Proposed senior living complex receives renewed support

Amy Lerlie, executive director of Community Action Alger-Marquette, delivers and update on the proposed Jasperlite Senior Living development during a special meeting of the Ishpeming City Council on Wednesday. The council approved a resolution of support for the proposed facility. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — Government leaders and businesses continue to rally around a proposed low-income senior housing complex in downtown Ishpeming.

The Ishpeming City Council at a special meeting Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution of support for the Jasperlite Senior Housing project proposed by Community Action Alger-Marquette.

The council in March initially approved a payment in lieu of taxes ordinance along with a resolution of support for the project.

The proposed development, which consists of 36 rent-controlled residential housing units for senior citizens 55 years and older as well as a community center, would be located on a 6-acre parcel on the former Bell Hospital site at the corner of Fourth and Division streets.

CAAM Executive Director Amy Lerlie said organizers are revamping the application for Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to fund the $5.3 million project.

The first bid this spring was not successful, so project organizers are reapplying for the next round, with a deadline of Oct. 2.

Lerlie said MSHDA initially deducted points from the project’s overall score for several reasons — one being what the committee considered a lack of significant investment in the city.

“They said the public and private investment in the city of Ishpeming was not significant,” Lerlie said. “We appealed the decision and requested verification by what they mean by significant. We have sharpened our pencils and added another 17 pages in private investment.”

The city itself has invested nearly $30 million in “substantial revitalization,” the resolution states. Investments include a $12 million water system improvement, which is underway and will be completed by 2018; a $4 million roundabout project completed in 2016; $1.6 million worth of municipal building rehabilitation work in 2016, with USDA Rural Development funding; an $800,000 streetscape improvement project in 2015; $8 million in the Partridge Creek Diversion Project completed in 2014; and $2.5 million for Ishpeming Downtown Development Authority projects in the last decade.

City Manager Mark Slown said the project would be another positive step forward for the community.

“We’ve got some great things going on and this will help our community be even better. It’s a great thing for this community to have more senior housing,” Slown said. “We know the demographics of our society are aging, life expectancies are longer. Jasperlite would be a good place for people to live. I hope the state will give it its due.”

Lerlie said the Ishpeming City Council can be added to the project’s broad base of support.

The list of supporters includes state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; state Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet; the late state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette; the Marquette County Board of Commissioners; Marquette County Land Bank Authority; Marquette County Brownfield Authority; Lake Superior Community Partnership; Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Bell Auxiliary; Greater Ishpeming Commission on Aging; Ishpeming Public Schools; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Community Foundation of Marquette County; MarqTran; and Veterans Affairs.

“Honestly, it’s hard to talk about this project without mentioning the many, many people who have worked so hard to bring (it) before the MSHDA review team,” Lerlie said. “Certainly, the Ishpeming City Council, City Manager Mark Slown and the city staff have been incredibly helpful and cooperative. I just can’t thank them enough.”

Lerlie said anyone wishing to send letters of support can email her at ahlerlie@communityactionam.org, or mail them to Community Action Alger-Marquette, attention Amy Lerlie, at 1125 Commerce Drive in Marquette.

“It’s so important,” Lerlie said. “The time is now. Ishpeming is moving forward and this is just one piece of that puzzle. I think it could be a big one if awarded.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.