Redevelopment gets green light from county

BALDWIN -- As part of an effort to revitalize business in the area, the Lake County Board of Commissioners approved the application for a Brownfield Redevelopment Program Grant for the property at 1047 Michigan Ave. at its meeting on Nov. 13.

"It's such a huge deal to get the property out there," Commissioner Karl Walls said. "Any number of people have looked at that over the years to try to do something with it, but the $275,000 just to get a clean, buildable lot just knocked the wheels off of anything that might happen."

Midwest V, LLC is pursuing acquisition of the property. They have entered into an agreement with the current sellers and anticipate the transaction closing in December.

The developer plans to demolish the existing building and construct a new 10,640 square foot building with parking and green space. Once construction is complete, the Dollar General store on Denmark Street will be relocated to the new building.

Environmental site assessments done on the property revealed lead and tetrachloroethylene, a chemical used in dry cleaning, in the groundwater and soil at concentrations above the legally allowed levels. In addition, three unregistered underground storage tanks were identified.

"The developer is going to have to do certain things to remediate the property," Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake said. "No one else is going to do it. With the grant funds, we are leveling the playing field for the developer. We will reimburse them for certain costs, and the state will reimburse us."

According to the grant application, the storage tanks will need to be removed to facilitate redevelopment of the site. In addition, up to 500 tons of "impacted soil" will need to be excavated and disposed of to allow for installation of the new building footings and utility corridors.

The contaminated soil will be replaced by clean sand.

Brownfield redevelopment grants provide funding to local government and other public bodies to investigate and remediate sites of environmental contamination for identified redevelopment projects. The goal is to ensure safe reuse of abandoned, vacant or underutilized properties that are known to be contaminated.

Midwest V, LLC will make a private investment of $1.1 million for the project. The new, larger space is expected to add two full-time positions and additional part-time, seasonal jobs.

The current taxable value of the property is $53,754 and generates roughly $3,000 in taxes annually. The projected value is $300,000, with around $18,000 in new taxes generated annually.

The grant for $275,000 will fund the cost of the clean up of the property to make it a viable and usable site.

The existing building on the property was constructed around 1938. Additions were constructed in the 1960s and again in the 1980s. It has been a car dealership and service center, and more recently a grocery store and laundromat. The property has been vacant since 2001, and has continued to deteriorate.