Lumberman Lofts owners Michelle Miersma and her father Matt Howell (far right) cut the ribbon on their renovated downtown building while (from left) Allegan City Manager Joel Dye, MEDC’s Community Assistance Team specialist Sue DeVries and city council member Nancy Ingalsbee partake in the celebration. (Photo by Virginia Ransbottom)

Lumberman Lofts opens its doors in Allegan

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

The official completion of Lumberman Lofts, a newly renovated building in the middle of downtown Allegan, was celebrated with the community on Wednesday, April 15.

The open house included representatives from the offices of Fred Upton, Debbie Stabenow, Gary Peters, Aric Nesbitt and Mary Whiteford giving congratulations at the ribbon cutting ceremony with tours that followed.

In its heyday, the building at 118 Locust St., was Tripp’s Department Store and then J.C. Penney before sitting vacant and becoming a blighted property for decades.

That’s until Michelle Miersma and her father Mark Howell found the building while looking for a development investment.

Miersma thanked local real realtor Carol Sneller who pushed her to look at the building “time and time again.”

“I really didn’t think there was any way this was ever going to work out,” she said. “It was in a downtown where we had never been before with an old historic building full of unfamiliar surprises.”

Two years later, the $1.5 million project is complete with the help of a $700,000 grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The Community Development Block Grant Program provides annual federal funding based on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities.

“These programs breathe life into struggling towns with the power to change the ways things have been for decades,” Miersma said.

The 15,000 square foot building now boasts four commercial spaces on the ground floor and seven one- and two-bedroom, loft-style apartments on the second floor. Both the commercial spaces and apartments feature high ceilings with modern lighting fixtures and panoramic window views.

Original hardwood floorsand  tin ceiling were refinished from its glory days and give the modern amenities a sense of place. With the help of construction managers Creg and Cara Kugelard, Miersma said they are a masterpiece.

Some of the “unfamiliar surprises” included a second brick façade added over the original façade around 1910 to 1920, which made the outside look newer than its 1886 interior, and the discovery of burned ceiling beams from a long ago fire.

But the project has resulted in Miersma buying two more buildings for renovations and several other building owners also in the predevelopment phase of creating additional downtown residential units.

“The City of Allegan and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have been great partners in helping to make this project happen,” Miersma said.

 City manager Joel Dye said the project is a catalyst for others and that’s what the city council was hoping to start when they decided to invest in the riverfront and continue with plans to invest in the city’s streetscape and new city hall.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of interest and investment in our community,” Dye said.

MEDC Chief Community Development Officer Greg Tedder said these projects are really hard to put together financially and it takes a certain kind of developer to see a blighted building and come up with a vision.

He thanked the developers for their vision and the city of Allegan for being committed to making the city open for investment.

“These types of projects don’t just pop up anywhere,” he said. “A lot of work goes into them before I get to stand up here with a tiny plaque.”

While Miersma was waiting until after the open house to review applicants for the building, one business was confirmed to be moving into the center suite. Earthside Health and Earthside Babies offer CPR training, birth trauma support, AED basic life support instruction for healthcare providers, babysitting courses, Lamaze birthing classes and more.

Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at vransbottom@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

 

 

 

 

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