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City makes plans for commerce, light industry

The city of Superior is looking for room to expand opportunity for Class A office space and light industry.

With two recent developments, city officials think they've found a natural spot to create it. The area is located north of Belknap Street to North 13th Street from Grand to Fisher avenues in the vicinity of the Blaine Business Center and Grand Central Development, currently under construction on the former Central School site.

Wednesday, the city's Redevelopment Authority approved the project area and set a public hearing for the creation of a new tax increment finance district.

The city believes the area is an excellent site for redevelopment, said Port and Planning Director Jason Serck. The area currently includes 23 homes, which the city would acquire by voluntary sale of the property, he said. Of those 23 homes, 19 don't conform to current zoning requirements.

Tax increment financing would give the city money to purchase the homes and improve infrastructure in the area; if there is enough money left, it could be used for incentives for developers, Serck said.

"We will not use eminent domain" to purchase the homes, said Mayor Dave Ross. He said all the houses the city acquires would be purchased from willing sellers.

Part of the impetus for the project is the recent redevelopment of the former Blaine Elementary School by SGI and investors in the Blaine Business Center, and the investment currently being made of the former Central site by Grand Central Development LLC, a subsidiary of RJS Construction.

However, Ross said, it is also difficult in Superior to find large parcels of land that don't require wetland delineation and building new infrastructure, which can be costly and time consuming. Superior is finding a niche for the creation of Class A office space, the mayor said.

"This is going to give Superior an exciting opportunity to be at the table when these projects become available," Ross said. He said the proposal builds on the progress already happening in the area.

"I think this is one of the best ideas I have seen in the five years since I've been mayor," Ross said. "... this is really good news for the city of Superior. When you're talking about job growth -- Class A office space employs people."

After City Center was redeveloped from the former City/County Complex, the newly created Class A office space provided room for Enbridge Energy to expand its Superior operation. That and new businesses in City Center created about 100 jobs.

"We have to be ready to respond to the market," Ross said.

Over the next three months, the city plans to develop the project and notify homeowners about the city's plans, Serck said.

Council Vice President Kevin Norbie, a member of the redevelopment authority, said he was excited about the project when he heard about it last summer and he remains excited because it gives the city the opportunity to use a broad brush to plan development in the area rather than spattering development where room allows.

A public hearing is scheduled for April 2.

Call Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or e-mail snelson@superiortelegram.com

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