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Farmington Hills redeveloper leads rehabilitation of historic landmark in UP

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published August 17, 2016

 Pictured is the blighted Holy Family Orphanage.

Pictured is the blighted Holy Family Orphanage.

Photo provided by HRS Communities

FARMINGTON HILLS/MARQUETTE — You may have heard of the former Holy Family Orphanage.

Some say it’s haunted, others see dilapidation, while some use the historic landmark as content for the blogosphere.

For Farmington Hills-based Home Renewal Systems, a redeveloper of historic properties, they see an opportunity to turn blight into beauty by creating the Grandview Marquette, a 56-rental-unit affordable housing space come 2017.

Shannon Morgan, of HRS Communities, said that the building has quite a bit of history.

“It is a gorgeous building, and the community has really, really supported this moving forward,” she said during a recent phone interview. “And we’re excited to supervise it and provide it for the community house.”

The former orphanage, constructed in 1915, has been abandoned near downtown Marquette since 1981. 

HRS Communities purchased it and is leading the effort to rehabilitate the 79,447-square-foot property.

The former orphanage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a press release.

In rehabilitating the property, the plan is to keep with a number of its historic features, such as its sandstone front porch and the building’s original chapel, which will be restored and utilized as community space for residents, according to a press release.

The mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems will be replaced, and when complete, the building will meet the Enterprise Green Communities criteria for green substantial rehabilitation projects, the press release added.

According to the release, there is a rising shortage of affordable rental housing in Marquette, and HRS’ rental units are attempting to fill that gap.

The rental units are for households earning up to $35,000 or more, depending on family size, according to the press release. Rent will range from roughly $275 to $865 per month, based on household income and unit size, according to the release.

Of the 56 units, 14 will be used to house former homeless individuals and families in need of rent assistance, according to the release.

Robbert McKay, of the State Historic Preservation Office, said that the rehabilitation idea is to create and accommodate the new use, while maintaining to the maximum extent possible its historic character.

“It is more a balancing act than just recreating missing features (and) stuff that was there,” he said, adding that the building is substantially deteriorated and has had some roof problems. “It is one of those buildings where you kind of have to go through and figure out first of all what is left. What is character-defining — defining inventory features, if you will.”

“Old National Bank is proud to be a partner in the adaptive reuse of the former orphanage,” said Chip Windisch, vice president of capital markets at Old National Bank, in the press release. “The building’s rehabilitation will preserve an important piece of Marquette’s history while providing a unique and affordable housing option. By applying unique capabilities in tax credits and capital markets, Old National was able to make an impactful investment in the community.”

The rehabilitation project represents a $15.8 million investment, supported by both Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and Federal Historic Tax Credits, according to a press release. Both tax credits were administered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

To qualify for the tax credits, HRS has to make sure that the housing units are high-quality, affordable housing for 45 years, and that the rehabilitation meets the design standards for historic buildings administered by the National Park Service, according to the press release.

McKay said that he works on the historic tax credit.

“They (HRS) don’t get credit until all the work is done and approved,” he said. “With any project like this, my only hope is that it goes smoothly — that is always my big thing … but I am pretty confident … that it will get done and get done in (a) timely manner.”

Wolverine Building Group, the general contractor, has plans to complete the roof replacement, exterior restoration and window replacement before the winter, according to the press release.

From specialized trade workers removing asbestos and lead paint to prepare for rehabilitation beginning later this summer, to the removal and disposal of hazardous materials, a lot of work goes into the rehabilitation process.

Morgan said that they have done similar work throughout the country, but working in the Upper Peninsula is very new to them. But the purpose remains the same: to put a landmark building back into the community for use.

“The building has quite a bit of history,” Morgan said. “It is a gorgeous building and the community has really, really supported this moving forward, and we’re excited to supervise it and provide it for the community.”

An Aug. 17 kickoff event at the former orphanage will allow the public to take a gander at portions of the building to see what is to come.

“We are expecting hundreds of people, which gives you an idea of how important it is to the community,” she said. “This building has not been proven to the public in many, many decades, and we’ve gotten an unbelievable response.”

For more information, go to www.hrscommunities.com.