Ishpeming City Council hears presentation on proposed senior living development

Alger Marquette Community Action Board Executive Directory Amy Lerlie, (standing) addresses the Ishpeming City Council at a special meeting Monday about a proposed rent controlled senior living facility at the old Bell Memorial Hospital site on Fourth Street. Developers are submitting an application low-income housing tax credits or a mortgage loan to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to fund the project in the early part of April. From left: city attorney Bonnie Hoff, Mayor Joe Juidici, city manager Mark Slown, council members Karl Lehmann and Mike Tonkin, and assistant to the city manager Cathy Smith. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — The former Bell Hospital site in downtown Ishpeming may be the future home of a senior housing project.

Amy Lerlie, Executive Director for Alger Marquette Community Action Board gave a presentation to the Ishpeming City Council at a special meeting on Monday.

Lerlie presented information about the project, including preliminary renderings of what the complex will look like.

“We have signed a purchase agreement for the former Bell Hospital site, and are looking to redevelop that site and are really excited,” Lerlie said.

The presentation was held in anticipation of the first reading of a proposed city ordinance that will allow G.A. Haan Development of downstate Harbor Springs, the developer on the project, to pay a service charge in lieu of taxes.

According to a draft of the proposed ordinance, the development, sponsored by Jasperlite Senior Housing Limited Dividend Housing Association, LLC has offered, “subject to receipt of low income housing tax credits or a mortgage loan from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to erect, own, renovate, rehabilitate and operate a housing development.”

Lerlie said owners would pay a flat service charge of four percent of the net revenue from the property consisting of all rental income after utilities and vacancies are subtracted.

“I think it’s important to note that, with 36 units you are going to be looking at $10,000 to $12,000 in tax revenue,” Lerlie said. “The site had belonged to Bell Hospital, and before that CCI and then Great Lakes Recovery Center, and so to the best of my knowledge the city has never received tax revenue from that site.”

Haan Development Coordinator Ben Ide is the same developer that rehabilitated the Phelps School building into Phelps Square apartments consisting of 24 units of low to moderate income housing in 2015.

The plan is to construct 36 rent controlled residential housing units for senior citizens 55 years and older at 185 S. Fourth St. across from the Ishpeming Senior High School, Lerlie said.

“So some of the units would have lower rents based on income and then gradually going up, much like our own neighborhoods, where we have a variety of income levels,” Lerlie said.

The expected cost of the project is between $5 million and $7 million, Lerlie said.

The development would consist of a two story building with 16 residential units, administrative offices and a community center as well as five detached structures each containing four residential units.

City Council member Karl Lehman expressed a hope that the development would allow parking for high school and middle school sporting events.

“As I look at the map here, I counted about 105 parking spaces, I don’t know if that is a conceptual thing by the artist or what you are shooting for.” Lehman said, “I am wondering if, in the spirit of community if there is a way if you would consider at least entertaining the thought of community use of that parking lot after 5:00 say during basketball, or volleyball or W.C. Peterson things?”

Lerlie said allowing community parking for those events is a distinct possibility.

“The idea would be to locate the community center which requires a significant amount of parking that may or may not be used, and try to work with the school,” Lerlie said. “I am well aware of their need for parking,”

Council member Stuart Skauge expressed concerns about building on the site, citing flooding in the spring and issues with a construction project at the nearby Ishpeming High School.

“When the school did their project, they excavated 25 to 30 feet of bad dirt, and that could eat up a lot of money,” Skauge said.

Ide said he was in the process of ordering a phase 1 site assessment, which should be done by the first part of April to address those concerns.

The other important piece is a market study, which will be conducted by a third party company to determine whether there is a need in the community for more senior housing.

“That market study is going to tell us what income bands we are going to be serving, but we are acutely aware that there is a need for moderate senior and comfortable market rate senior housing in Marquette County,” Lerlie said.

If the first reading of the ordinance is approved at the council’s regular meeting on Wednesday, a second reading will come before the council at its regular meeting in March.

“This is really an important decision for them. And it is, of course adjacent to their downtown, so that is an important consideration,” Lerlie said. “We are looking to create a really nice place for seniors to live and stay in their community, very much like we have in Marquette, but here in downtown Ishpeming.”

Lerlie said the application for MSHDA funding is due in the first part of April.

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