Munising, Michigan – Renovare Development, LLC of Detroit and Gateway Properties BT, LLC/Hall Contracting, Inc. of Munising have signed a letter of intent to redevelop the old Fire Hall/Department of Public Works building in Munising for mixed commercial and residential use.

The iconic art deco structure, which was built as a Works Projects Administration effort in 1938, has been empty since the city relocated both the fire hall and DPW 12 years ago. Located on M-28 in the heart of the city’s business district the building has been the focus of several unsuccessful redevelopment efforts in recent years.

“It’s one of our signature buildings downtown,” said Munising Mayor Rod DesJardins who, as an independent housing consultant, has been assisting with the project. “It’s location, it’s architectural style and it’s history make it a community landmark worth saving. It’s the right time and we’re putting together the right team to preserve this historic structure and re-use it to address a critical need in our community.”

Preliminary development plans include a commercial establishment on the first floor, which will compliment the planned M-28 corridor reconstruction scheduled to begin next year, and mixed income housing on floors that will be added.

The intent is to preserve the building’s historic profile while creating an addition that compliments the art deco style.

Renovare Development partners have over thirty-five years of experience rehabilitating historic mixed-use buildings in urban areas and they’ve won several local and national awards for historic rehabilitation. They are consistently recognized as an industry leader in community-based, mixed use and affordable housing developments in Michigan.

Managing Partner Shannon Morgan was a member of the partnership for the Grandview Marquette Developer, LLC which lead the transformation of the former Holy Family Orphanage/Grandview Marquette renovation project completed in 2017.

“As an organization committed to finding creative and innovative ways to preserve, promote and rehabilitate affordable and mixed-use housing, we are excited for the resurgence of this historic gem, which will provide critical workforce and downtown housing and amenities for the residents of this community,” said Morgan. “We believe this project could be a transformational catalyst for future development on this beautiful rural main street.”

Hall Contracting, Inc. is a Munising based construction company, led by Vice President Bromley Hall, specializing in commercial project management. The two companies are exploring a construction partnership to redevelop the property.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our company as well as our community to be involved in, not only as a revitalization project of this magnitude in our home town, but also to be partnered with a team such as Renovare Development with an acute market strategy, state financing acquisition ability and highly successful history in this type of project development throughout the state of Michigan,” said Hall. “With the recent housing market struggles that have been primarily attributed to the the spike in area tourism, we are fully committed and believe in Renovare Development’s vision to move this project forward as an asset to our community.”

The next step in the process if to conduct a market study to determine the specific rental housing needs in the community and the timing of the project could not be better. Munising has a critical shortage of housing for all income levels, a situation that has been exacerbated by a recent rush in converting long term rentals into vacation rentals to take advantage of a corresponding boom in summer tourism.

The market study will determine the unit mix (number of 1, 2, 3 bedroom units needed) and income levels. Complementing the commercial use, the residential portion of the project is expected to be mixed income, ranging from government subsidized units to top-end market rate apartments in the same building. Preliminary estimates are for 16 to 40 apartments.

The unit mix will determine the financing required. The partners anticipate using a combination of Michigan State Housing Development Authority tax credits, new market tax credits, historic preservation tax credits, Community Development Block Grant funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for blight elimination and job creation and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority grants to fund the development.

“The city has been trying to build more affordable housing in Munising for the past 20 years” said DesJardins. “As mayor I worked with Community Action Alger Marquette on three different attempts, all of which fell through for a variety of reasons.”

While Housing Director for CAAM, DesJardins worked more directly on the last attempt in 2016—the conversion of the Mather School into 40 affordable apartments, an effort that was derailed by the voters who turned down a millage to convert Munising High School into a K-12 facility which would have made the Mather School available for re-use.

“This is an ambitious project,” he admitted. “It will require the architect and the development team, the contractor and the community to think outside the lines. But the timing is right, and the right people are working together. We have an opportunity to preserve and re-use an historic signature building in the community while we address a critical housing shortage.”