As new buildings prepare to rise in downtown Ferndale, an old one is getting a second lease on life. Work is drawing to a close at the new offices of Foley Mansfield in the old Ferndale Public Schools office building.
The environmental-clean-up firm renovated the three-story structure at 130 E. 9 Mile Road, a half block east of Woodward Avenue across the street from Como's. Crews only need to finish installing a smoke evacuation system before putting on the finishing touches on downtown's newest historic gem.
"Everything else can be wrapped up quite quickly," says Mary Lou Youngling, a spokeswoman for Foley Mansfield, adding the project is supposed to be done within six to eight weeks.
The building, one of the oldest in Ferndale, is undergoing a reinvention of sorts. The project is replacing an old garage with a three-story wing of offices that is doubling the building's space to 18,000 square feet.
That wing is filled with large windows that bring in lots of natural light and give its occupants spectacular views of the downtown from one of its tallest buildings. The new addition includes offices, a fitness center, large bathrooms with lockers and a rooftop terrace. The wing's biggest attribute is a nearly four-story, open-air atrium that lets natural light flood the new space.
This isn't a case of out with the old and in with the new. Foley Mansfield is taking pains to not only preserve but showcase the historic characteristics of the building that make it standout.
Numerous brick walls have been left exposed, along with some original wood beams, rafters and mechanical lines to give it a loft feel. The decades old tile mosaic in the front entry is being preserved along with the main staircase railing. Some of the original wood floors are being refinished to give them shine reminiscent of an old high school gym floor.
"We tried to keep as much of the old building as possible," Youngling says.
That old building was definitely showing its age when Foley Mansfield took it over. Evidence of critters littered parts of the building, making the planned move of 34 employees from its Southfield office seem a long ways away.
"Early on in the project, I would come in and find feathers on the ground," Youngling says. "What happened there I didn't want to know."
Even though Foley Mansfield bought the building from International Animal Exchange, the structure has a long history with the Ferndale Public Schools. The building started out as the Porter School in the 1870s until it burned down in 1914.
The current structure was built a year later and served as Ferndale School and Central School until the 1920s. It originally faced Woodward with a small grassy park standing between it and the avenue. Buildings replaced that park and the old Central School became an administration building for the school district until a few years ago.
Source: Mary Lou Youngling, a spokeswoman for Foley Mansfield
Writer: Jon Zemke