CADILLAC — After COVID-19 caused a 60-day delay, construction on the first phase of the Cadillac Lofts project is expected to be complete by September — so long as there are no further delays.
Marilyn Crowley, vice president of investments at Michigan Community Capital, the Cadillac Lofts owner and development, shared details about the project this week after announcing that the Lofts had found its first commercial tenant, a Jimmy Johns restaurant.
The September completion estimate is just for the first building. A second Cadillac Lofts building will go where the G and D convenience store is located, but work there won’t start until the business moves to its new location. Dean DeKryger, the project’s architect, said work on the second building will most likely begin next spring.
The first building has been enclosed. Windows are installed, kitchen counters are installed, but a lot of the finishing work still needs to be done.
MANY APARTMENTS WILL HAVE A VIEW
When complete (by September), there will be 42 apartments available for rent in the first Cadillac Lofts building; 12 studio apartments, 24 one-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments across three floors (the fourth floor, on the ground level, is for commercial space).
The building was constructed at an angle to Mitchell street, giving about half of the units a view of Lake Cadillac or downtown; the other half, inside the “L‘ that faces Shelby Street, have more residential views.
Crowley said she anticipated that tenants will be able to start moving in during September though probably not all at the same time. She also anticipated that some would want to tour the completed units before signing their leases. Tours can’t happen until the building has a certificate of occupancy, which is expected by September.
People are expressing interest in the building. Crowley said there have been 43 applications of interest for the 42 units, though these are informal applications. Michigan Community Capital has not started running credit checks on would-be tenants. The organization will start contacting people in July, Crowley said.
People from all walks of life have been putting their names on the list. About half are people that are already in Cadillac who have indicated they want to downsize or live closer to downtown. A quarter are from “right outside Cadillac or nearby‘ and the other quarter are from other states, such as Texas or Kentucky and plan to start new jobs in Cadillac.
“We have people that work in restaurants downtown, all the way through to people who work at the hospital, so it seems like the building is appealing to a huge range of people,‘ Crowley said.
DeKryger told the newspaper that the units will all have full-size appliances, including washer and dryer, and that utilities are included in rent. The building’s design places utility closets outside of most of the units (except the two-bedroom units) so maintenance workers won’t need to enter apartments as often. Tenants will have control over their own heating and cooling.
Entry to the building, elevator and individual apartments will be based on a key fob systems, which can be re-programmed when people move out.
Additionally, DeKryger said that the project exceeded recommendations for soundproofing between units.
The studio apartments will range in price from $642-856 a month; one bedrooms will be $700-895 a month the two‐bedroom apartments that will be $1,250-1,295. Additionally, 35% of the units will be income‐restricted for individuals or families making between 60%-80% of the area median income.
The Jimmy Johns restaurant won’t open as soon as the Cadillac Lofts opens; the build-out won’t be able to begin until the rest of the building is finished, Crowley said.
Michigan Community Capital is actively looking for additional tenants, and there’s flexibility as to how many more they need.
“This space isn’t subdivided yet, so we have a lot of flexibility,‘ Crowley said. “We call it a white box. So basically, anybody can come in and put the doors where they want, the restrooms where they want.‘
The downstairs space could be divided up for a couple more small tenants or one larger tenant, she said.
Ideally, one of those tenants would be a business that can take advantage of the outdoor patio space, such as a coffee shop or another restaurant.
Crowley said Michigan Community Capital is motivated to find commercial and residential tenants.
Full occupancy is critical to the success of the building project.
“You need to have a full building for the project to be able to cash flow,‘ Crowley said.
Economic uncertainty has not yet caused the organization to worry about the project’s viability.
“There seems to be quite a bit of interest and discussion around the space ... we’re seeing leases being signed in other properties that we’re invested in. I would say at this time it’s not a worry. We think that we’re still going to find a great tenant for that space,‘ Crowley said.
Michigan Community Capital is a non-profit organization based out of Lansing that “focuses on public‐private partnerships to complete projects that the private sector would not pursue,‘ according to a news release.
In Northern Michigan, private for-profit developers can struggle to get funding for new apartment buildings because there aren’t enough comparable properties for lenders to calculate how much the new building would be worth.
That’s where Michigan Community Capital comes in; they build a project without planning on making a big profit — for the Lofts, MCC anticipates an annual rate of return of about 2% — but once it’s there, lenders have better evidence of the project’s value.
“The nonprofit is trying to tip the scales to make it make more financial sense for a private investor in the future,‘ Crowley said.
Typically, developers pay 20% of a project’s cost and get a loan for 80%.
With the Cadillac Lofts, those numbers are flipped.
MCC has a $2.4 million loan from Huntington bank for the Lofts, but the first building’s overall cost is $9.2 million to build.
“The bank is kind of the smallest portion of the funding source,‘ Crowley said. The rest of the money comes from state dollars, such as funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation or the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, which gave nearly a million dollars for site preparation because the site had been contaminated previously.
It wasn’t MCC’s idea to come to Cadillac — the city reached out to MEDC and MCC to try to get additional housing.
As part of the public-private partnership that ensued, the city agreed to update on-street (public) parking and sidewalks.
“It was always anticipated that the city would support funding for the public infrastructure ... it was kind of like, ‘we’ll build this building if you update your parking and your sidewalks,’’’ Crowley explained. “So that’s been the negotiation from the beginning.‘
Originally, the city had hoped to get a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to pay for the public infrastructure improvements around the building; however, this week the city updated the Cadillac Lofts Brownfield Plan to allow public bonds to front the money, with the city being reimbursed over the next 20 years via a tax capture mechanism that will route tax dollars that would otherwise go to the state back to the city.
That’s been controversial, with some in town viewing the public infrastructure funding as an unfair benefit to a private developer.
There’s also been some criticism of the city for not moving faster to get the certification that would have been necessary to qualify for a CDBG; after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Michigan, it became all but impossible for the certification to be complete before the public infrastructure work would need to be done.
However, proponents of the new funding mechanism say that there’s no guarantee that the city would have received a CDBG for the public infrastructure component of the project and that the city would have needed to make these improvements eventually anyway; the tax capture means the city gets reimbursed for it.
The Cadillac News asked Crowley if MCC could complete the project without the city’s assistance.
She said no.
“Could we complete the project without their assistance? I would say absolutely not,‘ Crowley said. “We’re a nonprofit. We were brought into the project. We weren’t out looking for sites in Cadillac.‘
Crowley told the newspaper it’s typical in communities that have not had large investment in multifamily developments in decades, “that the projects need assistance to support the economics.‘
“I have dozens of examples of projects I’ve worked on where the city supported the project through brownfields tax increment financing, which is what all the discussion is about here in Cadillac,‘ Crowley said.
The public infrastructure improvements around the Cadillac Lofts project include creating and improving sidewalks, widening parking spaces along Mitchell Street, adding parking spaces along Cass and Shelby Streets and re-doing Shelby Street, DeKryger said.
DeKryger said the sidewalk along Mitchell Street in front of the Cadillac Lofts project is so uneven that it’s already a trip-and-fall hazard.
Shelby Street was previously owned by the city. The old Olesen’s grocery store acquired the street when they added onto the building, DeKryger said, to get around setback requirements. As part of the Lofts project, Shelby Street is returning to the city.
Commercial tenants interested in leasing Cadillac Lofts space are encouraged to reach out to Crowley at 517‐803‐0634 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Potential residents should fill out the application form at https://michigancommunitycapital.org/cadillac-lofts