IRON RIVER - Work to transform the former Central School in Iron River into the Apple Blossom Apartments could start as soon as this fall, with a grand opening to follow in 2013.
The Apple Blossom Apartments will be an affordable housing complex similar to the Crystal View Apartments in Crystal Falls. The first level will include commercial space and a community room in the old auditorium. The second and third levels will contain a total of 22 apartments.
Ron Basso of the Iron River Downtown Development Authority (DDA) said that people are already inquiring about being put on a wait-list for the apartments.
The former Central School building, soon to become the Apple Blossom Apartments, is located at 218 West Cayuga St. in downtown Iron River.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
"This really means a lot to the local folks to have the building restored," he added. "Many of them went to school here."
Restoring the old Central School is a project eight years in the making.
The building, located at 218 West Cayuga Street, has been unoccupied since 1980. It went through a series of owners, with the last owner owing back taxes on the property.
Due to the back taxes, the property was set to revert back to the state of Michigan in 2004.
That's when the DDA stepped in. The DDA purchased the property in November 2004, then started researching how the building could accommodate different housing options.
However, the DDA encountered several delays to the project.
First, there was an unfavorable tax credit market. Then, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) determined that the DDA would need to remove some underground tanks on the property, and asbestos and lead paint in the building.
With a Brownfield loan in the amount of $734,648, the DDA was able to address most of the environmental concerns in 2008.
Basso said that the project has been on the fast track since the beginning of 2012.
In February, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) approved the DDA's request for tax credits.
Now, the DDA is compiling a bid package to either remove or encapsulate the lead paint in the building.
"It's the last piece of the puzzle," said Basso. "This has been a real team effort between the DDA, the city, the developer, and the community."
Once the lead paint is taken care of, the developer, Hovey Companies of DeWitt, Mich., will purchase the building from the DDA. Construction could begin this fall, for a grand opening in 2013.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.