MICHIGAN CITY | The money is now in place for a $12 million renovation of a former historic hotel expected to add significant fuel to the already noticeable revitalization of Michigan City's downtown.
The state awarded $10 million in rental housing tax credits was awarded Thursday to help with the renovation of the six-story Warren Building erected in 1929 in the 700 block of Franklin Street.
Another $2 million in public and private dollars also have been secured for a renovation that could begin as soon as the fall.
"We couldn't be more thrilled," said Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer.
In all, 44 rental units for artists to live and work are planned for the upper levels of the structure vacant for at least 30 years.
Things like a gallery, community space and possible retail stores are on the drawing board for the main level. Having perhaps more than 100 new residents along with traffic drawn to the building should result in more new businesses to fill the empty storefronts still remaining in the downtown, also known as the Uptown Arts District.
The once desolate downtown has shown considerable life in recent years with art being the anchor for new investment. Officials strongly believe reuse of the Warren building will add considerably to that momentum.
"We’ve been told by some of the property owners in that area they’ve kind of been waiting to see what happens to that building before they really pull the trigger on investing further into their properties,’’ said City Planner Craig Phillips.
"Other things are happening but this is the main cake," Meer said.
Artspace, which has 35 other similar projects in other cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, will manage the building. Phillips said Minneapolis-based Artspace based became committed to the project when a survey showed more than 100 artists in a 40- to 50-mile radius showed major interest in moving to the lofts once they are built.
"The history of where they go, they bring revitalization into neighborhoods," city councilman Richard Murphy said.
In addition to being a hotel, the Warren building once was home to city hall and a dentist office along various other uses in areas like retail. It was abandoned during a time when the downtown started to die in the 70s in favor malls and other retail developments on the city’s south side and neighboring communities.