Apartments Planned for Former Michigan School for the Blind Building in $15 Million Transformation

LANSING – Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero announced a plan today to redevelop the Abigail Building on the campus of the former Michigan School for the Blind that would turn the 164-year-old building into low-income residential apartments. “Once again we were able to preserve an important part of Lansing’s history by repurposing the Abigail,” Bernero said. The School for the Blind opened at the site in 1915, with its most famous alumnus being Motown legend Stevie Wonder. “We have cherished this campus and understood its enormous potential to be transformed into something special,” Bernero said. The city acquired the building from the state in 2005 and has already restored two of the campus’ buildings: The Superintendents House is now home to Rizzi Designs and the former library which is now home to the Ingham County Land Bank.

“The [Abigal] behind us is next in line,” Bernero said. “It’s an extraordinary piece of architecture and an important part of Lansing’s history. Today, I’m delighted to announce that we’ve formed an amazing public-private partnership to bring this historic building back to life.” The school closed in 1995 following years of declining enrollment and moved to Flint. The Abigail has since fallen into disrepair and on more than on occasion was facing the wrecking ball.

“I recall before [Bernero] sat in the seat of the mayor’s office, he called me and said we’ve got to do something about the School for the Blind,” Bob Johnson, head of the city’s Planning and Neighborhood Development Department, said Bernero told him in December 2005.

“We saved this,” Johnson added. “There was discussion of demolishing everything you see on this campus. There were parties interested in seeing everything gone.” The loss of that history could’ve left a gaping hole in the Walnut Neighborhood. Now the campus, which has gone through a slow restoration, will have a shot to preserve its history.

“One reason people have felt so strong about saving it is because it is so unique,” Valerie Marvin, president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, said. Marvin led a tour of the abandoned campus one year ago today.

“It’s not a pole barn,” she said. “It’s not something that you would build today necessarily. It would be extraordinarily expensive to build this today and it will be expensive to restore.”

The proposed renovation will cost an estimated $15 million and will be funded through low income housing tax credits and HOME funds from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and loans from the Great Lakes Capital Fund, which currently owns the property through a subsidiary.

The restoration will be led by the G.A. Haan Development Group, which is based in Harbor Springs. Haan Development has a number of residential properties in northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula as well as Wyoming and the Dakotas. “The word campus comes to mind,” Gerald Haan, CEO of Haan Development, said. He first visited the building six months ago and said that the restoration could start late in 2015.

“Nowadays in real estate development, people use the word campus in commercial complexes,” Haan said. “When I walked out here, I saw that we already have a campus. The land is one thing that caught my attention and the [Abigail] is majestic. Haan said that it is critical that the building’s history be preserved as much as possible. “When you look at the building, the hope is to maintain it as much as possible and I think we can be successful at that.” Haan said that the initial stages of the project will start this summer.

Bernero touted the development as another “stabilizing element” of the neighborhood and, on Good Friday, called it a “Phenomenal Friday” for the city. “There’s an old saying that whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he said. “A project like this that takes a big investment and a big vision is only possible when we all work together. Big deals like this require cooperation from all of us.”

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State Awards More Than $8.4 Million to McKenzie County Development

Affordable Housing Project in Watford City Receives $1.247 Million Commitment

BISMARCK, N.D. – A recent Watford City project award brings the state’s total Housing Incentive Fund (HIF)

commitment in McKenzie County since the program began in 2011 to more than $8.4 million. The program has leveraged $47 million in construction financing in the county to create 280 new affordable housing units.

“North Dakota’s Housing Incentive Fund is one of several tools used to facilitate the development of affordable housing throughout the state,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “Our strategies to expand the development of affordable housing are working and we will continue to support this important development.”

“In the last three years alone, the state has invested nearly $50 million to support the development of more than 1,500 affordable housing units statewide,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “This project is a great example of our commitment to expanding the development of affordable housing for fixed-income residents and employees who provide essential services in our rapidly growing communities,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

McKenzie Park Apartments was selected to receive $1.247 million in development support from HIF following a recent funding round. The $10.26 million complex will include six units for households earning up to 80 percent of Area Media Income (AMI). Forty-one units will be reserved for Essential Service Workers (ESW) earning up to 140 percent of AMI. The remaining 13 units will rent at market rate without income restrictions.

HIF is administered by North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA). The program provides developers of affordable housing with low-cost financing.

“NDHFA’s mission is to ensure that everyone in our state has access to affordable housing,” said Executive Director Jolene Kline. “We continue to work with the Industrial Commission members to address North Dakota’s housing needs and we are grateful for the partnership with G.A. Haan Development that will provide Watford City with these housing options.”

Haan, developer of the McKenzie Park Apartments, also received a $3.7 million commitment from McKenzie County to support the installation of infrastructure and assist with construction costs. The county chose to make the commitment because of the project’s focus on housing individuals who provide essential community services including education, medical and law enforcement. McKenzie Park Apartments will begin development this fall.

G.A. Haan Development is based in Harbor Springs, Mich. McKenzie Park Apartments will be the developer’s fifth affordable housing project in North Dakota.

NDHFA is a self-supporting state agency that finances the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing across North Dakota. The North Dakota Industrial Commission, consisting of Governor Jack Dalrymple as chairman, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, oversees the agency.