Making a small difference in Manistique

During these times of tremendous changes, it’s reassuring to realize that the actions of one person can still make a difference.

Kristina Behrens of Ishpeming is one such person.  Behrens purchased the vacant Manistique Bank building with plans to rent the first floor for office space. A $250,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will help to rehab the second floor for apartments.  

“It’s an illustration of a small but important step to much-needed housing in the community and how one person can contribute meaningfully,” says Victoria George, executive director of Schoolcraft Tourism & Commerce.

Behrens is working on the project in partnership with her husband, Antonio Adan. Adan has 10 years of experience in facilities management and was recently appointed as regional housing specialist for the Marquette County Land Bank. This is the couple’s first mixed-use project (both commercial and residential). Past projects have included residential remodels, and their development team has professional experience in financial and project management.

Kristina BehransKristin Behrans and her husband, Antonio Adan, are the partners behind redeveloping the historic bank building.

“My family has been in the area since the 1960s. We are community-driven and understand the need for additional housing across communities in Upper Michigan,” Behrens said.

Funding: MEDC is assisting with funding support under the Build Michigan Community Grant Initiative. InvestUP, through the Build U.P. Program, provides cash collateral to enhance U.P. lending institution funding.  “The priority of Build U.P. is to expedite the construction of shovel-ready housing projects in the Upper Peninsula. Recipients must partner with a local lending institution to access funds. Funds may cover all or a portion of a calculated shortfall (as described by the lending institution)," according to its website.

Occupancy: First-floor office units have been rented to a remote worker and a domestic and sexual violence advocacy liaison. “We worked with Peninsula Fiber Network to bring in new fiber connectivity to this downtown block of Cedar Street, so it really is an ideal space for businesses. We still have vacancies, either for individual office rentals or for a larger shared office or retail space. We’ve had inquiries but are still looking for a flagship tenant to occupy one of the spaces,” Behrens explained.

Kristina BehrensInside the bank building.Three new long-term residential apartments are planned for the second floor and expected to become available in the fall. Unit A will include three bedrooms, two bathrooms (1,225 square feet); Unit B, two bedrooms, two bathrooms (1,028 square feet), and Unit C, two bedrooms, one bathroom (732 square feet).

Timeline: Work on restoring and renovating the building began in May. Expected completion date is fall of this year. The work has been extensive. Converting former office spaces to residential units involves moving walls, installing new plumbing and mechanical, retrofitting electrical lines and installing residential kitchens, bathrooms and fixtures. Work will follow an architectural plan and each apartment will be partitioned off, using the existing hallway and keeping load bearing walls intact.

HVAC will be redesigned allowing each unit to have its own HVAC control. A shared laundry and storage will be integrated in the rear mezzanine level. High ceilings and a skylight are featured on the second floor and off-street parking will be available to residents in the back lot. Other features include large commercial windows and high-speed fiber-optic internet. Shopping, dining and community activities are easily accessible. 

Historical relevance: The couple is committed to maintaining the historical relevance of the building. “We believe that the architectural features (Jacobsville sandstone, turret) and prior façade restoration make it a beautiful part of downtown Manistique and Schoolcraft County. We believe in preserving the character of the downtown corridor and are grateful we did not have to make any modifications to the exterior. MBank did a really great job keeping the building beautiful," Behrens said. “The main level offices have some original woodwork that has been kept intact and the two bank vaults remain in the rear of the building and will be retrofitted to be useful storage space."

She added that because the upstairs had been remodeled several times over the years there are not many original historic features remaining. 

Background: “The building had been on the market a couple years ago and when we visited, we were immediately drawn to the potential of the floor plan and the building’s beautiful features. We worked with Travis Wood, a realtor at Grover Real Estate in Manistique. Also, as an emerging developer, it was important for us to consider the size and scope of the work that would be needed, and we valued input from a trusted contractor.”

Future plans: The couple is enthusiastic about sharing the knowledge they’ve gained with other emerging developers in the Upper Peninsula. “We are grateful for our part in maintaining a vibrant and livable downtown in Manistique."

Ann Dallman has lifelong roots in Michigan’s UP. She started out as a newspaper reporter/photographer and returned to journalism after retiring from teaching. Her first Middle Grade novel, Cady and the Bear Necklace, received a State History Award (Books/Youth) from the Historical Society of Michigan as well as a Midwest Book Award, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, was a Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist and a UP Notable Book. Her second book, Cady and the Birchbark Box, also received the Historical Society of Michigan State Award, is also a UP Notable Book and was a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona 2023 Book Awards. 
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