JONESVILLE, Mich. — The Klein Manufacturing Plant in Jonesville has been vacant and under city control for 11 years.
Jonesville officials are now working to change that.
The building at 121 Water St. had been used as a factory as far as 1945, according to City Manager Jeff Gray. Klein Manufacturing took it over in 1986.
“Klein Tool was operational here through 2008 and then after they vacated they tried to sell it on the market and were unable to do it,” Gray said.
There is an environmental catch to this building which has been a hang-up in the past.
The property has areas of volatile organic compounds, including polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, and trichloroethylene. Volatile organic compounds can cause short-term symptoms such as eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and confusion. Long-term exposure could lead to organ damage.
City documents note that those contaminants are typical of a manufacturing site operating of that age.
“The fact that it is an older factory that it has the kind of environmental stuff that you expect with it has been a little bit of an obstacle,” Gray said. “I think there’s a great opportunity there too. We’ve worked really closely with the state of Michigan.”
Gray said that Michigan law is set up to protect a purchaser and a developer from liability from those previous acts.
“The things that are under this building, they’re contained. They are staying put. They’re not going anywhere,” Gray said. “So for a lot of things that people would use this building for there wouldn’t even be a need to remove anything.”
He says the goal is to get somebody who is willing to take on that risk and potentially has experience dealing with a property like this.
Downtown Development Authority Chair Don Toffolo believes redevelopment of the 68,500-square-foot building would impact Jonesville in a positive way.
“I think the thing most people don’t realize, even if they live in the community, is how big this building is. This building is almost as big as the entire downtown. So, when we talk about it becoming an asset for the community, we’re really talking about doubling the size of downtown,” Toffolo said.
The Jonesville DDA purchased the building in 2010.
“The condition of the building, it is in need of some additional work. Our goal rather than invest in patching it up as it is, is to try and get it in the hands of a private developer who would bring either jobs or tech space or both into downtown,” Gray said.
Residents have had input on what they would like to see at the former manufacturing site.
“We’ve heard all sorts of ideas,” Toffolo said. “A lot of them great ideas but the challenge will become where’s the capital to make those ideas a reality. We’ve heard everything from sports complexes to wedding venues to ice skating rinks, restaurants, commercial, mixed-use commercial and residential.”
Officials are hosting an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday to entice potential developers to bring life back into the building.
The city has put out a request for proposals and will be reviewing those at the end of October. Officials hope that, by the end of the year, they will be able to start to enter into negotiations with an interested buyer.
If they aren’t able to get a developer, they will move forward with other plans.
“We’ll start looking at some other options,” Gray said, "just marketing it out on the open market and from a real estate standpoint potentially looking at some other public uses for it.”
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