Buying Big Rapids Depot is still a question

BIG RAPIDS – The dilemma over buying deposit property in Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park in Big Rapids continues as the city commission debates how best to move forward.

A resolution allowing the city to bid on the property in August with a cap of $ 60,000 was tabled at the city commission meeting this week.

City Manager Mark Gifford presented the resolution asking for permission to bid on the property to the board of directors, saying that the Natural Resources Department’s auction of the property would take place on August 25.

“We’ve deliberated on this for a while,” Gifford said. “Previously, the commission was applied to buy the deposit and the surrounding property. The request was approved and started an assessment process. The appraisal came back to $ 67,000 for the purchase of the depot and trailhead. There were strong opinions on both sides as to whether we (the city) should or should not. “

Gifford said at the time that he believed the reluctance of the commission to buy the building from the depot was in part due to the lack of a clear vision of how to use the property, in addition to the cost of renovations.

The amount of money it would take to renovate the property to historic standards has been estimated at seven figures, and the building’s removal and construction of something new on the property would also be of high value, Gifford said.

Council approved the purchase of 1.94 acres of property south of the old depot building in February with the goal of making improvements to the White Pine Trailhead.

“The city authorized the purchase of the property at the trailhead for $ 8,000, and MNR decided to put the remaining property up for tender,” Gifford said. “The idea was that the city could buy the property cheaply during the auction process.

“Tonight we’re asking for permission to authorize me as a bidder and, if that’s something the board is comfortable with, set the limit I could go to bid at $ 60,000.” , he added. “The basis of this amount is the appraised value minus the part we have already purchased. “

Mayor Tom Hogenson asked if the $ 60,000 cap would be high enough once the tendering process begins.

“The boundary, in my opinion, is around the assessed assessment that we received several years ago,” Hogenson said. “My only question is whether this authorization is sufficient for you to be able to bid competitively at a reasonable price if needed. “

“The dilemma comes down to how badly the city wants ownership of the depot,” Gifford replied. “We could outright buy it right now at the amount proposed for the auction limit. Through the auction process, it could be obtained at a lower number, but if the private market ends up chasing it, it could exceed the cap of $ 60,000. We just don’t have a good idea of ​​this.

Gifford said the minimum bid for the property will be set at $ 20,000.

“If it’s sued by the private sector, I don’t know at what level we’re going to compete there,” he said. “That’s the dilemma, and certainly, if the commission wants to set a higher amount, it has the power to do so.”

Some commissioners have said they would be prepared to increase the limit, up to $ 80,000, while others have expressed reservations about it.

“I agree to increase it a bit, if the committee agrees with it,” said Commissioner Lorraine James. “I think it’s important that the city buy it, and that has gone on for far too long.”

“The idea of ​​going to auctions like this is so that we can save money on the purchase,” Commissioner Jonathan Eppley said. “If we want to increase the amount of the auction, why don’t we just buy it for the $ 67,000 if we’re potentially going to spend more than that?”

Eppley asked if there was any information regarding the amount of interest in the property.

“Is there any indication from the DNR on the popularity of the property? ” He asked. “Are they getting feedback from potential bidders? “

Gifford said they had not received any feedback regarding a possible interest in the property, but that he would try to get that information for the commission.

“I don’t know how people become aware of these events, but it is in the public sphere,” he said. “To my knowledge, they (the DNR) haven’t received any inquiries about this at this point.”

Commissioner Robert Andrews asked if there had been any comments from real estate professionals regarding the potential future value of the property.

“It’s hard to assess from a public perspective because it depends on what we want to use it for, which we’ve struggled with,” Gifford said. “I could contact real estate experts and ask them. If the commission is interested, I can collect more information. It does not need to be voted on tonight.

Hogenson agreed there was time for further investigation and discussion and suggested tabling the resolution until the next meeting.

“I think it’s important to be transparent, and I also think it’s important for the city to understand that we are a bit at a crossroads.” Hogenson said. “If we are going to do something positive with this property, we have to value it, however that may happen. Then we need to take steps to acquire it within that limit of value.

“I agree, this has been going on for a long time,” he added.

The committee voted to table the resolution until more information could be gathered regarding private sector interest and the property’s potential real estate value.


In other matters, the board has approved a resolution to purchase the property at 124 Bellevue Avenue for $ 9,300.

Gifford told council ownership was a problem for the neighborhood and a concern for the city almost as long as he worked there.

“We’ve written a lot of posts, and it’s been vacant for a while,” Gifford said. “The owner lived in Grand Rapids and was difficult to reach so this is an accomplishment.

“The negotiated price of $ 9,300 is based on the estimated value of the property, less the cost of demolition,” he added. “It is a great decision to buy this property which has been a problem for many years.”

The board of directors unanimously approved the purchase contract. Following the vote, a discussion took place on what would happen to the property once purchased.

Gifford said he had received inquiries from interested individuals in the private sector regarding the purchase of town property.

“More recently what we have done in this type of situation is to transfer the property to the housing commission to put it in their portfolio to provide housing options,” Gifford said. “This may be the next step, but I have met neighbors on the property who are interested in it and have received calls from people who might want to buy it in order to rehabilitate the property and put it back on. the market. I think it might be premature to transfer it to the housing committee at this time.

Gifford suggested that the board ask the town planning commission to take up the matter and make a recommendation on the future of the property, allowing the public to express their opinion on what should happen to the property. property.

Big Rapids attorney Eric Williams said until the purchase is complete it would be premature to make any decisions about what to do with the property.

“We should finalize the purchase and report to the commission on what could be an unusual market situation in which the property could be sold for redevelopment to the private sector,” Williams said. “Maybe market demand will drive this to where it can be redeveloped with new housing without the city and the housing commission doing it. It is worth exploring.

Hogenson recommended that they send it to the planning commission to explore the issue.

The planning committee will meet at 6.30 p.m. on July 21 via Zoom. For more information on the meeting agenda and how to access it, visit or call 231-592-4020.

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