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Site of Uptown At River's Edge Development

Look for Earth to Move Next Year on $25 Million Riverfront Development

Historic Industrial Site to Get New Life Under Dr. Shaheen of Saginaw

November 13, 2011       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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One of Bay City's oldest industrial sites appears slated for a massive reincarnation from brownfield to a shining new city center on the Saginaw River.

Bay City expects the Saginaw development firm SSP Associates to begin construction on a "walkable riverfront community" project on the 48-acre former Industrial BrownHoist property before the end of 2012.

"The city is thrilled by this opportunity to take another under-utilized property and turn it back into a site that once again contributes to our city's economic resurgence," said Bay City Mayor Christopher Shannon.

The site first a blacksmith shop in 1856 was home to the small MacDowell foundry in 1873 when Flint railroad man George Kimball, entrepreneur James Clements from Ann Arbor and local associates launched the local version of the Industrial Revolution there.

The world's first railroad steam shovel was created in 1880, leading to world supremacy of the Industrial Works in locomotive cranes. Giant machines built here were sold around the globe and used on projects including construction of the Panama Canal and the Mackinac Bridge.

When the Brown Hoisting Company of Cleveland was going broke in 1927 the chamber of commerce here raised $1 million for a merger and the firm was renamed Industrial BrownHoist. The company was acquired in 1960 by American Hoist of St. Paul, Minnesota, which operated it until closing in 1976. AmHoist made a behemoth crane that lifted 1,800 tons.

City officials called it "a major redevelopment project that could transform a long-time eyesore and bring substantial investment to the Downtown Bay City riverfront," according to Patti Stowell, city economic development marketing manager. The plan was presented at Monday night's Bay City Commission meeting.

SSP Associates, a Saginaw development firm headed by Dr. Samuel Shaheen (Pictured at Right), wants to purchase the 40-acre riverfront property known as Uptown at RiversEdge and turn it into a walkable riverfront community, city officials said. The project would include housing, office spaces, retail shops, entertainment, parks, and civic facilities all within easy walking distance.

SSP plans to invest about $25 million to develop at least 100,000 square feet of building space on the property and it expects the development to bring 440 permanent full-time jobs new to Bay City.

"This development will be absolutely transformational for the city," said Karl Schwartz, vice president of the RiversEdge Development Corporation, which was created in 2007 to streamline the development of the property. The nonprofit, public-private corporation is a partnership between the city and local business leaders who made private contributions toward the revitalization of the property.

"We've spent a lot of time trying to find the right developer who has a vision for the property and I think our patience has paid off. SSP has a fantastic track record in the region and we look forward to working with them to bring this project to reality," said Schwartz.

SSP Associates, based in Saginaw, has been responsible for several prominent Great Lakes Bay Region projects, including Saginaw Riverfront Development which includes the Michigan Cardiovascular Institute, Garber Management Group, St. Mary's of Michigan and a variety of other office space. They were also responsible for the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw and the Dow BPSC Building in Midland. SSP also helped revitalize the Temple Theatre building, which is now a wholly owned by the not-for-profit Temple Theatre Foundation.

"Over the next five to ten years, Uptown at RiversEdge will enhance riverfront activity in Bay City, which will continue to bring statewide attention to the Great Lakes Bay Region," said Dr. Samuel Shaheen, president of SSP Associates. "This will be a development the entire community can take pride in."

The Uptown at RiversEdge properties were once the home of longtime Bay City companies, including the Robert Gage Coal Company and Industrial Brownhoist. Both companies shuttered operations in the 1980s and the prime riverfront industrial property has sat largely underutilized ever since. In 2002, the city of Bay City acquired the property and began a ten-year process of environmental cleanup and marketing the land for development.

The developer has proposed acquiring and developing the Uptown at RiversEdge property for a total of $3.3 million. This development cost includes the purchase the Uptown at River's Edge property for $642,000 and the northern parcel for $170,000. The sales are contingent upon approval by the City of Bay City Commission.

SSP will also pay RiversEdge Development Company, headed by Art Dore and Paul Rowley, which has an option to purchase the property, an option termination fee of $2.5 million.

All proceeds received by the city and the RiversEdge Development Company will be used toward public infrastructure investments on the site. Planned investments to be made by the city include:

  • The construction and maintenance of a public river walk that will eventually connect the development to the riverfront park in front of Breaker Cove to the south and Wenonah Park to the north.

  • The relocation of Consumers Energy-owned electric transmission lines and towers currently located on the property. The cost estimated for this project is $3.48 million, for which the city has already reserved $2.1 million.

  • The construction of a decorative wall around the new Bay City Electric substation located on the property, which is estimated at $300,000.

    "This project represents intergovernmental cooperation and public-private partnerships at their finest," said Bay City Manager Robert Belleman. "Everyone from local business leaders to the EPA and Michigan DEQ and Attorney General's office, to the MEDC, local legislators and even the Governor's office has had a role to play in making this project happen. We've still got a long way to go, but everyone involved is eager to see Uptown at RiversEdge come to fruition."

    In addition to city commission approval of the development agreement and sale of the property, the project is contingent upon granting of a Michigan Business Tax Credit by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as a Brownfield grant and loan by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.


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    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
    respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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