Prospective Buyer Emerges For Haworth Site In Douglas, Says County Official
Much to the delight of Douglas city officials and locals alike, the former Haworth manufacturing site along the main passageway through the city has a promising buyer, announced an Allegan County representative Monday night.
“The buyer understands there needs to be a rehab of the building in terms of its use and what the building looks like—there is a potential for sprucing it up,” Allegan County Director of Economic Development Nora Balgoyen told the council during the meeting about the prospective new manufacturer coming to 200 Blue Star Highway.
The good news, however, does come with a contingency: the contaminant plume (e.g., chlorinated solvent called trichloroethylene, known as TCE) experts believe is emanating from beneath the Haworth building must be further assessed by state of Michigan regulatory agencies and environmental concerns mitigated before the buyer can move in, said Balgoyen.
Experts so far have found low-level contamination, but further studies are required, say Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) representatives.
Overall, the prospect is music to the ears of city leaders who want to improve the visual landscape of the Blue Star Corridor and provide opportunities for more economic activity.
The Douglas’ Blue Star Corridor Plan, ongoing since 2010, and the more recent, Master Plan, calls for wider roads, walkable space, improved crosswalks, better traffic flow and aesthetic appeal.
“We see this as a catalyst to the surrounding area,” said Balgoyen, in the context of what she said was “strongly anticipated higher-skill jobs,” entailing “light assembly, quiet manufacturing.”
“We are shooting for 75 to 100 jobs,” she added.
“That will be great,” said Douglas City Council Member Greg Harvath, echoing colleagues’ sentiment.
Of the environmental issues, Balgoyen said negotiations are ongoing regarding a DEQ grant.
At no cost to it, the City of Douglas will apply for the grant on behalf of the buyer; the buyer will pay for half, via a low-interest loan, of any DEQ services as it relates to the grant; and Balgoyen’s office will act as facilitator and liaison.
“We know it’s a contaminated property and because of that it is eligible for Brownfield site grants,” she said.
Chemicals were routinely dumped at the site decades ago.
Furniture maker Haworth employed 110 locals and was Douglas’ largest taxpayer. It moved its operations to Holland in a consolidation move in 2013 and 2014.
The price tag for the building and property is being kept private at this time, said Balgoyen.