SJ City Commission Calls Special Meeting to Act on Major Development Projects

With commercial growth in the City of St. Joseph continuing to soar, the St. Joseph City Commission was asked on Monday night to approve two Commercial Rehabilitation Exemption Certificates valued at nearly $11-million on opposite ends of town. One is for the new headquarters of United Federal Credit Union on the south side of the city and one is for Fiskars Properties building in the Edgewater District on the north side of the St. Joseph River. They were also asked to authorize a special use permit for a drive-thru-lane automatic teller machine for United Federal’s HQ property. While they approved the ATM, the two major rehab issues went unsolved as several commissioners appealed for additional time and information. Originally, that action was postponed to Monday, June 24th, but now the commission has called for a special meeting next Monday, June 17th to take up those requests.

Cornerstone Alliance is assisting both major projects for the city, just as they did in recent months for the major new renovations at LECO Corporation Headquarters several blocks away from the United Federal project, as they continue economic development efforts on multiple fronts across Michigan’s Great Southwest.

City Commissioners are being asked to approve a $9.6-million Commercial Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate for the United Federal takeover of the former Whirlpool facility at 150 Hilltop Road, which is the same site where they asked for and gained approval of the special use permit for installation of the drive-thru ATM.

The application signed by President & CEO Terry O’Rourke indicates that the renovation project is slated to be complete by May 1st of 2020 and is expected to create at least 10 new jobs, retain another 300 jobs in the community and also create 74 jobs during the construction phase of the project.

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The 81,200 square foot, single-story, facility was built in 1989 and has been used most recently as a call center for Whirlpool Corporation. It features multiple private offices, a reception area, conference rooms and a cafeteria along with parking for about 500 people.

United Federal intends to convert the building for use as its new Corporate Center, “fostering new technology for a continued performance in the banking industry, and a superior workplace environmental tailored to attract and retain top talent.”

United Federal will be demolishing and remodeling most of the interior and crafting a new entry to the building as shown in the photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market. UFCU officials say that there are many elements of the building that are in need of repair including skylights, windows, cabling for voice & data, and outside infrastructure. They plan 47 new offices, 247 new workstations, and 40 future workstations for a total of 344 total such spaces.

The investment on Hilltop adds to the more than $14.7-million United Federal has spent in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor in its facilities over the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, the Fiskars Properties project is slated for upgrades at 500 Momany Drive in the city’s Edgewater District north of the river.

The application from Fiskars calls for $1,005,000 in estimated rehabilitation costs as the firm seeks a Commercial Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate from the city. It, too, is expected to create 10 new jobs while retaining 38 already on premise and would result in about 35 new jobs during the construction phase.

The 25,487 square foot, single-story, facility was built in the year 2000, and is an office building that has been used for finiancial offices for multi-national corporations. It contains four suites which include reception areas, multiple private offices, open areas for work stations, conference rooms, training rooms, and kitchen/break areas. Currently the building supports approximately 40 full-time people and parking for them. There are two main entrances, one on each of the north and south sides, and there’s an overhead door and truck dock for deliveries.

Fiskars officials want to rehab portions of the building into modern “Class A” office space, adding space for an additional 48 full time employees for the recruitment of a new tenant there. Fiskars says, “This project will be a continued effort to ensure the availability of prime real estate for the expansion of new or existing businesses,” and, “It will be a superior workplace environment tailored to attract and retain top talent.”

Cornerstone Alliance has been working with Fiskars on the rehabilitation exemption certificate and will be on hand at the special meeting, as they were last Monday, to help answer questions.

The application says that the facility is in desperate need of upgrades and will be completed by this September, after Fiskars’ team guts and remodels most of the interior systems and rebuilds it to new. The build-out is expected to include new interior walls, ceilings, and floor finishes throughout a major portion of the building. Kitchen, vending and break areas will also be updated, along with rebuilding the HVAC and electrical systems.

Additionally, a new entrance will be created on the south side of the building, while additional asphalt parking will be installed on the north side of the facility. Sidewalks will be added to provide access from the parking lots to the west side entrance. Plus, cabling will be updated in order to provide the most current, fast and reliable data service to both existing and new tenants there.

Fiskars notes that a significant portion of the existing light fixtures in the facility will be converted to LED to reduce power consumption. Construction had been planned to begin on Tuesday, June 11th, and be completed by September 27th, but that has been delayed due to the commission’s postponed vote on the matter.

While the Commission granted approval for the special use permit for the new ATM at United Federal back on Monday, they voted on a 3-2 tally to table action on the Commercial Rehabilitation Exemption Certificates until the June 24th meeting. While Mayor Mike Garey and City Commissioner Jeff Richards wanted to advance the plans, Commissioners Getty, Goos and Todman felt that they didn’t have enough time to properly go through everything in light of new information arriving this afternoon and the fact that they didn’t get the commission packets from City Hall until Sunday afternoon. The certificates will now be revisited at that June 17th special meeting.