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Tisdel Talk: Rochester Hills to get $75 million for brownfield redevelopment
RELEASE|May 20, 2024
Contact: Mark Tisdel

Recent Lansing “water cooler” talk has been focused on state grants such as the $20 million that was awarded to a Whitmer appointee who then spent $4,500 of taxpayer money to buy a high-end coffeemaker, among other questionable expenditures.

The money, which was supposed to be used to start a business accelerator, was negotiated in secret and put in the budget at the last minute, before the organization that got it even existed. The governor’s appointee was serving on the board that was supposed to oversee how the grant money was spent – an obvious conflict of interest.

The House and Senate recently voted to pull the funding, and the attorney general is now investigating.

This is concerning, but not all special funding is for pork projects or spur-of-the-moment boondoggles.

I’m proud that in that same budget, I helped secure $75 million for a brownfield rehabilitation project in Rochester Hills. This is something that Sen. Mike Webber and I have been talking about and working on for more than a decade, going back to when we were both serving on the Rochester Hills City Council, long before either of us were serving in the state Legislature. 

I’m talking about the brownfield on Hamlin Road, just east of Adams.

Back in 2010, the City of Rochester Hills hired independent specialists to perform an “environmental concerns” inventory. This review identified approximately 680 acres of contaminated brownfields within our city limits. The actual contamination activities go back as far as the 1950s. Everything from a “wood fill” of diseased elm trees from Highland Park to household (and possibly commercial) solid waste from Detroit. This contamination was performed as routine dumping, back in the day, in a sparsely populated area. It’s just how things were done 70 years ago.

The single largest plot of contaminated brownfield land is a roughly 100-acre parcel called Madison Park. This land was used as a household and commercial solid waste dump from the late 1960s through the 1970s.

There are a dozen or more national and international businesses on Hamlin Road, between Squirrel and Livernois, that generate billions of dollars in annual revenue. These companies are directly responsible for thousands of high-paying jobs. Then right in the middle of all this economic activity we have a giant dead spot, right across the street from luxury apartments.

If we clean up the site, we can put it back to productive use. I cannot share specific details yet, but we’ve already got one international company looking to make this their U.S. headquarters. And we haven’t even started moving dirt yet.

Something I want to stress is that the $75 million from the state is a reimbursement grant, not upfront money. This means that the work must be done and meet EPA approval before Rochester Hills receives the money.

The reimbursement grant, which is needed for current assessment and final clean-up expenses, will result in a huge win for Michigan and the residents of Rochester Hills. We have prime-location real estate that simply needs two questions answered: what contaminates are there and how much will it cost to remove them? The process is already underway. I’m proud to have worked with Mayor Barnett and Sen. Webber on this issue for more than a decade.

This $75 million reimbursement grant, by its very nature, is the epitome of good government investment in a successful community.

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