‘On the dot’: Ferndale kicks off mixed-use redevelopment project

Rendering of the Development on Troy project courtesy of Versa Wanda, LLC

When Ferndale city officials were first considering what to do with the property on Troy Street, the original thought was to find a solution to a better parking situation.

Then, as the project was being discussed and the site plan was being developed in 2016, a light bulb popped on: The project could not only help with parking, but it could also provide other retail value.

And the mixed-use development called the Development on Troy (the dot) was born. The dot will feature retail space, office space and integrated parking. The project also includes the redevelopment of the public alley, a public plaza, a special events plaza and redevelopment of Troy Street adjacent to the project.

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“The project is critical for Ferndale and for the city council’s goals,” said Ferndale City Manager Joseph Gacioch. “We understand this is a monumental opportunity for Ferndale.”

The new mixed-use development is being built on a vacant site in downtown Ferndale through a partnership between the city of Ferndale and development group Versa Wanda and with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today.

Around the state
The project continues to build on community revitalization projects around the state to help create vibrant places to live, work and play.

“The Development on Troy project will fill in a long-empty lot in Ferndale and will revitalize one of the city’s priority sites into an engaging downtown experience,” Jeff Mason, CEO of MEDC, the state’s chief marketing and business attraction agency, responsible for enabling long-term economic opportunity for all Michiganders.

“We’re pleased to support this joint partnership between the city of Ferndale and Versa Wanda, and look forward to the momentum of this project and the additional investment it will encourage in the area. The Development on Troy and other projects like this will drive further economic growth in communities around the state.”

Versa Wanda, LLC and the city of Ferndale plan to construct a five-story, mixed-use building in downtown Ferndale. When the project is completed, Gacioch said, it will consist of some 12,000 to 16,000 square feet of retail space, another 25,000 feet of office space and integrated parking.

The project also includes the redevelopment of the public alley, a public plaza, a special events plaza and redevelopment of Troy Street adjacent to the project. The city will finance and own the parking portion of the project.

“We are proud to be working with the city on this truly mixed-use project. In the end the dot will be a catalyst for bringing modern urban office product to the city,” said Greg Erne, Partner, Versa Wanda LLC. “Additionally, the ground floor space will help cultivate the truly unique retail personality of the city of Ferndale.”

Millions in capital investment
The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of nearly $29.4 million and create 190 full-time equivalent jobs. When completed, it will provide a lively, friendly downtown space by promoting density and walkability, and will bring new economic activity and much-needed housing for the community.

MSF recently approved a $3 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program loan participation award. In addition, the City of Ferndale Brownfield Redevelopment Authority received MSF approval of local and school tax capture valued at $24,487,746 to be used to alleviate brownfield conditions at the site. The city of Ferndale has approved the issuance of municipal bonds valued at approximately $21 million in support of the project. The city is certified with MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program.

“The community’s DNA and fingerprints are all over this project,” said Gacioch, who has worked on the project since its inception in late 2015. ”They helped us achieve a project that will deliver parking capacity and affordable housing, enable small businesses to flourish, create a sense of place for the community, and become a player in office recruitment. The saying ’it takes a village’ couldn’t be more appropriate for this project. Delivering all of those asks was a tall order, and we couldn’t have done it without such great partners in the MEDC and the folks at Versa Wanda LLC.”

The arrival of the dot not only represents the delivery of long needed additional parking capacity, it advances economic resiliency in the downtown as well. The dot will deliver the downtown’s first Class A office space while paying homage to the small business entrepreneurial spirit that made Ferndale so successful by offering newly constructed street-level retail space with lease rates designed to support small and independent business. It also achieves a critical city council initiative by delivering affordable housing in the heart of downtown.

Long time coming
“The dot project has been a long time in the making, and the process was painstaking at times,” said Mayor Dan Martin. “But that was by design; our team and council did their research, made strategic decisions, and the end result will be a development that does more than simply answer today’s parking shortage—it will help Ferndale’s businesses and residents succeed and thrive into the future.”

The Development on Troy project is the latest in a number of community revitalization projects around the state, which in total are expected to generate a capital investment of $41.7 million and create 248 jobs.

  • The city of South Haven has received $871,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for its plans to renovate streetscape elements and public water, sewer and road infrastructure along a four-block section of Center Street in downtown South Haven. The total investment for the Center Street Infrastructure and Streetscape project is $3,469,083, with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Drinking and Water Revolving Fund Loan providing $1,210,000 and USDA Rural Development contributing $100,000. The balance of funding will be coming from the city of South Haven and Downtown Development Authority.
  • The city of Gaylord has been awarded $140,180 in Community Development Block Grant funds for a façade project in the heart of downtown Gaylord. The Gaylord downtown improvement project will enhance the appearance of two contributing buildings that will include renovating the existing facades to accommodate the historic character of the original spaces and will follow Gaylord’s unique alpine theme. The project is expected to result in a total private investment of $121,500. Local funding has been set aside in the amount of $4,000 from the city of Gaylord in support of the project.
  • Houghton Holdings, LLC is redeveloping a vacant, three-story, historic bank building into a 17-room boutique hotel in downtown Houghton. The Vault Hotel project will activate a long-time underutilized, 14,564-square-foot, iconic space. Restoration of the building is at a high priority for the city and will directly reflect the community’s vision of cultivating downtown as the center for retail and dining, as well as historic rehabilitation of a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once completed, the project is expected to result in a total capital investment of $3.4 million along with the creation of eight full-time equivalent jobs, resulting in a $646,713 Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant.
  • Four 75 LLC is redeveloping a functionally obsolete building in downtown Marquette into a vibrant, mixed-use building. The vacant building is located on 0.05 acres and will include a pastry shop on the lower and street levels, and two residential apartments on the second floor. The project is expected to result in a total capital investment of $2.78 million along with the creation of approximately 15 full-time equivalent jobs. Local support for the project includes the local portion of the Brownfield Tax Increment Financing estimated at $145,310. The city of Marquette is engaged with the MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program.
  • The city of Reed City has received $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for machinery and equipment needed for the General Mills Operations, LLC expansion in Reed City. General Mills plans to purchase new machinery and equipment that will allow for increased yogurt production at its facility in Reed City, a project that will generate a total private investment of $2 million and create 35 jobs, 18 of which will be held by low- to moderate-income individuals. The CDBG funds will be used to assist with the purchase of the equipment.
  • The city of Escanaba has received $461,545 in Community Development Block Grant funds for improvements needed for the downtown improvement project in Escanaba. The project will include the exterior rehabilitation of four historically significant, multi-story buildings located on Ludington Street. When completed, the buildings will have mixed-use components and will have high-impact aesthetic improvements that will lead to additional business and pedestrian traffic. The private leverage contribution equals $536,390. The city of Escanaba is sharing predevelopment costs and third-party construction cost estimates with each building owner for their application, totaling $21,600.