Coldwater’s Gillespie building, an example of Prairie School architecture, is being redeveloped


What’s happening: An architecturally significant and historic building in downtown Coldwater is set to be rehabilitated and redeveloped, and grants from the city and state will help make it happen. Known as the Gillespie building, the old funeral home first built in 1920 and now vacant will soon transform into a multi-family apartment building with seven residential units in downtown Coldwater.

A little bit of history: The Gillespie building, located at 27 Marshall St., was designed by architect Robert C. Spencer, Jr., a prominent figure in the Prairie School design movement, which is widely considered to be the first distinctly American architectural style. Spencer was also a colleague of the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the founder of said Prairie School. Coldwater’s Gillespie building is thought to be just one of two Spencer-designed buildings left standing in Michigan.

What’s planned: 27 Marshall Street, LLC, which is owned by Southern Michigan Bank & Trust, will renovate and redevelop the old funeral home as a seven-unit apartment building, with new parking and enhanced outdoor space planned. The developers anticipate the project to total more than $1.8 million in capital investment. Rental rates are expected to be accessible for those households making between 80 and 120 percent of the Branch County area median income.

Why it’s important: "Renovating the Gillespie building will be another catalyst to our community’s downtown revitalization efforts,” says Keith Baker, Coldwater City Manager.

How they’ll do it: The redevelopment project is receiving a $750,000 Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF), a $10,000 facade improvement grant from the Coldwater Downtown Development Authority, and a 12-year Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act tax abatement with an estimated value of $149,195.

Regarding the MSF grant, Baker says that, “Eligibility for this funding source is based on the City’s participation in the (Redevelopment Ready Communities) Program, which has involved the support of staff, City Council members, and our boards and commissions. This is an exciting project that we are eager to see come to fruition.