- WHO ARE THE NEW OWNERS?
A: Pure Muskegon, LLC (Pure Muskegon) was formed by a group of local business and community leaders who share a common goal of bringing new life and vitality to the Muskegon community through the transformation and revitalization of the former Sappi Paper Mill (Sappi) property. Pure Muskegon purchased the 120-acre site from Melching Demolition (Melching) after a three-year acquisition process and is launching Windward Pointe, a mixed-use, place-based development on the shores of Muskegon Lake, and adjacent to the Muskegon Country Club. Membership of Pure Muskegon includes Larry Hines, Mike Olthoff, Don Tjarksen, Trip Johnson, Steve Olsen, John Workman, Greg Olson, Don Kettler, Wes Eklund, Dan Kuznar, Gregg Slager, Chris Witham, and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation.
- WHY HAVE THE NEW OWNERS BEEN SO PATIENT OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS?
A: Large-scale Brownfield redevelopment projects are always complex, presenting a myriad of challenges and often take a long time to complete. Various legal, environmental, and economic hurdles had to be overcome, including negotiating a release of the restrictive covenants on the property, a release by the State of Michigan of Sappi and the prior owners, as well as procurement of a state grant for asbestos removal and demolition of the two large smoke stacks. Despite these hurdles, the acquisition was finally completed on July 29, 2016.Pure Muskegon did not, however, anticipate the purchase would take more than three years to complete. A significant amount of work and effort by many parties was necessary to make this purchase a reality.
- WHAT MOTIVATES THE NEW OWNERS TO HAVE STUCK WITH THE LAND DEAL?
A: Pure Muskegon has been motivated by the transformational potential of the property, as well as a strong desire to be able to provide an economic boost to the Muskegon area, to create jobs, and to have this development serve as a catalyst to enhance the overall quality of life in the Muskegon community.
- WHAT ARE THE NEW OWNERS RELATIONSHIP TO THE OWNERSHIP OF THE COUNTRY CLUB?
A: The Muskegon Country Club and the Sappi property are owned by different entities. However, the investor group is almost identical.
- WHAT IS AN AOC?
An AOC refers to an “Administrative Order on Consent”. In this case, there is a multi-party AOC that provides for environmental response activities and includes agreements not to initiate litigation as to certain claims. The State of Michigan has agreed not to sue either Sappi or the prior owners of the former Sappi property for known or unknown environmental conditions. These agreements are uncommon and typically unnecessary, especially due to Michigan laws that allow innocent purchasers to acquire contaminated property without liability by conducting a Baseline Environmental Assessment (BEA) and complying with Due Care. However, the Sappi-imposed deed restrictions prohibited anyone from conducting a BEA or any other type of environmental investigation or response activities on the Property, thereby impeding its sale and redevelopment.
- WHO HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN THE AOC?
The parties involved the AOC are S.D Warren dba Sappi North American, Melching, Inc., Pure Muskegon LLC, the Michigan Department of Attorney General, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
- HOW DOES THE AGREEMENT ALLOW THE NEW OWNERS TO COMPLETE THE LAND DEAL AND MOVE TOWARD REDEVELOPMENT?
Sappi had recorded restrictive covenants that only permitted industrial use of the property, and as noted above prevented any buyer from conducting any environmental inquiries or response activities. In order to complete the purchase, Pure Muskegon required removal of those restrictive covenants so that appropriate actions could be taken which would lead to the former Sappi property being developed for non-industrial uses.
- HAS THE CITY OF MUSKEGON MADE PROMISES, COMMITMENTS OR GUARANTEES TO ALLOW FOR THE LAND DEAL TO BE COMPLETED?
