Long-time readers of REVITALIZATION (or readers of The Restoration Economy) know that communities should always look at the potential to repurpose and renew blighted structures before making the decision to demolish them. Not doing so can quickly lead to the loss of community character, not to mention the waste of the building’s materials and embodied energy.
But some abandoned buildings have little or no structural and/or aesthetic value to preserve. In that case, it’s the value of the underlying land that must take precedence, so demolition becomes the right thing to do.
On August 1, 2019, the city of West Branch, Michigan took a step closer to creating a new community gathering space with the demolition of a blighted former laundromat.
“This demolition project has been a great collaboration between the state and city. I’m happy we were able to demolish this building in a safe and efficient manner, and I’m excited to see what the city does with this new vacant plot of land,” said Michigan Land Bank Interim Director Jeff Huntington.
The building has been vacant for more than eight years and has fallen into disarray within the past two years.
Demolition was originally slated for later this summer, but due to a partial collapse of the abandoned building, city and state officials worked quickly to move the demolition up.
“This building has become a hazard and we are incredibly thankful for the Michigan Land Bank’s Rural Community Demolition Grant for giving us funds to demolish this building. We are very excited to turn this previous eyesore into a positive gathering place for community members,” said West Branch Grants, Public Safety and Community Revitalization Coordinator Kelli Collins.
Demolition was performed by Bolle Contracting and was funded by the Michigan Rural Community Demolition Grant. Nine communities were awarded Michigan Rural Community Demolition Grant funds in April.
The Michigan Rural Community Demolition Grants were made available to county land banks and local units of government to help communities remove vacant and abandoned structures from their neighborhoods, allowing them to prepare for future redevelopment that spark business investment and provide job opportunities for residents.
Grants totaling $350,000 were awarded to the following Michigan communities in April of 2019:
- Village of Ontonagon
- Houghton County Land Bank
- City of Harbor Beach
- Ontonagon Township
- Manistee County Land Bank
- West Branch
- City of Newaygo
“This investment will help these growing rural communities eliminate blighted structures and replace them with new developments,” said state Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland, who spearheaded the funding in the budget last year. “I look forward to seeing the positive impact this funding will have in bringing new job opportunities to these communities and improving the lives of area families and workers.”
Proposals were evaluated based on their anticipated impact in promoting public safety, enhancing economic development, public and private investment in the project and alignment with the community vision or other placemaking efforts.
Three of the nine communities (Village of Ontonagon, West Branch and Manistee) are participating in Project Rising Tide, a program run by the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan to provide at-risk communities with the tools needed to design and build a successful economic framework.
In addition to the resources and assistance from Project Rising Tide, grants will continue to help these communities establish long-term sustainable changes to bring about overall prosperity. The Michigan Land Bank will be available to assist these communities to help with future planning, resource acquisition, as well as planning for future developments.
In addition to West Branch, the Houghton County Land Bank has completed their demolition project and the remaining communities are in progress with plans to complete demolition by this fall.
Featured photo shows the demolition of a long-blighted former window factory in the Village of Lennon, Michigan. All photos courtesy of the Michigan Land Bank.