Veridea Group begins demolition at old bakery

MARQUETTE – Marquette’s Veridea Group is finally ready to make its mark on the city’s downtown.

After months of seeking approvals and special designations, Veridea has started demolishing the old bakery building at 857 W. Washington St.

In its place, the company will soon begin constructing a 125,000-square-foot commercial, retail and residential space that officials have said will effectively extend the city’s downtown west.

Crews have nearly completed asbestos abatement in the building and Veridea President Bob Mahaney said that about 75 percent of the materials from the current building will be recycled after demolition. This morning, heavy equipment was working to move rubble and a section of the building’s west end had been removed.

“The entire bakery structure will be removed and this will take approximately one month,” Mahaney wrote in an email. “Construction will begin in April and Phase I, a 28,000-square-foot office building, will be completed by the late fall of this year.”

Future phases will include the construction of three additional buildings that will host retail, residential and commercial space.

The end goal, he has said in the past, is to create a type of urban courtyard that will connect the neighborhoods to the north of Washington Street with the bike path, via the Veridea development.

In planning the $31 million development, Veridea has received some welcome assistance. In November, for instance, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation awarded $1.86 million to the project from its Community Reinvestment Program.

The development has also been authorized as a brownfield, a designation intended to spur developer interest in functionally obsolete, blighted or contaminated sites. The Washington Street property has been deemed functionally obsolete by the city assessor.

The Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act – first created in 1996 – allows for the capture of incremental local and school property taxes from redeveloped properties to pay for the environmental costs, infrastructure improvements, demolition and site preparation costs associated with those properties.

A brownfield plan would include the creation of a Tax Increment Financing district. TIF districts allow a municipality to freeze taxes at pre-development levels for a set period of time and then use the revenues from increased taxable value to finance a bond or loan for public improvements at the site.

A major component of the Veridea project is an underground parking structure with nearly 400 spaces. Mahaney said the the first deck is scheduled for completion this year.

Mahaney told the Marquette city commission that in order to comply with the city master plan, which calls for high-density development in the area, a parking structure would be necessary to accommodate traffic.

As the parking structure will be underground, its construction was included as part of the infrastructure improvements that could be covered by a brownfield-related tax capture. In total, the plan calls for $6.73 million in infrastructure improvements.

“In a conventional sense, the topography is challenging,” Mahaney previously said of the site, which drops off on the south side. “We came up with a plan that took that problem – the topography – and turned it into a positive and allowed us to achieve a high-density mixed-use development here.”

Veridea has estimated it will spend more than $10 million on brownfield-eligible activities, including environmental remediation, lead and asbestos abatement, demolition, site preparation and infrastructure work, which would include two levels of underground parking.

Under the previously proposed plan, the tax capture can run through 2036 and would net $17.6 million. Veridea has estimated that, following the retirement of brownfield obligations, annual tax revenues for the property will total more than $1.3 million.

Mahaney said that in the coming weeks, Veridea will announce the name of the new development, as well as the anchor tenant for the first building and plans for the next phase of construction.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.