If all goes as planned, three area eyesores may soon be transformed into vibrant additions to their respective communities.
Amble, Lakeview and Sheridan are about to enter into the second stage of an inspection process that could allow either new construction or demolition of existing structures at sites that have, until recently, been deemed too environmentally hazardous for development.
The sites recently underwent the first stage of a three-stage inspection process by the Brownfield Authority, a countywide organization with members appointed by the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners.
According to Franz Mogdis, executive director of the Montcalm Alliance, which oversees the Brownfield Authority, all three sites have the potential to be valuable community assets.
The sites in question are the old Carnation building on M-66 in downtown Sheridan, the former pickle docks on the south end of Tamarack Lake in Lakeview and a long-abandoned gas station on M-46 in Winfield Township, also known as Amble.
“We’re at the first stage of dealing with those three sites,” Mogdis explained. “The first stage was an environmental assessment in which we identified potential problems. Our next step is to do soil borings and get a more in-depth analysis in terms of major pollution issues. Then we’ll see what we have to do to clean the sites up so they can be redeveloped.”
Mogdis said the second stage of the assessment would likely take about three months.
“After that we can go after the grant dollars for cleanup,” Mogdis said. “The individual communities and the Brownfield Authority will be assisting with the writing of the grants.”
The first two phases of the project are being paid for with grant dollars and at no cost to the individual municipalities.
In the case of the Carnation property, the building and surrounding land is owned by the village of Sheridan after the village council voted to purchase the property at a cost of $6,617.14 earlier this year.
According to Sheridan Village Superintendent Doug Lane, the removal of the derelict building could open up some potentially valuable commercial property on the south end of town while simultaneously removing what can only be described as an eyesore.
“If everything goes according to plan, it could be demolished in late summer or early fall,” Lane said. “Then we would be possibly looking at expanding the infrastructure out there to make the property more attractive to developers.”
Mogdis said that the brick from which the Carnation building is constructed are quite valuable and the sale of the brick could help defray the cost of the site’s demolition.
“There are about 44,000 of them (bricks) in there,” Mogdis said. “These are the hard-fired bricks that everybody wants when they do renovations of their historic districts.”
In Lakeview, there has long been talk of developing the property on the south end of Tamarack Lake, the site formerly used by a pickle manufacturer. Previously, however, environmental concerns and the possible cleanup costs involved have kept developers wary.
Lakeview Village Manager James Freed said the contamination at the site is not particularly bad, however, and cleanup could be paid for from Downtown Development Authority (DDA) coffers.
“The DDA conducted a feasibility study on the infrastructure and provided us with the active intelligence that we needed to plan for the future of the site,” Freed said. “The contamination there is very limited. It’s mostly household brine and deed restrictions would handle most of that.”
Cleanup is currently estimated at $200,000 to $250,000 for the Lakeview site.
“The DDA has the funds on hand to facilitate that should they choose to,” said Freed, adding that if the village moved ahead with the project as anticipated, development on the property could take place any time after late summer.
At present, developers have expressed a sincere interest in putting in high-density residential properties, such as condos or retirement housing, in the part of the property nearest the lake and commercial operations on the rest.
The final, and smallest, property being assessed, the Amble gas station, sat empty for many years until Paul Bazner successfully bid $10,500 to purchase the property in Montcalm County’s no minimum bid foreclosure auction earlier this year. According to Mogdis, the new owner is waiting for the go-ahead to re-open the facility as a convenience store.
“He wants to make it a full service party store,” Mogdis said. “He doesn’t plan on selling gas or oil.”
Any tanks still buried at the site of the station would likely have to be removed prior to the store’s opening, Mogdis added.
“That’s what Phase 2 will determine,” Mogdis said.