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Orphanage project took years, but was worth the wait

The landmark structure we all know as the old orphanage in Marquette hit a major milestone last week, as developers held an official groundbreaking ceremony on the project that will transform the abandoned building into an affordable housing complex.

The former Holy Family Orphanage, at the corner of Fisher and Altamont streets, is now being called the Grandview Marquette and we are pleased with what this revitalized historic structure will have to offer our community.

This redevelopment is not without its own significant set of challenges, but we should note that it took the partnership and collaboration of several public and private groups to make this project come as far as it has.

The developer, Home Renewal Systems LLC, based in Farmington Hills, is no stranger to major rehabilitations and overhauls of old buildings. They have compiled an admirable track record of successfully completing several redevelopment projects in communities downstate that were centered around historic structures.

Community Action Alger-Marquette is a well-known entity in the region, with experience in providing needed services in a variety of areas, including affordable housing. The folks at Community Action Alger-Marquette will handle tenant applications and other property management duties at the Grandview.

Beyond that, the project received some help from government by being awarded federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, as well as low income housing tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

In addition, the Marquette City Commission threw its support behind the project with a 45-year, 4 percent payment in lieu of taxes.

All these organizations and others which had a hand in the project have made great contributions to making this roughly $15.8 million redevelopment come into fruition.

The building was constructed in 1914 and officially dedicated the year after, but for the past 35 years it has sat vacant. Vandals, squatters, animals and the occasional group of high school kids have been the building’s occupants and visitors since 1981.

There is always a need for more affordable housing and the Grandview Marquette’s 56 units for low- to moderate-income individuals and families is a positive step toward chipping away at that need.We’re also pleased that a percentage of those units will be set aside for individuals who have endured homelessness, those with special needs and others requiring supportive services.

Developers are targeting a late summer 2017 opening date. A significant amount of work has gone into environmental remediation, like removing asbestos and lead-based paints, but there are still significant improvements that must be made before the Grandview Marquette project is complete.

However, after decades of wrangling with one or another property owner, dealing with legal proceedings and facing the occasional threat of demolition, it would appear that this project is ready to begin bearing fruit.

A Mining Journal editorial