Ash Street buildings to undergo $2.1 million in renovations

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By Abbie Newton
Mason Times staff writer

Two of the oldest buildings in Mason will be developed into office space and apartment living, City Administrator Martin Colburn said.

Colburn has been working on the redevelopment project since 2009. He said the two buildings, 140 E. Ash St. and 124 E. Ash St., stand side by side in downtown Mason.

“In historic downtowns, when buildings come down, they do not get resurrected and you have these holes in your downtown. It is kind of like your tooth. If you lose a tooth, you lose that structure and integrity of your downtown.” -City Administrator Martin Colburn

Colburn said one of the buildings has two stories and the other has three. The first floor of both buildings will be developed into office space that will be occupied by a financial group, Colburn reported. He said he cannot disclose the name of the group.

Jane Surato-Lyon is the owner of Golden Shears, and her business neighbors the two buildings. Although she is looking forward to the redevelopment, she was a little disappointed that the first floor would be used for office space.

“I would rather see anything but that. I would like to see more retail or something that would draw more people.” -Jane Surato-Lyon

In addition to office space, there will be 10 single apartments on the second and third floors of the buildings, Colburn said. There will be a conference room and lounge on the third floor of 140 E. Ash St. and a parking area behind the buildings.

Ingrid Nova works in Mason and was pleased that the buildings were being redeveloped. Nova lived next to the buildings from March 2009 to March 2013. She lived in an apartment above the chamber of commerce and walked by the abandoned buildings every day.

“I thought it was a shame because it was a good space, and it was sad to see vacant buildings right downtown. It is a wonderful step forward, it is very beneficial to the city and beneficial to residents.” -Ingrid Nova

Colburn said there is certainly a need for the apartments since the population of the city grew by 16 percent from 2000 to 2010.

“Over 600 housing units have been added in the last decade,” Colburn said.

He said there are about 50 other apartments downtown, most of which have one bedroom.

“More and more people are looking for this lifestyle,” Colburn said. “It ranges from people who do not want to care for a house to a single person or couple in their twilight years.”

Colburn also said he has noticed more young people interested in downtown living.

“It is comfortable and easy,” Colburn said. “You can go to the coffee shop, hang out, walk to the store or walk to the bar.”

Although Colburn is uncertain of the day construction will begin, he said the goal is to finish the project within a year from when construction begins. Colburn said the estimated cost of the project will be $2.1 to $2.2 million. The city sought private developers and grants to fund the redevelopment, but Colburn said it was challenging.

“There are many different moving parts,” Colburn stated. “There is a large volume of grants, volume of agencies and the volume of people. You have regulators from different agencies and from the city.”

The city received four grants for the redevelopment: $350,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, $50,000 from Mason Downtown Authority, $500,000 from the Ingham County Land Bank and $350,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Association. Private donors contributed about $750,000.

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