Houghton eyes downtown building improvements

HOUGHTON – Houghton is looking to renovate several downtown spaces for apartments.

The Houghton City Council passed resolutions Wednesday authorizing grant applications on behalf of property owners for rental rehabilitation funds for five properties on Shelden Avenue.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. offers the grants for spaces that were vacant, underutilized or had older apartments.

For the first year, more than half of the residents must be low or moderate income.

A $321,750 grant would be used for five upstairs apartments at 510 Shelden Avenue, the former Lode Theatre building, and 515 Shelden Avenue used by Vinyl Truth.

The other apartments would be at 308-310 Shelden Avenue, which include as its tenants Down Wind Sports and Rukkila, Negro & Associates. The three to four apartments would be built off of Lakeshore Drive in space now used for storage. That grant is $280,000.

The city may also be able to do another round of facade grants. More than 20 buildings had taken part in the program, in which the MEDC had provided matching funds for exterior improvements to downtown buildings.

Interest had tailed off after the MEDC had decreased its grant from 75% to 50%, City Manager Eric Waara said. However, Waara said, the MEDC has told him it could be able to provide the 75% matches for historically significant buildings in the downtown.

“We’re going to blast that out, because we really need two buildings if someone wanted to go forward with a facade grant,” Waara said.