Redeveloping the former La-Z- Boy Inc. headquarters into a more attractive enterprise is one key available site being touted in the City of Monroe’s search for grant funding through the Redevelopment Ready Communities’ program.
Reprinted from Monroe News
by Dean Cousino
The corporation’s idle complex on N. Telegraph Rd. was cited as a potential development-ready site during the city council’s approval Tuesday night of an agreement with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to continue the certification process as a redevelopment ready community and become eligible for grants. The council okayed the accord 8-0 following an update on progress made during a 1 ½-hour work session prior to the regular meeting.
The La-Z-Boy property was cited as a “great resource” by Michelle Parkkonen, manager of the community redevelopment program for the MEDC, who spoke to the council. She said the city has performed well in partnering with the MEDC.
“Monroe is already engaged and a step ahead of many communities,” Ms. Parkkonen told the council during the workshop. “You’re already through Steps 1 and 2 and meeting a number of criteria for our best practice findings.”
The city has been working with the MEDC since 2015. Once certified, the program will match up to $50,000. She showed a presentation that indicated the city already had complied with several best practices that build a strong economic climate. Among the steps already taken was having completed zoning ordinances that include standards for parking and green infrastructure.
“This is a great start,” she said. “Forty-eight percent of the criteria are being met or have been met. The city just (approved) a six-year capital improvements program. Many communities don’t have this. You’re doing things proactively by reaching out on Facebook” and with other methods.
The city’s attempt to update its master plan for development also is a major step toward certification, she said. The master plan could be adopted in May, said City Manager Vincent Pastue.
One area the city needed to work on, she said, was to come up with a policy to allow for more public participation and strategy with marketing sites. This can be done through community outreach and programs like Resilient Monroe, a collaborative effort in 2014 among Frenchtown and Monroe townships and the city to update master plans and a wide range of shared concerns for all three communities.
The city is one of more than 60 Michigan communities seeking certification. There are 10 Michigan cities already certified, with Ypsilanti the only one in Monroe’s region. Councilman John Iacoangeli said Ms. Parkkonen’s findings were ” very favorable” to Monroe. He said the city would benefit not only from grants for redevelopment, but from stronger state support in selling sites to potential developers. The city also would benefit from networking with other economic and governmental partners in the state.
Jeffrey L. Green, director of community development for the city, noted the MEDC would be a longtime partner and help the city market its vacant properties.
“They are the specialists and will look at our economic development projects,” Mr. Green said. “(But) it’s not an overnight process.”