By Graciella Oteto
Mason Times staff writer
Built in the 1800s, the buildings located at 124 and 140 E. Ash St. are some of the oldest buildings in Mason, undergoing renovations as soon as May.
The two buildings, which stand next to each other, are to have 10 single-bedroom apartments. One building will have residential on the second floor, and residential and office space on the third floor, another building will have two floors, plus both buildings will have an elevator. The buildings are also to have offices on the first floors.
“Took four years to get here, and in about 12 months the project is set to be finished,” said Bruce Johnston, Ingham County Housing Commission director. Because the population has grown in Mason, the apartments are certainly a great addition to downtown, providing access to downtown shops, Johnston added.
Johnston said this means that one of the most deteriorated buildings in Mason will become the largest renovation project in the downtown area.
“I want more apartments downtown … I always have a waiting list for our apartments and I definitely want the buildings improved, they’ve been sitting there for too long,” said Kean’s Store Co. owner Teresa Wren, who is also a landlord, renting 11 apartments above Kean’s with her husband Steve.
The housing will allow anyone who is at or below 80 percent of the area median income, which is currently $37,000 for a single person and $42,250 for a couple. This means that four out of every 10 people who reside in Ingham County qualify to rent the apartments. The current rental rate for Ingham County is $641. Residents living in the apartments will have affordable rent, plus all utilities and new appliances paid for by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).
Mason will be more attractive and also receive future funding from private and public entities due to the project, it’ll show how the city is ahead of the curve and willing to work to protect its town, Johnston said.
Jeanean Blood, owner of Yards of Fabric a few doors down from the buildings, says her main concern is parking, which is already a big issue downtown.
“The roads and sidewalk will be blocked off for safety, the parking in the back for employees will be taken and that’ll create another issue,” she said. Aside from parking, she agrees that the new wave of residents will bring more business into coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques but as for her business, this will be different.
“You have to be into quilting and sewing, and that’s not a general business you walk in and shop at,” she said. Blood wanted more retail shops with a variety of boutiques and other stores to fill the renovated buildings.
The city received four grants for the renovation project, including $50,000 from Mason Downtown Authority, $500,000 from the Ingham County Land Bank, $350,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, $350,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Association and $750,000 from donors.
“Those buildings have sat vacant for a long time, any more foot traffic downtown won’t hurt,” said Chris Wardell, Michigan State University alumni and employee at Bestsellers Books and Coffee who’s been residing in Mason for about eight years.