Central School as it looked last summer following complete site security by Triterra. The building was re-boarded up to prevent excessive weather from entering interior areas of the building.
IRON RIVER—If approval from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority is forthcoming by late April or May, a closing should be completed, allowing Hovey Construction to begin selling tax credits that will fund rehabilitation of the Central School into affordable apartments.
It’s been a while since there’s been an update on the project, but progress is continuing behind the scenes at the former school, most notably with asbestos removal and site security.
The Iron River Downtown Development Authority purchased the building in 2004, explained DDA President Jim Gibula.
Otherwise, it would have gone to the state for back taxes, and the city would “have another Cloverland Hotel on its hands.”
Hovey Construction, which was involved with the Crystal Manor renovation project, took an interest in the school.
At first, the building was to be rehabbed into co-op units, and later a plan for creating affordable rental housing, using the Crystal Manor model, was settled upon.
The DDA and the city’s Brownfield Development Authority provided funding for initial remedial work, including the boiler and smokestack demolition, placement of water monitoring wells, asbestos removal and securing of the site. Lead paint removal is the next step.
An application submitted to MSHDA last year was, said Ron Basso of the DDA, “17 points short” of being approved.
On Feb. 15, the application was resubmitted, using input from the state.
“We now have 180 points,” he said, due, in part, to the project adding a “supportive housing” component, which creates units for special needs renters.
“MSHDA would like to see this project happen,” Basso said, and is hopeful the application will be approved.
The project calls for creation of 22 housing units on two floors, with retail space incorporated on the main level.
In concept, it’s almost identical to the Crystal Manor/Crystal View Apartment project. One-third of the units will be offered as supportive housing, Basso added.
Hovey is using the same architect, Barry Polzin, and rental management company as Crystal View.
Site plans can be viewed on the ironriver.org website, as can an overview of the progress made on the project.
The developer has shown letters of commitment from businesses who will buy the tax credits, Basso explained, and state historic tax credits may also be available.
“This isn’t a government giveaway,” said Iron River City Manager and DDA member John Archocosky. “It’s a method for large corporations to offset their tax debt liability over a 10-year period. It’s not a grant program.”
As with Crystal View, the developer is also contributing funds to the project and is committed to using local contractors and subcontractors for the project.
With MSHDA approval, the DDA can close with Hovey on the project.
“Our responsibility will stop,” Gibula said. “It will be a private sector project.”
“Our objective was preservation,” Archocosky said, adding that to remove the building would cost about $1.5 million.
The total project cost will be approximately $6.3 million.
Because of the historic preservation stipulation, all interior walls will remain, as well as windows and door openings.
A portion of the main level where the roof collapsed will be turned into a courtyard.
A market study was done, the DDA members said, identical to Crystal View’s, which, they added, “is rented up. There’s a waiting list.” Plans also include public space and parking.
“It will be an anchor in the community,” said Gibula, who also noted the project will encourage “walkability” to the downtown businesses.
Announcement of the application approval should take place in late April or May. At that time all parties will go through MSHDA’s closing process.
“By fall we should start doing something on the site,” Basso said. If all goes as planned, the project will be done sometime in 2013.
“We’re pretty confident we will qualify,” Basso said.