‘Apple Blossom’ opens

IRON RIVER – The transformation of the former Iron River Central School building into the Apple Blossom Apartments was celebrated Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Dozens of area residents gathered to hear officials speak and to tour the building.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, spoke at the event, praising the community’s dedication to the project.

“Something this big doesn’t happen without a lot of people working together,” he said.

The Apple Blossom Apartments are a low-income housing tax credit development, similar to the Crystal View Apartments in Crystal Falls, renovated by the same team in 2010. There are no conventional, market-rate apartments available, officials said.

Two units are reserved for handicapped individuals. Six units have been set aside to house people from three target populations: special needs, domestic violence survivors, and the homeless.

Construction of the apartments, located at 218 West Cayuga Street, was completed in June. The remaining work to be done is on the outside grounds, where trees are being planted and grass is being sown.

Officials anticipated that 20 of the 22 total one-, two-and three-bedroom units will be will be rented by the end of July.

Renovations began in March of 2013, but the Apple Blossom project has been in the works for more than nine years.

The Central School building was constructed in 1904. It served as an elementary, middle school and high school before closing in 1980.

The building has been unoccupied since that time. It went through a series of owners.

Due to back taxes owed by the last owner, the property was set to revert back to the state of Michigan in 2004.

In November, 2004, the DDA stepped in and purchased the property, then started researching how the building could accommodate different housing options.

The project has faced several delays in the years since.

First, there was an unfavorable tax credit market. Then, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) determined that the DDA would need to remove some underground tanks on the property, as well as asbestos and lead paint in the building.

With a Brownfield loan of more than $700,000, the DDA was able to address most of the environmental concerns in 2008.

In early 2012, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) approved the DDA’s request for tax credits.

The lead paint abatement then began in late 2012.

Barry Polzin of Marquette served as project architect and Wolverine Building Group of Grand Rapids as the general contractor.

Those interested in leasing a unit at Apple Blossom Apartments may contact Jeanne Bonetti at (906) 265-6653. This phone number is temporary, pending the completion of an office within the apartment building.

Evan Reid’s e-mail address is ereid@ironmountaindailynews.com.