Calumet to benefit from MEDC projects

CALUMET — The village of Calumet has been making great strides in revitalization in recent years, and the Village and Main Street Calumet have worked hard and invested heavily to make it happen, while at the same time, keeping the historical integrity of the village intact.

A Nov. 21 press release from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office stated that the governor joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to announce three community revitalization projects that will bring economic growth, housing, and increased vibrancy to two Upper Peninsula communities: Iron Mountain and Calumet, which have received support from the Michigan Strategic Fund. The projects are expected to generate a total capital investment of $2.7 million.

In Calumet, the village is contributing a $10,000 grant for upgrading water service. Calumet is engaged with MEDC’s Redevelopment Readiness Communities(RRC) program.

The Redevelopment Ready Communities® (RRC) program is available to communities across the state. It is a voluntary, no-cost certification program designed to promote effective redevelopment strategies through a set of best practices, states the MEDC’s miplace.org website. The program measures and then certifies communities that integrate transparency, predictability and efficiency into their daily development practices. The RRC certification is a formal recognition that your community has a vision for the future – and the fundamental practices in place to get there.

Fire Tower Property Group LLC will use a $307,176 Michigan Community Revitalization Program (MCRP) performance-based grant to redevelop a historic two-story building at 104 Fifth St. in the downtown area. When completed, the building will house Fire Tower Engineered Timber, retaining five high-wage jobs. The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of $644,826.

The 104 Fifth Street building is considered historic but has been vacant and underutilized since a fire in 2021. The building is a contributing resource to a National Register of Historic Places district and in a local historic district.

The building was constructed sometime around 1902 by contractor Edward Ulseth, according to the Keweenaw National Historical Park website. Ulseth’s company occupied the ground floor of this building for many years. The second floor was occupied by the law office of Galbraith & McCormack, as well as the Calumet Township Clerk’s office. In later years, the building was home to a Greyhound bus depot, and a real estate office.

Joe Miller, manager of the Fire Tower Property Group, owns the building commented, saying:

“While our historic office building in downtown Calumet managed to survive a fire in 2021 that destroyed the rest of the city block, it suffered extensive smoke and water damage. After running the numbers, it was less expensive to build a new space outside of the downtown area, but the unanimous desire of our entire office staff was to remain downtown. With the help of the MEDC’s Community Revitalization Program, a grant from the village, and support from a local bank, we were able to buy the fire-damaged building and begin historical sensitive renovations. Without the MEDC, another building contributing the Keweenaw National Historic Park would have needed (to be) razed, but with the MEDC’s help, we (are) able to put a building back on the tax roll and keep professionals working in the downtown area.”

Also in Calumet, Vianis Realty, LLC is rehabilitating a historic two-story downtown building located at 201 Fifth Street into a mixed-use development. When completed, the project will include three residential units and two commercial spaces. The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of $1,212,181, supported by a $574,648 MCRP performance-based grant.

Although the storefont has been altered at least twice, the building was originally constructed around 1870, where John Dymock established the Red Jacket branch of the Baer & Dymock meat market in 1868 in partnership with the Baer brothers of Hancock, states the NPS website. The meat market and the Bastian building on the corner both survived the great fire of 1870. Sometime between 1908 and 1917, a second storefront was added to the building. Over the years, the second storefront was occupied by a telegraph office, the Dawes Hat Shop, and the Calumet office of The Daily Mining Gazette.

Known as its original use as the Baer Brothers Meat Market, 201 Fifth Street is a historic building in downtown Calumet that has been vacant and underutilized because of its poor condition. The building is also a contributing resource to a National Register of Historic Places district and is located in a local historic district.

“The rehabilitation of the Baer Bros. Meat Market building by Vianis Realty, LLC is a testament to its owner’s passion for bringing back Calumet’s original historic building fabric,” said Jeff Ratcliffe, Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance executive director. “It was also a testament to the teamwork of the village of Calumet, Calumet Downtown Development Authority, KEDA, and the MEDC community development team that made financing this project possible. The effectiveness of this partnership has inspired at least three other rehab projects to move forward in downtown Calumet in the past year.”

Local support for the project includes a $5,000 Calumet DDA investment in improvements to the building, and the village is providing six parking spaces in a nearby public parking lot with a $7,200 value over 10 years.

“These development projects reflect our continued focus on regional impact and supporting innovative place-making efforts that lay the foundation for long-term economic wins and greater opportunity for Michiganders,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and President and Chair of the MSF Board. “We are grateful to the Governor and legislators for their continued support of the Michigan Community Revitalization Program among other revitalization and place-making efforts. By working with local partners to focus on traditional downtowns and increase much-needed housing options, Team Michigan is building on our shared strong sense of place while supporting vibrant, unique places where current Michiganders and those we will attract can live, work, and play.”

The governor’s release states that as area companies like Fire Tower Engineered Timber and Calumet Electronics continue to grow and add employees, the need for residential housing in Houghton County continues to increase. This project is in the heart of downtown Calumet within walking distance of a variety of amenities, services, recreation, cultural and entertainment opportunities. It will not only bring additional residential space to the downtown, but it will also restore a vacant, underutilized, historic property into a vibrant building and will help revitalize the downtown district.

“MEDC is making smart investments in our region that will eventually create positive impact for local employers,” said Calumet Electronics Chief Operating Officer Todd Brassard. “The current lack of workforce housing is the biggest obstacle for growing companies, like ours, to attract talent. Thanks to our economic development partners and the participation of many local businesses, the village and downtown Calumet have gained much momentum and heading in the right direction.”

On Tuesday, State Rep. Greg Markkanen (R – Hancock) went on record highlighting the announcements from the MEDC, saying:

“Communities across Michigan are looking at what they can do to be an even better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Markkanen. “These opportunities are big boosts to the U.P. They help revitalize downtown areas and make communities more viable. I am excited to see what these projects do for the village of Calumet, and I will continue fighting for crucial grants and funding in the Legislature so areas across the U.P. can see this support, too.”


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