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Work at Ishpeming project site continues

Concrete building remnants are pictured on the proposed site of the Jasperlite Senior Living Community on the corner of East Division and Fourth streets in Ishpeming. The developer of the 36-unit apartment building hopes to begin construction on the former Bell Hospital site this year. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — An empty lot on the corner of Division and Fourth streets in Ishpeming should be a bustling housing development sometime in the next 18 months.

The Jasperlite Senior Housing project, which will consist of 36 rent-controlled residential housing units for senior citizens 55 years and older as well as a community center, a large parking area and new green space, had been delayed due to environmental issues which caused a “funding gap,” G.A. Haan Development Coordinator Ben Ide said in a phone interview on Monday.

“We are still going to try to get shovels in the ground this year,” Ide said. “The site work is done, but there is still demo that needs to happen and excavation, then the foundation. We would like to get all that poured before the snow flies and then we can start framing and work inside over the winter.”

The funding gap will be closed by a $205,626 Brownfield Redevelopment Grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to help redevelop the property, which is the former Bell Hospital site near Ishpeming’s downtown.

The funds will be used to install barriers and a ventilation system to prevent exposure to harmful vapors, and will be administered through the Marquette County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

“Soil and groundwater were contaminated by diesel fuel and heating oil that leaked from underground storage tanks,” the release states, “and from contamination that migrated from adjacent property.”

Ide said the environmental came as a surprise to developers, who wanted to ensure that all the appropriate steps were taken prior to building the development.

“We are installing the Geoseal system to deal with some prior site issues as a means of being extra cautious for our tenants,” Ide said. “This would not have been possible without the help of the Marquette County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and EGLE. We just learned about this in May and here we are in August with a signed grant agreement. That is pretty fast and I just want to thank them for all the work they put into this.”

The EGLE grant will also help to pay for the demolition of infrastructure from the hospital, which was torn down in 2012, such as foundations, parking, curbs and gutters, according to the release.

“(The development will) create affordable senior housing within walking distance of downtown Ishpeming services and shops,” the release states. “The new building will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified, a designation for buildings that meet strict environmental and sustainability standards.”

The project was awarded $671,801 in low-income housing tax credits in January 2018 which is expected to garner roughly $6 million, 32 of the 36 units will be eligible for the tax credits.

G.A. Haan hopes to close on the development in the next 60 days, Ide said, a process that includes getting clearance from EGLE and MCBRA.

“We are not allowed to expend any money until we get the administrative matters with the grant resolved,” Ide said.

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