A: The City of Muskegon has been awarded a $1 million DEQ Brownfield grant for removal of the asbestos-paint on smokestacks and their demolition. The City will be the recipient of the grant, and will handle its disbursement. The City of Muskegon has also agreed to cooperate on the rezoning of the Sappi property for non-industrial uses as development plans become more firm. The Muskegon Brownfield Redevelopment Authority intends to approve a Brownfield Plan for the property that includes tax increment financing (TIF) to pay for environmental, site preparation, and infrastructure activities. The City is also providing a substantial amount of funding to help pay for Phase II Environmental Assessment activities through its Federal EPA Brownfield Assessment Funds.
- HOW DOES THE AOC PROTECT THE NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS, THE USERS OF MUSKEGON LAKE AND THE OVERALL ENVIRONMENT?
A: The environmental obligations outlined in the AOC, coupled with Michigan’s laws related to contaminated properties (BEA, Due Care compliance) will assure protection of public health, safety, and the environment. Local ordinances will address demolition issues as well as other conditions. As noted above, the asbestos-containing materials will be removed from the smokestacks prior to their demolition. Those activities are being funded, in part, through an MDEQ Brownfield Grant, and as such will have substantial MDEQ oversight.The AOC requires removal of a substantial quantity of lime from the Sappi property that was a by-product of the paper making process. Sappi had previously addressed and remediated numerous other environmental conditions; these were verified by Melching and an Industrial Closure has been approved by the MDEQ.
The users of Muskegon Lake will benefit from the non-industrial use of the property, and the environmentally friendly restoration and redevelopment of the lakefront.
- WHAT IS THE VISION FOR THE PROPERTY? WHAT ARE THE KEY PROPOSED LAND USES? WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE HACKLEY PIANO FACTORY BUILDING ALONG LAKESHORE DRIVE?
The Vision for the property is a completely new, community asset to be known as Windward Pointe. This transformational redevelopment will embrace a mixed-use concept, which may entail housing options including elder living, commercial and retail uses. These uses will optimize the opportunities for boating access, urban gardening, walkability, recreation, and more. The Property’s proximity to city and neighborhood assets will provide a transformational force in the connectivity and revitalization of the City of Muskegon and the entire Muskegon Lake basin. With respect to the Hackley Piano Factory, Pure Muskegon will explore renovation and reuse with developers, although no final decision have been made.
- WHAT IS THE CURRENT ZONING? WILL A ZONING CHANGE OR P.U.D. BE REQUESTED?
The current zoning is industrial. Rezoning is planned, and the new zoning may be under a planned unit development (PUD). Pure Muskegon will work closely with the City as concepts and development plans take shape.
- WILL THERE BE COMMUNITY OR CITIZEN INPUT AS TO THE FINAL MASTER PLAN FOR THE PROPERTY?
Pure Muskegon will welcome community and citizen input when planning the development. The re-zoning and any site plan approvals will be led by the City under their routine processes.
- WHAT IS THE OVERALL ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITION OF THE PROPERTY AND ADJACENT LAKE BOTTOM? DOES IT LIMIT OR RESTRICT DEVELOPMENT?
The overall environmental condition of the property is very good. As with all properties along the southern Muskegon Lake shoreline, there is a prevalence of fill material such as foundry sand, wood waste and sawdust from logging, and other industrial fill. In fact, the City completed a Muskegon Lake Historical Fill investigation over 10 years ago, which provides a substantial amount of data with respect to the environmental conditions of the fill. As a result, managing redevelopment projects with these fill materials has been more streamlined and effective. As previously noted, there are at least two other environmental conditions that will be addressed, removal of asbestos containing materials from the smokestacks, and management of the lime pile through the Lime Management Plan. This includes installation and operation of an air sparge system for the groundwater near the lime pile. As also noted above, Sappi had previously addressed a number of environmental conditions and has remediated them to the satisfaction of the State of Michigan.A Phase II Environmental Investigation will be conducted by Pure Muskegon to gather additional environmental information, including soil and groundwater conditions, as well as structural conditions for building.
- WILL THE OWNERS OR A THIRD-PARTY DEVELOP THE PROPERTY? OR BOTH?
