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Rising from the ashes

Fire-damaged Hancock building nearly ready for reuse

August 9, 2012
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - On July 25, 2009, a fire, which resulted in the deaths of four tenants, destroyed the interior of the building at 116 Quincy St. in Hancock, but the building will soon be open again with seven new apartments.

For about three years, after debris from the fire was removed and the building was stabilized, the building sat unused and its future was uncertain until local real estate developer Mike Lahti bought it in November 2011.

During a tour of the building Wednesday, Lahti said he expects the building will be ready for tenants in November.

Article Photos

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Developer Mike Lahti, left, talks to Jim Anderson, on scaffold, and Jeff Bakkila of Tim Palosaari Construction about the progress of the framing of the interior of 116 Quincy St. in Hancock.

When the building's previous owner didn't get it rebuilt after the fire, it went to a Houghton County tax auction in August and October 2011, but no one bought it. Hancock City Council members declined to buy it at their October 2011 regular meeting.

The remodeling of the interior is funded in part by a loan from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Lahti said. The contractor for the job is Andrew Lahti Construction, which is owned by Lahti's son.

Seven apartments are being constructed on the three floors of the building, Lahti said. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will range in price from $575 to $750 per month. There will be a laundry room in the basement of the building.

The front of the ground floor will be for retail or office space, Lahti said, and without being more specific, he said there is "a lot of interest" for that space.

Lahti said the two apartments on the ground floor will be unique to the building.

"There'll be lofts in the lower level apartments," he said.

The lofts will look down onto the living space of those apartments, Lahti said.

At the regular meeting of the Hancock City Council in November 2011 during a discussion about the application of the MSHDA loan for the building, Mayor William Laitala said getting it renovated was important for downtown.

"The future didn't look very bright for the building," he said. "It wasn't too long ago (it) was a candidate for the wrecking ball."

In the years between the fire and Lahti's purchase of the building, many Hancock residents told the city council that it should either be torn down because it was becoming a blight on downtown, or it should be saved because it is historic.

In a Nov. 5, 2011, Daily Mining Gazette article about Lahti's purchase of the building, he said he saw a good opportunity to make it a useful part of downtown again.

"It's what I do," he said for the 2011 article. "The outside can be saved. The structure is basically good."

Lahti said he bought the building in 1981 when it was a rooming house. He turned it into apartments, then sold it in 1997.

There haven't been any serious problems with the current renovation of the building, Lahti said.

"It's going good," he said.



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