BURTON — Flint-based Northgate Packaging is planning to open a warehouse processing facility in the former Lowes, 4274 E. Court St., sometime during the first quarter of this year.
The facility is expected to service the new General Motors Processing Center, 4420 Davison Rd. Northgate does a lot of automotive work, with GM being one of its largest customers, along with automakers Ford and Tesla.
“They particularly liked this location because it is close to their customer,” said Winn Cooper of Cooper Commercial, representing Northgate in its acquisition of the former Lowes building.
At the Burton Zoning Board of Appeals meeting in November, Cooper asked for and was granted a variance to conduct M-1 light industrial use in a C-4 planned shopping center for a warehousing processing and packaging use.
The board approved the variance, with the stipulation that it ends if Northgate sells the property and required a site plan review if the company wants to change the exterior of the building.
Cooper told the Zoning Board of Appeals in November the building was constructed as retail but is tucked in behind the Courtland Center mall.
“That retail section seems to be struggling to me,” he said. “With COVID a lot has changed in the way we’re doing business – retail business – it’s much easier to pick up my phone and order from Amazon and have it delivered to my house.”
Cooper said Northgate thinks the former Lowes is a good fit for them, a move they do not believe will hurt the community in any way.
He said the traffic will be less intense than it was with Lowes because there will only be 8-10 trucks in and out of the facility daily, with about 20 employees to begin with. Cooper said Northgate hopes to expand to about 100 employees but would only run two shifts which would span from about 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.
Amber Abbey, deputy DPW director in charge of zoning for Burton, said the site has been vacant two years now. While the city’s retail consultant, Retail Coach, has been working to recruit new businesses to come to Burton, it has not seen much interest in retail in the area around the Courtland Center mall.
“A few were interested, but there have been no attempts to do anything,” said Abbey. “The property could be used for something, but I don’t want to just say ‘whatever will go in there’.”
She said the city’s main concerns are semi-truck parking at the facility, how it will affect residential in the area and making sure the variance is only for Northgate and cannot be extended to someone else who leases or buys the property.
Cooper said trucks would be kept to the southwest corner of the building, where the truck bays are located, and no truck parking would be allowed in the front. Also, the company would agree that the variance remain only with them for the time they are at the site.
He said the facility will not utilize the exterior public address system that was used when Lowes was there, and it had no immediate plans to change the exterior of the building.
“They’ll be a better neighbor than Lowes was,” said Cooper. “Minimal employees and minimal trucks compared to Lowes. I think it would be a positive for the neighborhood.”
Cooper added he’s done business with Northgate Packaging for 20 years and knows they take care of their properties, keeping them maintained and mowed regularly.
He also assured the board there would be no attempt to gain access to the facility from Howe Road, keeping the trucks coming in and out of the Court Street entrance/ exit.
The board granted unanimous approval of the variance.