Gillespie building wins state grant for apartment project

Southern Michigan Bank and Trust can now turn Gillespie’s former funeral home into apartments at 27 Marshall St.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to announce revitalization projects that will bring much-needed housing, economic growth and increased vibrancy to five Michigan neighborhoods with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund.

27 Marshall Street, LLC will rehabilitate the vacant, historic and functionally obsolete Gillespie Building into seven new apartments on Four Corners Park.

The Historic District’s board in 2016 refused by a 3-2 vote to allow demolition due to its historic character, so the bank found a new use for the surplus building it had purchased near its offices on West Chicago Street.

Originally built as a funeral home in 1920, the building was designed by Robert C. Spencer, Jr., a colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright and a prominent figure in the Prairie School design movement. It is believed to be one of only two remaining buildings in Michigan designed by Spencer.

When complete, the project will provide workforce housing with rental rates that are expected to be affordable to households between 80-120% of the Branch County area median income.

In addition to providing needed accommodation, the project will improve the surrounding property to provide parking and improved outdoor space for tenants.

The project will see a total capital investment of $1.8 million, supported by a Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant of $750,000.

Not only will it renovate a significant historic building in the heart of downtown Coldwater, but it will also help support local businesses and stimulate economic activity in the area.

The Coldwater Downtown Development Authority is supporting the project with a $10,000 frontage grant. The city approved a 12-year tax abatement under the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act worth $149,195.

The project received support because Coldwater is committed to MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program and is a Michigan Main Street Participating Community at the Select level.

Audrey Tappenden, Coldwater’s Economic Development Coordinator and Main Street Manager, said, “This project is an extraordinary example of community commitment. Our staff have all worked closely with the developer, MEDC and local councils and commissions to move this project forward through many obstacles.

“Preserving the old Gillespie Building and providing housing for the community will have a huge positive impact on the downtown core,” she said.

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