Hidden gem in downtown Mt. Pleasant to undergo redevelopment

Two historic sites in downtown Mt. Pleasant may be getting a facelift thanks to a redevelopment initiative.

Referred to as a request for qualifications or RFQ, an informational package used to pre-qualify candidates when soliciting a service or product, was created for the project area consisting of 200 E. Broadway and 111 S. University, both of which are owned by Isabella Bank.

“We received our certification from the state for the Redevelopment Ready Communities program and one of the benefits of that certification was for them to assist us in creating a redevelopment package for a site of our choosing,” says Jacob Kain, City Planner for the City of Mt. Pleasant.

Kain says that with progress on the 410 W. Broadway project taking final shape when they received the certification in March, the site at 200 E. Broadway was the next clear priority.

Illustration of a preferred development scenario for 200 E. Broadway (left) and 111 S. University (right). Photo courtesy of the City of Mt. Pleasant.
“We wanted to leverage these resources towards something that would have a meaningful impact, and I think this is the type of project that really is transformational,” says Kain. “It's not just a nice project to do, but this really changes the whole dynamic of that block.”

The RFQ outlines the site’s potential, presenting a combination of residential, commercial, and office space as an option, but Kain says they expect the eventual developer will have their own set of plans for the site.

Illustration of a preferred development scenario for the site at 200 E. Broadway. Photo courtesy of the City of Mt. Pleasant.
200 E. Broadway in 1906. Photo courtesy of the City of Mt. Pleasant.

The 3,960 square-foot, two-story structure located at 111 S. University is included in the project area. Built between 1900 and 1910, it served as the Enterprise newspaper print shop until 1948.

200 E. Broadway is a 23,555 square-foot building comprised of five interconnected buildings. After it was built in 1880, it served as Upton’s Opera House and a bank before becoming the headquarters for Isabella County State Bank.

“One of the things that our buildings downtown have is this enormous lifespan,” says Michelle Sponseller, Downtown Development Director for the City of Mt. Pleasant. “They can become different things over decades, or in this case centuries. I mean, you had a bank and who knows what will become next?”

Concept art for an Isabella Bank location leans against the wall in a first floor storage room at 200 E. Broadway in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
Isabella Bank used the building for decades before eventually outgrowing the space. They began moving portions of the business to other locations in the mid-1980s, the last of which was moved in 2018.

“When we approached Isabella Bank about the project, they were immediately on board,” says Kain. “It’s a perfect bookend. We've got this amazing project on the west side of downtown, and to have something equally great happening on the east end I think could have a stimulative effect overall in the district and hopefully bring more people and jobs into downtown Mt. Pleasant.”

The name of a tenant remains on an office door on the second floor of 200 E. Broadway in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. "There are these odd remnants as you walk around and to know that it had so many different businesses over the decades is pretty remarkable," says Michelle Sponseller, Downtown Development Director for the City of Mt. Pleasant. "The sheer scale of doors on the second and third floor are remarkable, and that would have been original growth lumber locally. It's the kind of thing that you would find a way to repurpose, I mean they're just too beautiful not to."
As a local downtown business that has been a part of this community for over 100 years, Isabella Bank was excited at the opportunity to partner with the City of Mt. Pleasant and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) on this project,” says Jennifer Brick, Vice President, Director of Marketing for Isabella Bank. “We are always happy to be a part of growing and developing the downtown area.”

200 E. Broadway last underwent a significant renovation in 1973 when an aluminum and glass façade was installed on the exterior of the building.

“It was an idea to modernize and make it look sleeker, more like a mall,” says Sponseller. “You didn't want old. And because of that, those facades went on all over these beautiful buildings across the state.”

The second floor hallway of 200 E. Broadway, which is a 23,555 square-foot building located in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. "It’s a lot of real estate to have vacant downtown and if you can activate it, it just makes all the difference," says Michelle Sponseller, Downtown Development Director for the City of Mt. Pleasant. "New businesses, and potentially, housing as well. I mean it would be huge, and it hasn't been back online in decades."
Sponseller says one of the incentives for the project is the possibility of utilizing historic tax credits.

“If a developer was looking to use that, there are some features having to do with the facade that they want to see retained, that's the State Historic Preservation Office,” says Sponseller. “So, much of it was driven through that. Taking off that slipcover, for example, is step one.”

Historic features of the structure including the windows and brick are still there, hidden by the façade.

A storage closet in the basement of 200 E. Broadway in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, is labeled with with supply contents in the case of an emergency.
“There's lots of precedent for doing that type of curtain, or false facade removal where folks have added those materials to a building and they're slowly taking it off,” says Kain. “At a certain point people just didn't see a value in it, we're lucky that they didn't just rip them out.”

Sponseller says the timing couldn’t be better, between Isabella Bank wanting to move forward with the project and historic tax credits, previously defunded a few years prior, now being brought back at the state level in addition to the federal tax credits.

“We know the value of our historic buildings and to be able to bring that back to life is just a unique opportunity for us,” says Sponseller. “So, hopefully all these pieces work together and we can have something pretty amazing for our community.”

Developments of the sites located at 200 E. Broadway and 111 S. University
Proposals for redevelopment of the project are due on November 12; and, Kain says Isabella Bank and the City of Mt. Pleasant will then review the proposals to select a preferred development partner. He estimates that mid to late 2021 would be the earliest at which to see physical results of that process at the site.

“Even the simplest project takes usually several months, and this is a more complicated than standard projects because of the age of the building and the incentives that might be involved,” says Kain. “But in the grand scheme of things, we have a building that's been under-utilized for the better part of the last 50 years, and in the next 12 to 18 months we hope to see some really dramatic transformations happening here.”

To see the request for qualifications, which includes the site overview and market conditions, visit mt-pleasant.org/docs/dept/economic/2020-0902.Isabella.Bank.Mt.Pleasant.RFQ.FINAL.PDF.

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