The city of Jonesville seeks to rede­velop the former Klein Tools man­u­fac­turing plant and bring a new business into the downtown river­front property. 

“It’s a chal­lenge, of course, to reuse a factory,” said City Manager Jeff Gray, “but there’s a great oppor­tunity there with all of the space.” 

The city is espe­cially inter­ested in “retail, office, food service, res­i­dential, or other uses similar to existing busi­nesses downtown,” according to the request for proposals.

The request for pro­posals says that the city will con­sider any pro­posal that increases the tax base and creates jobs. Rede­vel­opment pro­posals will be accepted through the end of the year or until a pre-devel­opment agreement is reached. 

At a public meeting in 2018, cit­izens ranked potential pri­or­ities for the city. According to the city’s master plan, “Rede­vel­opment of Klein Tool/Vaco Building” sat at the top of the list. 

The building is located at the inter­section of Water Street and US-12/Chicago Street, and it was used first by Vaco and then by Klein Tools as a man­u­fac­turing plant, according to the request for proposals.

“The master plan is kind of the go-to place to see, this is what the cit­izens want the town to be, and this is kind of our road map or where we should have our focus,” Don Toffolo, the chair of the Downtown Devel­opment Authority and the Pro­posal Review Com­mittee said.

“We took that as the DDA and said, ‘This is what the com­munity wants, to see this rede­veloped; what’s our best avenue to make that happen?’” Toffolo said, “I guess that’s the main cat­alyst for where we are today with this request for proposals.”

The com­mittee is not looking for fully designed projects at this stage, but basic design con­cepts and infor­mation about prospective devel­opers, according to the request for proposals. 

“What we’re trying to do at this stage is find someone who we could enter into an exclusive agreement with to let them do their due dili­gence on the property — to do envi­ron­mental studies, to do struc­tural studies, to develop a detailed concept,” Gray said.

Gray said the building offers a great oppor­tunity to developers. 

“There’s a little more than 68,000 square feet of building,” Gray said. “If you look at the building on an aerial pho­to­graph, there’s about as much square footage there as there is in the first floor of all the rest of the downtown.” 

Gray said the property has some envi­ron­mental issues because of the way mate­rials were dis­posed of back in the 1940s.

“It’s been pretty thor­oughly studied over the years,” he said, “and we’ve posted all of the envi­ron­mental infor­mation that we have.” 

He said devel­opers would want to conduct further studies for themselves. 

Toffolo said that the city received a grant for a study “to determine the extent of the contamination.”

“What we learned from that grant and from the study that was done,” he said, “was that the con­t­a­m­i­nants are not moving, which is a good thing.” 

He said the study also showed that con­t­a­m­i­nation was worse on the older north part of the building than on the south side by U.S.-12.

“U.S. 12/Chicago St. has 12,000 cars a day on it, so it’s one of, if not the busiest, streets in the county, and the downtown for the most part is able to fill vacancies as they become available,” he said, “so I think the DDA just thinks we’ve got a really great opportunity.”

An open house was held at the property on Oct. 6 to allow com­munity members and prospective rede­vel­opers to see the building, Gray said. Review of pro­posals began on Oct. 25.

The city has received one pro­posal and is seeking further infor­mation from the prospective devel­opers, Gray said.

Vaco Products built the first factory on the property in 1945. Klein Tools acquired the property in 1986, and first used the space for man­u­fac­turing, then leased it for storage. The village of Jonesville, now the city of Jonesville, ini­tially con­tinued leasing the space to Mar­t­inrea, a local man­u­fac­turer, after it pur­chased the property in 2010, Gray said. 

When Mar­t­inrea no longer needed the addi­tional ware­house space, Toffolo said, the DDA decided it was time to con­sider redevelopment. 

When the oppor­tunity did not result in serious interest, the DDA decided this fall to solicit pro­posals. They developed the request for pro­posals and orga­nized the Pro­posal Review Com­mittee with members from the DDA, City Council, and Planning Com­mission, Gray said. 

This com­mittee will conduct an initial review of pro­posals, Toffolo said. If the com­mittee rec­om­mends a pro­posal, it will be sub­mitted to the City Council, which has the final vote on whether or not to approve the sale. 

“Hope­fully some­thing comes from this,” Toffolo said, “and somebody is willing to take it on and turn it into some­thing that would benefit the entire city and community.”