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Published: Monday, 3/1/2004

Fifth Third gets state aid to help build Monroe site

MONROE - For years, the lot at 415 South Monroe St. stood vacant, a contaminated site at the edge of downtown.

But soon to emerge from the empty space will be a building to house a Fifth Third Bank branch, thanks to tax credits made possible through Michigan's brownfield program.

The bank was among nine projects statewide that received a portion of $3.7 million in Single Business Tax credits from the state. The credits are given to developers and companies interested in rehabilitating contaminated sites and making them productive additions to the community.

Fifth Third Bank was approved for a credit valued at $159,500 to build the branch. The company plans to invest more than $1.5 million in the project, which is expected to retain nine jobs and create six jobs, state officials said.

“That's exactly what the brownfield program is set out to do - take these properties that in the past were stumbling blocks and help them be developed,” said Susan McCormick of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Brownfield is a term to describe properties that are often overlooked for commercial or industrial redevelopment because of the threat of contamination, Ms. McCormick said. Michigan helped remove those obstacles by protecting buyers and lenders from liability.

The Monroe site was once home to a credit bureau, which burned down several years ago, said Benjamin Tallerico, the city's director of community development and planning. But it was chemicals from an adjoining property - once a gas station - that contaminated the site.

With the recent tax credit from the state, the site will be redeveloped and spur not only job growth but private investment in the city.

Mr. Tallerico said the site is particularly important in that it will help create a much-desired gateway into Monroe. He pointed to the Benesh building on the other side of South Monroe Street and how together the buildings will create an entrance to the business district.

“It will be a welcome addition and a welcome sight into the downtown,” Mr. Tallerico said. “These buildings together give you a wonderful gate as entering into the urban fabric.”

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