RDA still seeking buyer for vacant 33 E. Mill St.

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Redevelopment Authority would like to take one more crack at finding a buyer for the vacant building at 31 E. Mill St.

The RDA agreed Thursday to seek an estimate of the cost of demolishing the building with an eye toward determining if they can offer an incentive for someone to buy and rehabilitate it.

RDA member Jackie Jarvis suggested that the RDA could offer a developer’s incentive equal to part or all of the potential cost of demolition to someone willing to buy and rehabilitate the building.

“Instead of us paying the cost to raze the building we should offer say 75 percent of that cost to any developer who would fix it up,” Jarvis said.

“Let’s take another stab at a developer’s agreement. That’s what I’d like to try for another six months,” she added.

City Administrator Brian Yerges noted that the city has received estimates in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 to demolish the long-vacant building.

“A $10,000 incentive to keep the building is better than tearing it down,” Yerges commented. “Either way, the city would eventually have some cost.”

He added that any incentive would have to be approved and funded by the City Council, as the RDA does not have that much money in its funds.

Since the RDA purchased the building from foreclosure several years ago for a little less than $15,000, it has reached tentative agreement to sell it to developers twice, only to have the potential buyer back out in both cases.

“That is a tough building to rehabilitate,” Yerges conceded, for a number of reasons.

There are several different major structural issues with the building, Yerges said. The lower level, which had been living quarters, would have to be converted to commercial or retail space as city ordinances do not allow first-floor residential uses on Mill Street.

Additionally, the building lost driveway access to Mill Street earlier this year when the grade on the street was changed as part of the State 67 highway project.

Yerges reported that the city cannot get reimbursement or relief from the state Department of Transportation for the loss of access to Mill Street.

“There was a provision in the agreement (for the project with the DOT) that any damage to property owners from the change in grade was the responsibility of the city, so we’re not getting compensated for the loss of the driveway,” Yerges told the RDA members.

“We have a building that has no street access,” RDA chair Lee Gentine noted.

Gentine reported that rehabilitation of another vacant downtown building at 133 E. Mill St. is moving forward.

“We’re still going to be looking at Jan. 1,” for letting bids for converting the upper floor of the vacant building into apartments. Architectural and construction drawings for the project are about 90 percent complete, Gentine said.

The ultimate goal is to create a cheese center on the first floor of the building, which the city purchased in tax foreclosure.

Yerges told the RDA that the city has received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture toward the project.

“The funding is coming together,” he said. With previous funding commitments from the Lakeshore Community Foundation and potential historic tax credits, the city has about $1.3 million committed to the project.

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