Hancock ordinance applied to structures deemed dangerous

Babcock: Goal to work with owners to preserve buildings



HANCOCK — The Hancock City Council approved enforcing its dangerous building ordinance in an attempt to preserve two historic city buildings at a special meeting Wednesday night.

City Manager Mary Babcock said the hope is to work with the owners of the buildings at 501 Reservation St. and 228 Hancock Ave. to prevent the structures needing to be demolished.

“The goal of this procedure is to get this in better condition, not to demolish it,” she said during the show cause hearing for the Reservation Street building. “It is a gem in the city. So we would like to do what we can to help facilitate making it a vital part in the community.”

The Reservation Street site was used by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church from its 1889 dedication until the consolidation of congregations to other sites in the 1960s. Glad Tidings Assembly of God later used the church before moving to Ingot Church.

The Reservation Street church dates back to 1889, when it was dedicated by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. The ELCA used the church until consolidating congregations in the 1960s. More recently, it was used by Glad Tidings Assembly of God before its move to a church on Ingot Street.

Parts of the brick facade are crumbling, owing in part to the prior decision to paint it, which let moisture seep in, said engineer Mike Drewyor. Issues were also noted with windows and masonry.

Jeffrey Thiel, the owner of the Reservation Street building, said he bought the building because he wanted to save it, and has put thousands of dollars into improvements.

“The history is phenomenal… Finlandia (University) stemmed off of that church,” he said. “It was vital to the area. But I can’t fix all those bricks myself.”

He will be working with the city to come up with a plan for repairs.

Council members said they appreciated Thiel’s willingness to work with the city, and did not expect him to fully restore the building within 60 days.

“A whole company couldn’t do that,” said Councilor Rick Freeman Jr.

The council considered Thiel’s request to modify the language, but ultimately maintained the original language.

Babcock said the city would work with Thiel on a longer-term plan for bringing the building up to code, then vote on it at a council meeting within 60 days.

The church building was the main focus of members of the public who spoke at the meeting. Several who live near the site said they want to see it preserved.

“It’s very, very pretty,” said Stephanie Flint, who lives within sight of the building. “I know it’s deteriorating, but I still think it’s worth rebuilding.”

The second building, 228 Hancock Ave., has been part of the city even longer. The former Masonic Temple was built in 1864. The Masons rebuilt it after a 1929 fire, but vacated it after a second one in 1974.

Current owner Soren Dresch purchased the site in 2007. Five years later, the city took enforcement action for open access to the building, after which Dresch installed new windows to eliminate open access.

In 2014, the city applied for and received a $140,000 Michigan State Housing and Development Agency rental housing grant for four units. Project bids went out, but Dresch decided the next year not to pursue the project. In 2017, he placed the building up for sale for $125,000.

Dresch was given 60 days to comply with the ordinance and work on developing a repair plan.


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