Last Tuesday the Grand Rapids City Commission blessed without debate a request for a government subsidy for Clear Water Place. As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the DeVries Company (owned and operated by Ed DeVries and his son) is redeveloping the old Monroe Avenue water filtration plant as Clear Water Place for commercial and residential uses and is seeking tax dollars from the state's "Cool Cities" program to decorate the facility's foyer.
Clear Water Place is an ironic moniker because the "Toxic Towers" developers dumped about 20,000 tons of arsenic- and lead-laced dirt there during the redevelopment of the nearby Berkey & Gay furniture factory into the Boardwalk complex. (To give you some idea of how much dirt that is, it is the equivalent of an eight-story high cube.) Of course, none of this history saw the light of day in either the application for this taxpayer subsidy nor its consideration by the City Commission.
Also hidden from the public's view throughout this process is how the City Commission shafted the taxpayers in the original sale of the filtration plant. When the City Commission put the filtration plant up for sale, it rejected a bid from the DeVrieses for $600,000 and accepted in February 1999 a $400,000 from Dykema Excavators Inc., a longstanding contractor for the City with strong ties to officials. Dykema Excavators, as one of the lead contractors for the Boardwalk project*, then used the filtration plant as an unlicensed toxic landfill for the Boardwalk's contaminated soil. Once it was done with that, Dykema Excavators then flipped the polluted property to the DeVrieses.
So the DeVrieses wound up with the filtration plant in the end, except that City taxpayers:  Lost $200,000 for not selling it to the DeVrieses in the first place, and  may end up paying for any liability the City has for letting Dykema Excavators use the filtration as a hazardous waste dump.
Little wonder the City Commission tried to sweep under the rug yet another taxpayer favor for the filtration plant.
* In fact, James Dykema, one of the principles of Dykema Excavators Inc., has a stake in 900 Monroe L.L.C. and 940 Monroe L.L.C., the development companies that jointly own and operate the Boardwalk project. He holds that interest through a Michigan corporation called DMAC Inc.