. 210 Commercial Rehabilitation Act abatement. The projected brownfield reimbursement period, inclusive of the P.A. 210 abatement, is 20 years.”

On hand for the presentation, to help explain parts of the request were representatives from Ann Arbor SPARK and Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

Some of the discussion by the Scio Township Board on Jan. 10 was on the Brownfield plan and what exactly is tax incremental financing (TIF). The board would like more explanation of these things and what it means in regard to what the township does as far as collecting taxes and has authority over.

As a basic sum up, a tool that can be used to help cleanup sites with environmental concerns is a Brownfield Plan that can pay for cleanup costs through an agreement called a TIF. This is financing that comes from the taxes collected on the increased taxable value after redevelopment. However, the local governing authorities where a Brownfield is located would still continue to collect the taxes from the original taxable value, just not on the increase.

This slide was part of the Brownfield presentation at the Jan. Scio Twp. Board meeting

P.A. 210 is a property tax abatement that could run from 1-10 years.

There’s a lot of information in the proposal for the township board to digest and think about, so the community can expect this to be a topic in upcoming meetings and discussions, and in potential decisions. This was purely a discussion item at the Jan. 10 meeting, so no decisions were made.

The process going forward would include public hearings and approvals from different governing bodies, including Scio Township.

This story is a developing one and it will be updated as it moves through the process.

This slide was also part of the Jan. 10 presentation.
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