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Allegan County Redevelopment Authority creates plan for redevelopment of old paper mill in Otsego

Otsego Old Rock-Tenn Paper Mill
Posted at 3:55 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 16:57:24-05

OTSEGO, Mich. — A west Michigan city is looking to redevelop an old paper mill to make it more desirable to developers.

Now, it just needs to be approved by the county.

While the old paper mill in Otsego is surrounded by fences asking people to stay out, the city said it continues to pose a threat to trespassers and become an eyesore from neighbors, which is why they want it redeveloped.

The Allegan County Redevelopment Authority has created a plan to do just that.

"Rock-Tenn is an old paper mill. It is sitting on the end of Helen Avenue right on the Kalamazoo River, a beautiful piece of property," said the City of Otsego's City Manager Aaron Mitchell.

Rock-Tenn Paper Mill #2
The old Rock-Tenn Paper Mill has been vacant for around 10 years and was used as industrial property around 100 years before that.

The old Rock-Tenn Paper Mill has been vacant for around 10 years and was used as industrial property around 100 years before that.

The property spans approximately 47 acres and has become an eyesore to neighbors and poses many safety threats.

"It is dark, and there is no lighting on the inside. There is some concern with trespassers. That is something that our police have routinely had to watch, and it is dangerous. There are entire buildings that have caved in from natural decay," said Mitchell.

Rock-Tenn Paper Mill #3
The old Rock-Tenn Paper Mill has been vacant for around 10 years and was used as industrial property around 100 years before that.

So far, there haven't been any takers when it comes to buying and redeveloping the property.

"Unfortunately developers are looking at it thinking that it is just too big of a project. It is a huge facility," said Mitchell.

The Allegan County Redevelopment Authority has created a plan, using around $10 million of tax increment funding to ease some of that burden. It will pay for demolition, clean-up, environmental testing and site preparation.

Enviornmental issues are always a concern on properties like this as well, so the county has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure testing is being done each step of the way.

"We’re looking at it as a fantastic opportunity. The size of the facility is so unique in the fact that whatever takes place there, it is going to completely flip the entire neighborhood. We are thinking residential. We are hoping residential. It is what we need," said Mitchell.

Rock-Tenn Paper Mill #4
The old Rock-Tenn Paper Mill has been vacant for around 10 years and was used as industrial property around 100 years before that.

The Allegan County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the plan coming up in mid-January.

It is then expected demolition and cleanup by the county will occur sometime this year. Overall development of the land has a completion goal of 2028.

SEE MORE: City of Otsego formally supports plan to re-develop former paper mill