Will historic East Lansing landmark get needed updates?

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For the first time since March 12, the Historic District Commission met July 9 and was filled with many public hearings. One in particular, however, may seem recognizable to natives and students of East Lansing.

A large blue house, located at 415 M.A.C., is known not just for its loud color, but for it being one of the few properties left in East Lansing as a co-op landmark.

The house is a part of the Michigan State University Housing Cooperative, and allows students to jointly control and have equal shares, membership and occupancy rights to the housing community.

Photo of the Co-op, also known as Howland (Cred Mike McCurdy).

Mike McCurdy, the maintenance coordinator for the MSU student housing co-op, originally requested to have 10 windows replaced with wood/vinyl clad windows and replace the decking and rails on the front porch to match the existing structure.

McCurdy, however, is currently on furlough, so he was replaced by former co-op member Dan Tooman.

“We’ve been flagged for our windows not being hanged properly,” said Tooman. “The sashes are pretty loose and a huge energy efficiency problem, a few of them are even deteriorating.”

Commissioner Aron Sousa, who not only sits on the commission but is also the interim dean for the College of Human Medicine at MSU, warned Tooman about the repairing process of the windows.

“Things like this should be repaired with the same material,” said Sousa. “In particular, historical figures.”

The conditions in the co-op

Tooman stressed to the commission that the living conditions of the house are at risk due to the windows.

“A lot of these fixes are very short term and don’t improve the living quality of any person in the house,” Tooman said. “The original frames, the way they were made, have a lot of tweak, a lot of clay and a lot of air loss.”

Some residents can’t always open their window and aren’t able to sit in their locations properly.

According to the agenda item report, there are 233 properties in the College Grove Historic District. Howland, the name of the co-op, was built in 1903.

Since the Howland co-op is a historical residential area, Vice Chair Diane Wing was troubled due to its original construction.

“My concern about this is the fact that it is a landmark structure,” said Wing. “I’m concerned we would be looking at replacing these windows instead of bringing in a historic windows specialist to make an expert opinion on how they could be prepared.”

All chairs and commissioners who participated in the call (Cred Austin Winslow via Zoom).

Separate from the windows, the commission moved on to accept change for the deck since it would match the existing design and a motion was made and passed.

“I would like to call for a motion for a certification of appropriateness to be approved for replacing the decking and the structure of the porch with preservation as the same detail and column,” said Sousa.

The motion was then second by Commissioner Lindsay Gray.

The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 13, with the intention to make a decision for this landmark structure.