Flood-damaged Midland homes are getting a new life.
It's a story the Midland community knows too well. Beginning Sunday, May 17, remnants of Tropical Storm Arthur dumped 4-8 inches of rain across the Great Lakes Bay region. On the evening of Tuesday, May 19, the earthen portion of the Edenville Dam was breached, causing flash flooding that overwhelmed the Sanford Dam — resulting in the highest flood ever recorded in Midland County.
Tom Lane purchased the Valley Drive home in 2015. Over 10,000 people were evacuated. Amazingly, much to the credit of a fast-acting emergency alert system, no lives were lost in the disaster. However, over 2,500 buildings were damaged, racking up an estimated $175 million in damages according to Midland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark Bone. Across neighborhoods on the west side of Midland, new and existing homeowners are still working toward a return to normalcy.
Valley Drive in Midland boasts beautiful historic homes nestled in rolling hills and the shadows of mature oaks and maples spread throughout the landscape. It's the kind of neighborhood typically popular for nighttime Christmas decorations.
Rather than strand lights and ornaments, many homes feature contractor vans. On a recent Sunday afternoon, a carpenter worked to cut subfloor in one home's garage, while across the street an HVAC specialist was busy returning central heat to another.
Tom Lane purchased 3410 Valley Drive in 2015, spending a significant amount of time to turn a house that had been unoccupied for several years into a true home.
A view of the dining room before the flood damages.
"We put a fair amount of money into it in 2015," says Lane. "Then 2016 was good — we liked 2016. ‘17 was not so good. We took a basement full of water, right up to the floorboards. It was horrible but it also gave us the opportunity to turn our basement into something we were happier with."
In June 2017, 7 inches of rain fell overnight onto the already-saturated ground, flooding across much of Midland and surrounding communities. The 2017 flood is now the third-highest ever recorded at just over 32 feet, surpassed only by the 1986 and 2020 floods.
"It's in the flood zone, so we did carry that insurance," says Lane. "We were disappointed; it covered about a third of the costs to restore. So after the first three years, we put a lot into the home. But we truly enjoyed it — it's a gorgeous location, close to the Rail Trail, Valley Park right behind you. It's an awesome house."
The kitchen was renovated in 2019 following the 2017 flood.
After investing in a kitchen upgrade in 2019, the Lane family had hoped the flooding issues were behind them. Then, the unthinkable.
"We had over 4 feet of water on the first floor. Basement, garage, first floor — all completely destroyed. Fortunately, the insurance worked out better this time. But there was so much damage, we still maxed out the policy."The damage was extensive to Lane’s home.
Tom Lane and his wife, Gail Hoffman, didn't have it in them to go through another round of renovations. Faced with a myriad of repairs and the possibility of having to raise their home a full 5 feet to be out of the floodplain per Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements, they chose instead to contact Modern Realty and sell the home.
"I was involved in several transactions on Valley Drive," says Travis Fader, the real estate agent who listed Lane's home. "What happened was just awful, but it's really great to see homes in such a beautiful, historic neighborhood being restored. That was my ultimate goal — finding buyers who were willing to take the risk and bring these homes back."
One buyer was willing to take that risk. Jim Hohmeyer used to be neighbors of Tom and Gail when they all lived on Orchard Drive. When he discovered his once-neighbor and fellow Rotarian was selling his home, Hohmeyer decided it was a project worth taking on.
Hohmeyer shows how high the flood waters reached on the main level of this home.
"Tom and I have known each other for years," says Hohmeyer. "I had seen a post from him on Facebook that a deal on his Valley [Drive] home fell through. I messaged him that night, and a couple of days later I was the owner of the house."
"I was really thrilled that we were able to fulfill some of his dreams, help us out, and keep it in the Rotary family as well," says Lane. "We just signed a purchase agreement on a condo and will stay in Midland. It's home."
Valley Drive was one of many streets in Midland with piles of debris following the disaster in May.
Hohmeyer is no stranger to the real estate market; he owns several rental properties in Midland. Even so, purchasing a home that has seen damage in three major floods isn't for everyone.
"I got into selling and renting real estate when I lived in Grosse Pointe," says Hohmeyer. "I liked the business, so I've been doing real estate rentals since 1990. That experience with a lot of renovations and upkeep serves me well for a property like this, and I'm glad to be able to bring it back to the beautiful home it was and is."
Hohmeyer is a well-known musician and music instructor in Midland.
The job to restore the home is not a small one, and certainly not finished. A variety of contractors are currently occupying the space, replacing subfloors, drywall, and three furnaces, among other repairs. Hohmeyer found a unique solution for the initial work. A longtime piano teacher, he discovered his students were having difficulty finding summer jobs. He hired several students and their friends to help clear out the home.
"Most of them were in the local high school bands," says Hohmeyer. "Because of COVID, they couldn't go to summer camps, and a lot of local jobs dried up. So I paid them a good wage and they came in and did a beautiful job. I hired a local contractor to help and supervise, and after about three weeks we had the house pretty much gutted."
Jim Hohmeyer and Susan Mercy stand in front of the Valley Drive home, purchased from Tom Lane and Gail Hoffman.
Hohmeyer and his partner Susan Mercy are still unsure of their plans for the home, but high on the list of options is living there themselves. Regardless, they were happy to be able to take on the project and help bring this neighborhood a little closer to what it was. For Lane, Hohmeyer, and many others in Midland County, efforts toward returning to normal are well-spent.