2018-04-07 / News

City Purchases $430,000 Property Near Airport for Housing Complex

By Jacob A. Ball

The city has purchased this two-acre parcel (outlined in white) near the airport to be developed into apartments for yeararound residents. The property lines shown are approximate, and should not be used for legal purposes. (Mackinac County Equalization Department) The city has purchased this two-acre parcel (outlined in white) near the airport to be developed into apartments for yeararound residents. The property lines shown are approximate, and should not be used for legal purposes. (Mackinac County Equalization Department) The city has purchased property near Mackinac Island Airport for $430,000 to be used for a year-around apartment complex. The city council approved the agreement for the two-acre parcel at the corner of Forest Drive and Greenshed Lane Wednesday, March 14, and the official closing date was Wednesday, April 4. No zoning application has been presented for the parcel, but Councilor Anneke Myers said the lot would be used for “workforce” housing. This project should allow Island residents an opportunity for permanent housing, and, according to Mayor Margaret Doud, add some children to the school.

The Mackinac Island Community Foundation has given the city $250,000 toward the purchase of the property, which is the largest single amount it has ever awarded. Foundation Director Stephanie McGreevy has been involved in the project since the beginning, and she believes it will have a positive impact on the quality of life of the tenants and the community.

“The city is very pleased that we were able to purchase the property, and we feel it is a step in the right direction,” Mayor Doud said, adding that the ultimate goal is to build up the yeararound community.

The Mackinac Island Housing

Committee has been discussing the possible construction of a 12-unit apartment for several months, and identifying the location of-- the development was the initial hurdle. This property was bought from Turtle Island Partners of Harbor Springs, which is represented by Larry Rellinger. The lot was previously proposed in December 2015 by a developer from California for a large apartment complex to house summer employees. That plan never received the Planning Commission’s approval and was eventually abandoned, however, support for yeararound housing is considerably greater than for summer employee housing. Mayor Doud said council members were united in support for this project, and several community members have voiced their approval to her already. She said it has been a community-wide effort.

Additional workforce housing is a long-term goal of the foundation, and Mrs. McGreevy wants the foundation to become a leader in building community capacity. This means strengthening the abilities and resources that a community needs to survive, adapt, and thrive. The entire amount of the Community Foundation’s grant was provided by the Richard and Jane Manoogian Fund for the Conservation and Preservation of Open Spaces. Mrs. McGreevy said this is one of many examples of community members working together to get this project started. She added that the donors would like the foundation, and not themselves, to be credited.

Steve Rilenge, owner of an adjacent property in the Sunset Forest Association, said he supports more year-around housing on the Island and wants to ensure that the design of the building is harmonious to the neighborhood. The previously proposed project was a much larger, 200-bed employee housing project that was met with opposition from the community.

“We want to help the city with affordable housing… it’s something that needs to be done,” Mr. Rilenge said.

Demand for affordable housing is strong, as the inventory of middle-income housing is limited. During a survey performed last summer by the Community Foundation, 21 respondents were identified as having an interest in housing, with an average income around $38,000. This income level is above the threshold for affordable housing, which means the project the project may not be eligible for government subsidies and grants. Cinnaire, a community housing developer from Lansing who has been providing institutional support throughout the process, could be a financer. Last August, Cinnaire estimated rent between $775 and $1,000 a month for a 1,000 square-foot, two-bedroom apartment. Subleasing of units will be prohibited, so employers will not be able to use them for summer housing.

Some residents do not have permanent housing owing to the seasonal nature of their employment or lack of winter housing. Mrs. McGreevy said that the lack of permanent accommodations hinders their ability to become full members of the community. She hopes permanent housing will also promote more involvement in events and organizations. In addition, it can be difficult to change employment if housing is linked to the job, so housing that is independent of any employer makes the employee more independent. A lack of permanent housing can also impede long term planning, as the fluctuation in monthly rent and other expenses limits the ability of individuals to save for a family or a first home, which was identified as an issue by many of the foundation survey respondents.

The design and construction will be performed in consultation with Cinnaire. Mayor Doud said she expects the project to be complete in two years or less. Management of the apartments has not been decided.

Before the sale is finalized, an environmental survey must be performed to ensure that the city is not liable for any contamination or degradation of the property.

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