Redevelopment will occur and reshape downtown Grayling
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Local developers, with a big lift from the State of Michigan, will start to write the next chapter for a significant portion of Grayling’s Michigan Avenue downtown business district later this year.
Thomas and Judy Steffen, from Grayling, plan to construct a four-story mixed-use building with commercial space on the street level and three levels of apartments on the upper floors. The $4.1 million to $5 million redevelopment project will create up to 10 new jobs and eight new rental apartments.
In order to make way for the development, the former Sawmill Billiards building, located at 104 Michigan Avenue, will be demolished. The building where the Crawford County Avalanche is located, at 102 Michigan Avenue, will be torn down. The build adjoining the Avalanche, at 100 Michigan Avenue where the Heirloom Antiques Mall operated several year ago, will also come down.
The Crawford County Avalanche will be moving to 108 Michigan Avenue, where AuSable Fabrics and More was most recently located. The Steffens also own that building.
“The Avalanche is glad to be able to accommodate the future growth and development here in Grayling. We have been in our current location since about 1970,” said Teresa Milliman Brandell, the co-owner and publisher of the Crawford County Avalanche. “During the 140 years the Avalanche has been in business here in downtown Grayling, we have operated in a number of different locations on Michigan Avenue, so this will be one more move for us. The growth and progress in Grayling are exciting, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
Demolition of the three buildings will commence later this year.
“We think maybe by the end of summer or early fall, those will all be demolished,” Judy Steffen said.
The main level of the new development will have space for commercial and retail businesses.
“We’re hoping to attract sort of an anchor store maybe, and then some smaller businesses as well,” Judy said.
The top three levels of the buildings will include efficiency, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments.
“They should be attractive to people who work downtown and just want a place for a single person and the two bedrooms would appeal to people with more than two people in the family,” Judy said.
The Steffens are former residents of Lake Leelanau. They owned property in the Skyline Heights subdivision, located in Beaver Creek Township, since the 1970s.
“We’ve been down here a lot from one time to another,” Judy said.
After living in West Palm Beach, Florida for 32 years, the Steffens moved back to northern Michigan in 2012 and built a home in Grayling Charter Township.
The Steffens decided to pursue the redevelopment project to stay busy during their retirement years.
“It’s exciting and it’s just kind of fun and fulfills a need in Grayling as well, because the thing that is missing here is housing and particularly downtown,” Judy said. “We thought it was a good project. It helped us and it will help downtown.”
The Steffens appreciate being part of the renaissance Grayling is going through with more economic development.
“I’m excited to have some changes coming to Grayling. With all the new businesses which are coming in, I think we need to grow to accommodate the people that are coming to town from all those new businesses that are going in on 4 Mile Road,” Judy said. “It can only be good for Grayling to have some controlled growth. My feeling is if you don’t change, that this town will die. It’s necessary to have changes, and I think so far, the changes we are seeing are good ones.”
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) awarded a $454,000 grant to the City of Grayling for the project. The project was also approved by the Crawford County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Crawford County Board of Commissioners.
“The MDEQ partners with communities to protect public health and the environment and revitalize contaminated property. MDEQ provides grants and loans to pay for environmental investigation and cleanup on brownfields. Brownfields are obsolete, vacant or abandoned properties with known or suspected environmental contamination,” according to michigan.gov.
The grant will pay for ground soil studies, groundwater studies, the remediation of any contamination found, and the demolition of the buildings.
Taxes generated after the redevelopment of the property will go toward paying the state back for the grant.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Community Capital, an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity whose board of directors is comprised of representatives of low to moderate income communities across Michigan, are also assisting the Steffens with the project.
“It’s sort of a lot different pieces that come together to make a project like this happen,” Judy said.
The Steffens are excited to bring more activity into the eastern portion of Michigan Avenue.
“This block is starting to get more lively with Paddle Hard Microbrewery there and I think it’s going to be great for Grayling,” Judy said.
The Steffens hope to have the new building ready for tenants by the end of 2019.
“Once they start, they should go up fairly fast,” Judy said.
Erich Podjaske, the economic development and zoning director for the City of Grayling, hopes the redevelopment will have a domino effect in the community with more multi-level buildings being constructed.
“I’m hoping that this project is the start for many more to come,” Podjaske said. “We’re trying to create a destination for downtown that will flood into other businesses.”