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Build Well, Live Simply

 

714 East Grand River Howell, MI

 

Introduction

After practicing architecture out of my office in Brighton for 15 years, I decided that it was time to build my own building. I started looking around the neighboring city of Howell for sites, when I came across a derelict apartment house on Grand River Avenue, the main street through Howell.

 

First Steps

The house was in poor shape and did not seem like an attractive prospect, but as I was walking around the site, and idea popped into my head. I realized that if we tore down an old shop building in the back and shared a driveway with our neighbor, there was room to add an addition mimicking the original structure. The sketch at right was my first design attempt.

I teamed up with a local contractor as a partner to minimize the risk, and we set off on the project. We quickly received our site plan approvals from the city. It seems that when you propose to renovate a rundown house occupied by drug users, the approvals come very quickly.

 

Construction

Once we had site plan approval from the city, I finished up the construction drawings. See construction drawings lower right. Construction did not start for another year due to delays in getting the financing finalized, but it did start and we were able to move in during December 2005.

 

The Recession

Everyone in the community loved the project, but the timing really could not have been worse.

Owning commercial real estate has been far more of a challenge than I ever imagined. During the last 8 years, I have had to deal with the Great Recession, plunging property values and rental rates, tenants going out of business, the primary lender closed down by the FDIC, bankruptcy of my co-owner and years of challenging negotiations with an ever changing cast of bank officers.

 

Update

Amazingly enough, things have worked out. My wife and I now are full owners of the building. The last remaining piece of long term financing just fell into place. It is fully occupied and profitable. We just sort of outlasted eveybody else.

One thing I learned though is that if you are going to build, build a great building in a great location. When times get tough, those are the buildings people will still want to be in.

714BeforeBlank714During

714 East Grand River - Before (above) and after (below)

714Front3

First Sketch

714Sketch

Site Plan Review Drawings (2 of 5 shown)

(Sorry about the image quality, but the drawings have been reduced from 36"x24")

SitePlanA-1

SitePlanC-2

Construction Drawings (5 of 12 shown)

PermitsA-1

PermitsA-2

PermitsA-3

PermitsA-4

PermitsA-5

View from the Southwest - Late Spring

714SW