A: Development of the property may be by Pure Muskegon, LLC or a third-party developer or developers, or some combination thereof.
- WILL THE DEVELOPMENT BE LINKED TO THE MUSKEGON COUNTRY CLUB AND EVENTUALLY TO THE NUGENT SAND PROPERTY TO THE SOUTH?
A: It is possible that future development may be linked to the Muskegon Country Club. There haven’t been any discussions linking the development to the Nugent Sand property.
- WILL FISHERMAN’S LANDING BE RELOCATED TO THE EASTERN END OF THE PROPERTY?
A: The City, Verplank Dock, and Pure Muskegon had been working with the DNR and other agencies for the past 3 years to explore options related to the relocation of the City of Muskegon’s Fisherman’s Landing Boat Launch and Campground. Verplank had expressed interest in acquiring the current Fisherman’s Landing to expand its deep-water port. One of the options that was explored was the relocation of the park to the eastern portion of Windward Pointe. However, the regulatory hurdles and associated costs in accomplishing this have been found to be substantial, and there is presently no agreement or plan for the relocation of Fisherman’s Landing.
- WILL MELCHING’S CONTINUED DEMOLITION AND CLEANUP OF THE PROPERTY CONTINUE? WHAT WILL BE THE PACE OF PROGRESS?
A: Melching’s demolition activities will continue until its obligations are met, including surface and subsurface demolition (foundations, pipes, etc.) and backfilling with clean soils, required to be completed by July 29, 2017. The pace of activity on site is expected to increase to fulfill this obligation.
- WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE SMOKESTACKS? WHEN?
A: The remaining stacks at the site have been found to contain 2-3% asbestos in the exterior paint coating. Now that Pure Muskegon owns the property, the asbestos coating will be abated and the stacks will be demolished.It is hoped that the asbestos abatement and demolition of the stacks will occur in spring 2017. Time frames are highly dependent on the regulatory agencies. MDEQ is providing a $1 million Brownfield Grant for stack abatement and removal and will be reviewing all aspects of the project. The City of Muskegon must issue the demolition permit in accordance with all pertinent requirements. Finally, the MDEQ’s Air Quality Division is responsible for approving the asbestos abatement.
- WILL THE LAKESHORE TRAIL BE INCORPORATED INTO THE PROPERTY DESIGN PLAN? WILL THE PUBLIC HAVE ANY ACCESS TO THE PROPERTY IN THE FUTURE?
A: Lakeshore Trail runs adjacent to the Sappi property along Lakeshore Drive, and the improvements by Pure Muskegon will no doubt result in improvement of the trail, but there is no agreement or plan presently in place. Similarly, public access will likely be incorporated into the development and will depend on the nature of development that is feasible once the demolition and environmental work is completed.
- WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE NEW NAME?
A: The name was developed in association with Lambert, Edwards & Associates, a public relations firm hired by Pure Muskegon. “Windward” is a sailing term related to the direction upwind from a point of reference – so the name underscores our journey into the headwinds, but now the wind is in our sails, moving in a positive direction! The name also highlights the property’s lakeside location with “Pointe” referring to its orientation to Muskegon Lake.
- WHAT IS THE TIMELINE FOR CLEANUP AND DEMOLITION, A DEVELOPMENT MASTER PLAN AND NEW CONSTRUCTION? WHAT ELEMENTS WILL BE DEVELOPED FIRST?
A: As noted above, Melching’s demolition activities are required to be completed by the end of July, 2017. In addition, a Phase II Investigation will be conducted over the next 6 months by Pure Muskegon. Data and information gained from the Phase II effort which will provide additional environmental information, including soil, subsurface and groundwater conditions, as well as structural conditions for building. Once these actions are completed and any noted conditions are addressed and remediated, Pure Muskegon will be in a better position to move forward with specific development plans.
For more information contact: Wes Eklund, firstname.lastname@example.org