MARQUETTE - The city of Marquette is officially seeking a $1 million state grant to facilitate demolition of the city's former Holy Cross Orphanage.
The Marquette City Commission on Monday voted unanimously to submit a grant application to the state. The funding, sought jointly by the city and the Marquette County Land Bank Authority, is available in Michigan through the 2012 Blight Elimination Program, the result of a lawsuit settlement with five of the country's largest mortgage service providers.
Of $97.2 million allocated to Michigan, $25 million is being directed to blight elimination. From that total, $10 million is slated for projects in the city of Detroit, with the remaining $15 million to be distributed to projects in communities across the state.
The Marquette City Commission is seeking state funds to demolish the former Holy Cross Orphanage, seen here at 600 Altamont St., in Marquette. City officials claim the demolition of the structure would greatly increase the safety of the neighborhood, in addition to boosting property values and spurring further development in the area. (Journal file photo)
Commissioner Don Ryan said the application was just the first step in a long process and that funding for the demolition could be "a long shot."
"I certainly applaud the city staff and the county staff for trying to take advantage of this opportunity," he said. "I can't imagine anybody in town who would not be happy to see that building demolished."
The former orphanage, a building last utilized more than three decades ago, has fallen into advanced disrepair. In recent years, the property was foreclosed on and is currently owned by the Las Vegas-based Meranto Living Trust. An outstanding court order deems the property a public nuisance and demands the building be repaired.
In a structural review of the building that was included with the application, city Fire Chief Tom Belt suggests demolition, as the structure is "not practicably salvageable." The roof, he said, contains gaping holes, completely open to the elements, while the building's columns, roof beams and ceiling joists are crumbling.
A schedule included in the grant application projects that condemnation proceedings would begin on the property in March of 2013.
Commissioner Mike Coyne said he understands that there are people in the community who would like to see the building saved, but that the decision to seek funding for demolition was not made on a whim.
"We have tried to do something with that for years and years and years and years," said Coyne, a former Marquette mayor. "We have exhausted virtually every possibility trying to save it and it's just getting nowhere. I think this is a step in the right direction."
According to city staff, the county building inspector has done a walkthrough of the building, which would allow the city and county to move jointly on condemnation proceedings.
According to the application, the demolition of the structure would greatly increase the safety of the neighborhood, in addition to boosting property values and spurring further development in the area.
Were the $1 million grant to be awarded, $700,000 would go toward demolition and site clean up, while $300,000 would be used largely for asbestos abatement. The goal, according to the city application, is to complete the project by July of 2013, leaving behind a 2.3-acre green space, zoned for multi-family residential use.
With the application, the city and the Marquette County Land Bank Authority included letters of support from the Marquette Downtown Development Authority and the nearby D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans.
The final decisions on projects selected for funding are expected by Feb. 15, 2013.
When considering how to best distribute the $15 million in available funds, the state will consider geographic distribution.
The county land bank authority has also applied for $500,000 to demolish several multi-unit residential structures and garages - vacant for nearly two decades - located at K.I. Sawyer.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.