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Old buildings, new purposes: Renovating Michigan's past

Many Huntington Woods residents don't usually think about the goings-on in the Upper Peninsula unless we're making plans for a vacation getaway. But when the Keweenaw Peninsula isn't being visited by vacationers from the Lower Peninsula, many of the towns up north are thriving communities; this could be due in part to the recent renovation projects that are transforming communities in the U.P.

Many property owners in the tiny town of Calumet are taking advantage of the loan and grant programs currently being offered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. It's a chance to not only reuse existing buildings for newer purposes, but a chance to increase business in the community.

Currently, three renovation projects are currently underway in the city. One is of the former Morrison Elementary School which will soon boast new office spaces on the first floor, and 14 apartments on the second and third floors. The plan is to have eight of the apartment units be rent controlled for five years, after which, they will convert to market rate, while the remaining units will function at market rate when the renovation project is complete.

The next property undergoing renovations used to be the town's former Croatian Co-Op, which was constructed by Croatian immigrants as a place to sell daily household needs while also functioning as a social gathering place. The property will soon be transformed into new, energy-efficient apartments, which will boast solar panels on the roof, central heating with the option of becoming geo-thermal at a later date, as well as high-efficiency appliances in all the units.

The third property, which completed most of its renovations in 2010, is now a thriving bakery. Built in 1908, the original building was used as a grocery distribution center. New building owners have plans to renovate the bakery's top floor and convert it into apartment units much like the other two properties in town.

Although small towns have small populations, renovation projects such as these can not only change the face of the town, but entice new residents to settle in their community.

Source: The Mining Gazette, "Looking over some renovations," Kurt Hauglie, Jan. 31, 2013

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