DEWITT — A development project that could reshape DeWitt’s downtown has secured about $2.27 million in state economic development funding to bring more residential and commercial space to the community.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Strategic Fund Board voted to grant DeWitt company AWJ Holdings, LLC a performance-based Michigan Community Revitalization Program loan request for $2.27 million.
The proposed development will put a three-story, 21,400-square-foot building with eight apartments on the currently vacant lot at 110 S. Bridge St., off West Main Street on the southwest corner of downtown DeWitt. The site was previously home to an auto repair shop that closed several years ago.
The $4.87 million project will include apartments on the second and third floors with exterior balconies that overlook downtown. There will be more than 6,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, some of which will be filled by Reed Insurance Agency, according to a Michigan Strategic Fund Board briefing memo. The longtime local insurance agency’s offices are currently across the street at 108 W. Main Street.
“The building will activate a long vacant space, transforming a parcel with contaminated soils into a community asset and increasing density in a traditional downtown district,” MEDC CEO Quentin Messer Jr. said during a media briefing Tuesday morning.
AWJ Holdings, LLC is owned by Andy Joslyn, whose family has owned Reed Insurance Agency since 1970. The firm was founded in 1926 inside DeWitt’s Woodruff Bank.
Joslyn declined to comment on the project.
Approximately 3,500 square feet of the development’s first floor commercial space will be leased to Reed Insurance Agency at $25 per square foot. The remaining commercial space is projected to lease for $17.50 per square foot, the memo states.
The project has a financial need due to brownfield site costs, with projected rental rates not high enough to justify new construction without assistance to bridge the gap between the value and construction costs, the memo states.
Rental rates are projected between $1,665 and $2,012 for the eight two-bedroom units, with an average of $1.42 per square foot, according to the memo.
Joslyn and East Lansing-based Kincaid Building Group, Inc. are contributing over 13% equity and have leveraged $1.95 million in senior financing. The project is also leveraging a six-year tax abatement with an estimated value of $305,000, according to the memo.
“The revitalization of this underutilized brownfield property into a mixed-use development with appropriate urban density that enhances walkability and creates new housing units within the traditional downtown district would not be feasible without this support,” the memo states.
The City of DeWitt sold the public property to Joslyn for $1, estimated at a $75,000 local contribution, according to the memo.
DeWitt City Administrator Dan Coss said the city bought the property in 2016 for $160,000 so it could open the site to more commercial uses downtown.
Joslyn first approached the city with the development idea in October 2020, stating his agency needed more space. The project has taken some work as the parcel is a unique shape and it took time to develop a design that worked for the developer and the city, Coss said.
“We’re grateful that Andy was committed to staying in our downtown and making the investment because it’s one of the biggest investments we’ve had in downtown in many decades,” he said.
Besides adding to the city’s tax base, this development will add much needed housing to DeWitt, which is very limited space-wise. It also shows a downtown commitment by Reed Insurance Agency, Coss said.
“Maybe most importantly, is the commitment of an existing business to invest in our downtown and that means a lot to us,” he said. “That they are committed to staying in our downtown, keeping those jobs downtown and providing that commercial space.”
Coss said when Reed Insurance Agency moves across the street it will leave about 4,000 square feet of retail space that will be available for commercial use as well. Joslyn has already been getting inquiries for renting commercial space and the apartments, even though the project hasn’t even broken ground yet, Coss added.
He said Joslyn wanted to break ground potentially sometime next week.
Contact Bryce Airgood at 517-267-0448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bairgood123.