A new Grandview

The new Grandview Marquette is shown here. Following an extensive renovation of what used to be the Holy Family Orphanage, which sat vacant for decades, the stately old building will now provide affordable housing to the formerly homeless and to low-income families. (Photo by Jackie Stark)

By Jackie Stark

A rundown old building looming over Marquette has found new life as low-income housing, with the renovation of the former Holy Family Orphanage into  Grandview Marquette.

“The Grandview has stood on this bluff in our city—like a rock—pleading with us to give it the new life that it deserves,” said Marquette Mayor Dave Campana at a press conference announcing the building’s opening. “At the same time, it has been a black eye on our downtown for far too long. The opening of the Grandview Marquette is one of the most exciting days in the past 100 years of Marquette’s history.”

Home Renewal Systems (HRS) of Farmington Hills, Michigan, spearheaded the repurposing of the 1915-constructed historic orphanage in partnership with Community Action Alger-Marquette (CAAM).

A kitchen from one of 56 units inside Grandview is shown here. (Photo courtesy of Michigan State Housing Development Authority)

Among Grandview’s 56 units are 42 units for households earning between $12,000 and $36,000 per year. Rents for these units will range from approximately $301 to $879 per month, depending on household income and unit size. In addition, with support services coordinated by CAAM and long-term rent assistance from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, eight additional units are set aside for homeless individuals and families. Six more units will be set aside with rental assistance for low-income households needing in-home medical services, through a cooperative relationship between CAAM and the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP).

Rick Ballard, an HRS development consultant, said utilizing the space for low-income housing was critical to making the project financially feasible for the company.

“These projects are expensive when you do them right,” Ballard said. “The only way to really do that is to obtain an allocation of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.”

That’s exactly what the project did, receiving support in the form of $13 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and roughly $2.4 million in federal Historic Tax Credits, both administered by the MSHDA. In addition, the Marquette County Brownfield Authority also provided support for environmental assessments of the property.

A photo of the original interior of the Holy Family Orphanage chapel. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Regional History Center)

Ballard said while HRS often undertakes low-income housing projects, they are not automatically well-received by the public. But in Marquette, he said, the company found a receptive community.

“We were really pleased with the way the community recognized the issue of scarcity of affordable housing in central Marquette, and that they were welcoming affordable family housing,” Ballard said. “That’s not always the reception, and it’s told us what kind of a welcoming community Marquette is. It was great.”

Indeed, the community turned out in droves to a press conference held in November, unveiling the building’s transformation to an eager public. Free tours were given throughout the day, offering curious community members a chance to see how much work had been done. The overall volume of work was extensive and took longer than had been originally anticipated.

“When you undertake a building like that, you simply have to expect the unexpected,” Ballard said, adding contractors removed 1,200 tons of debris from the building, spending north of $300,000 just to get rid of hazardous materials alone.

“It was very daunting,” he said.

Following demolition came the construction phase, when contractors worked to turn the 100-year-old structure into modern apartments. Among some of the work they completed was installing brand new windows designed to look like the original ones and refitting the building with energy efficient systems.

The heat pumps installed in the building utilize the thermal mass of such a large structure, utilizing warm air from the south side of the building and cool air from the north side whenever necessary.

Ballard said HRS also wanted to ensure the long-standing history of the building was preserved in any way it could, which is why it chose to install the special windows. The company also kept the wood from trees that were removed from the property, keeping it in storage for now in the hopes of utilizing it in some way in the future.

“We are really pleased to be a part of the Marquette community,” Ballard said. “We’re pleased to be so closely connected to a bustling and vibrant downtown, and to the non motorized pathways that connect us to the downtown and the lakefront, and so on.

“We’re really excited to have this kind of proximity to the new hospital campus,” he added. “A lot of our folks will have walkable access to jobs because of our location.”

That sentiment was echoed by Amy Lerlie, executive director of CAAM.

Lerlie said as the price of real estate in the City of Marquette has increased over the past 10 years—even continuing on the upward trend though the housing collapse and Great Recession—a 2017 Community Action Market Study for affordable senior housing concluded there was a less than 1 percent vacancy rate.

“That means more people need affordable housing than is available,” Lerlie said in an email. “It’s important to have affordable housing in close proximity to employment and other opportunities and essential services. Imagine being a disabled single mother needing routine physical therapy. You’ve got limited income, can’t drive due to your health, and need to be on a public transportation route. Now imagine you live in Negaunee Township!

“Grandview is within blocks of UP Health System’s new hospital and on a MarqTran route. It’s the perfect situation for those who need it,” she added. “Now imagine you’re a recent graduate of NMU. It’s your first job.  You don’t have a car. Living downtown in an affordable unit gives more opportunity for upward mobility. That’s our goal.”

That goal will be fulfilled in December as the building opens up to its first set of residents, one of whom will be 39-year-old Navy veteran Jason Wieczorek, a man who will no longer need to describe himself as homeless.

According to a press release, Wieczorek graduated from Munising High School in 1997 and enlisted in the Navy to become a “smoke jumper”—a specially trained firefighter—with plans to join a fire department after completing his military service. During his four-year tenure in the Navy, Wieczorek battled numerous fires in foreign countries and was exposed to inhalation of toxic smoke and other hazardous materials. He was honorably discharged in 2001.

Following his discharge, Wieczorek enrolled at Ferris State University, planning on becoming a pharmacist, but then Wieczorek got sick. He started experiencing severe chronic headaches from his time in military service that would leave him incapacitated for days. He ultimately had to leave school. Neurologists with the Veterans Administration are continuing to try to determine a path of treatment for his disability. Wieczorek currently has $200,000 in student loan debts from his time at Ferris State University. Since moving to Marquette, he has lived in the woods, sleeping under a tarp, and stayed at the homes of friends and family.

Now, he will be one of Grandview’s first residents.

“(CAAM) got involved because Low Income Housing Tax Credits, necessary for financing a project of this scope, are awarded on a competitive basis. Extra points are awarded to developments involving non-profit partners, projects that set aside units for those who are homeless and have special needs, and for experience,” Lerlie said. “Community Action Alger Marquette is a non-profit offering homeless services and has nearly 20 years of experience in affordable housing development. We enjoy our partnership with Home Renewal Systems because they are committed to the needs of the local community and have given us the opportunity to be a part of something so special. I’m a daughter of Marquette and feel privileged to have been involved in saving an iconic structure that in all reality belongs to the people of Marquette.”

Lerlie said CAAM, as an owner partner, will operate the site and will coordinate supportive services that promote independent living and improved self-sufficiency.

MM

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