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March 29, 2013

Roseville gets ready for redevelopment

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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The Michigan Economic Development Corporation gave Roseville a green rating for its plans to turn Utica Junction into a downtown area, which they’ve started doing with the installation of a new bike rack this year.

ROSEVILLE — Roseville is on track to be one of the first cities in the state to receive redevelopment-ready status under the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The MEDC purchased rights to the program — which was previously run by the Michigan Suburbs Alliance — back in 2010 and just rolled it out for use last year, offering it to any city that was previously close to receiving redevelopment-ready status under the MSA.

“My understanding is that part of the agreement between the MEDC and MSA was to say, ‘Hey, you really have to look at Roseville; they were super close to getting certified and then we pulled the funding from the program,’” said Mike Connors, Roseville’s Community and Economic Director.

“Other communities, like Eastpointe, were certified under the old program with the suburbs alliance. Now the state runs it, they just kicked it off within the past year, and they approached us as being one of the first certified programs within the state of Michigan. And they just recently, within the last two weeks, launched it statewide.”

Connors came to the city in 2009 after Roseville received its redevelopment-ready community (RRC) report from the MSA.

“The community economic development job, my job, was a recommendation of this report in 2009,” Connors said. “We were pretty low-hanging fruit at the time, but then (the Michigan Suburbs Alliance) pulled the funding from the program and re-allocated it to energy. That’s how we got the energy program and energy grants.”

The state-run program looks at the city’s zoning and planning ordinances, the building and development process, the master plan, records and even the city website to determine any areas that need improvement to make the city a desirable location for businesses and development.

“To me it is essentially a forensic audit of the eternal development process,” Connors said. “It looks at permitting process, building planning processes, and essentially it streamlines the development process from point A to point B and provides a developer with a predictable process and outcome.”

Roseville received a color-coded report from the MEDC in February evaluating its business, planning and zoning processes. According to the report, Roseville is on the right track.

“The City of Roseville is well on its way to becoming redevelopment-ready,” the report reads. “With an updated master plan that outlines priority areas for redevelopment, an internal redevelopment team to guide potential investors, a current tax incentive policy and procedure document and a reputation for outstanding customer service, the city has attracted and retained multiple businesses during difficult economic times.”

However, the report goes on to say that, despite a hardworking and dedicated staff, Roseville still has work to do.

“The spirit of redevelopment exists, but processes need to be further established, documented and clarified.”

Jennifer Rigterink, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation RRC program manager, said Roseville is the first community the MEDC finished a formalized RRC report on, and the city is working hard on achieving the RRC status.

“They are very motivated,” Rigterink said. “They have an internal redevelopment team dedicated to actively meeting the steps they need to make to become a redevelopment-ready community.

“They’re very engaged in accomplishing the criteria we’ve set forth as a best practice, and it’s not just one person doing it — they’re doing it as a team, everyone from their redevelopment team to the City Council to the city manager is involved, and that’s important. RRC status is about setting a foundation and a basis for redevelopment in the community and then taking the ball and running with it. They can do that a lot better if everyone is on board and, in Roseville, they are. They’re moving along and doing great.”

Out of 45 areas of evaluation, Roseville received 10 green ratings, meaning a best practice component is currently being met; 15 yellow ratings, indicating some of the best practice component is in place, but additional action is needed; and 20 red ratings, indicating the best practices component is not being met.

Examples of green ratings include the zoning ordinance allowing for a variety of housing types; all outcomes from public participation processes are shared; and the community annually reviews the fee schedule.

The city received yellow and red ratings for things like not having an online development guide; not having easily accessible online permitting forms; and not having a development plan for Groesbeck and Gratiot.

“There were about 60 points brought to our attention in the report that we needed to address,” said Building Director Glenn Sexton. “The day after we received the report, we immediately went to work on it, and I would say we’ve already addressed about 10 percent of the points addressed in it.”

At the Feb. 26 regular City Council meeting, the planning consultant firm Carlisle-Wortman was awarded a bid to perform a development study on Gratiot and Groesbeck avenues.

“We’ve already addressed that, and the study is under way,” Connors said. “We realize we have two different animals out there; one is Groesbeck and one is Gratiot, and they both have very unique and different challenges and opportunities, and we are going to use the study to help us address them head-on.”

Completion of the study is slated for early September; until then, the city will work on addressing other areas outlined in the MEDC report as needing improvement.

And, at the March 26 meeting, council adopted a new ordinance that allows for planned unit development — another recommendation of the MEDC report.

“It gives developers an avenue to create mixed-use developments and a plan for how to approach us with that,” Sexton said.

The report also suggested reformatting all building and permitting applications and making them available on the city website — and the city is halfway there with the applications already reformatted and waiting to be posted on the website.

“We also have a half-dozen zoning ordinances scheduled for review and update by the Zoning Board of Appeals on next month’s agenda,” Sexton said. “We’re moving forward and addressing all the points they’ve provided us in the report. We’re excited to get everything finished and achieve redevelopment-ready community status.”

“We are working hard to reinvent and re-establish and keep the city attractive so people want to live, work and play here,” Connors said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.