by Stephanie Dickrell
St. Joseph could soon be home to new industrial businesses, if a plan to develop an industrial park comes to fruition.
The City Council approved March 4 a preliminary plat of an industrial park development southeast of CR 133 and east of 19th Avenue NE. The development is just northeast of the St. Joseph Coborn’s.
If the plan moves forward, construction could begin as early as May, said Randy Sabart, city engineer.
The first phase of the park would include about 53 acres zoned for light industrial businesses, he said. That includes 26 to 27 lots ranging in size from one to 10 acres.
City utilities would need to be extended into the park, Sabart said. In a feasibility report, he estimated it would cost the city about $4.2 million to build the necessary sewer, water and storm-sewer infrastructure.
Part of that cost will likely be covered by state money, he said. Last year, the city received a state grant of about $1.25 million to help build infrastructure which supports business development, including sewer and water lines.
The city would need to apply for loans of about $2.9 million to complete the project, said Judy Weyrens, city administrator. Those costs can be assessed to the lot owners once the lots are sold, Sabart said.
Council member Bob Loso expressed concern about the city paying for those costs up front, relying on the full development of the park to be repaid. He cited developments in other cities, including housing developments in Avon, in which expected growth never happened and the city was left with the costs.
Weyrens said the city is developing a legal agreement with the property developer to address those issues. But she doesn’t expect the lots to remain empty for long, she said.
“There are very few shovel-ready industrial lots out there,” Weyrens said.
Weyrens said that so far, there is one business interested in a 10-acre property in the park.
The project would include some updates to existing city infrastructure to accommodate the extra flow of water into the city system, Sabart said. If development continues beyond this additional phase, the city will have to build a new wastewater pump station. The project is next to what city planners call north corridor, a proposed east-west route north of CR 75.
The road is part of the city’s future transportation plan to accommodate more traffic as the city grows, Sabart said.