Michigan visit alludes to RTC’s future
By Susan M.A. Larson
Possibilities for the Regional Treatment Center are as expansive as the campus itself, Economic Improvement Commission Director Harold Stanislawski said.
Stanislawski, representatives of Jeff Schlossman Investments and Hawthorne Development and local businessmen spent Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., touring its former Kirkbride campus. A closed mental health facility similar to Fergus Falls, it sat empty for two decades.
“It was in much worse shape than (the Regional Treatment Center),” Stanislawski said. “The bulldozers were there and people basically laid down in front of the dozers.”
A commons board endorsed by the city was formed to take the project over. It was purchased by the city for a dollar and sold to the Minervini Group in 2003, which developed it into a multi-million dollar Phoenix of sorts.
It was initially envisioned as senior citizen assisted living, “But when they realized that wasn’t going to work, they changed the zoning to mixed use,” Stanislawski said. “The people of Traverse City are happy. It’s already added about 98 new jobs. People are moving to the area from the outskirts of Traverse City proper to buy these condos. The goal now is to put as much on the site as they can to keep people there.”
To date, the former Kirkbride houses, among other things, condominiums, retail, a restaurant, coffee shop, art gallery, attorneys offices, architect and a private school. The tunnel facility will house retail in the future. The project is funded by the developers, help from Renaissance Zone (Michigan’s JOBZ), tax advantages, rent from businesses and condo sales.
“It was eye-opening,” Stanislawski said. “We met with the Minervini Group, the mayor, city planner and members of the commons board (similar to Friends of the Kirkbride). It’s still a work in progress, but substantial progress has been made already … The developers told us it’s been a long process with the city and the state to get everything accomplished. They figure it’s going to take another 10 years to complete, but they think they’ve finally turned the corner.”
Five RTC outbuildings have been purchased by Fergus Falls for a dollar. Funding has been secured to pay off incinerator debt and related bonds and to demolish the buildings if the developer do not purchase the buildings. The state will provide heat and electricity for the buildings, with the city will providing insurance and security. The city will take title in January. In the meantime, the developers are having a fair market appraisal done on the structures, which is necessary for them to take title.
“We can’t do everything (Traverse City) has done,” Stanislawski said. “But indeed, some things can be done ... If we do things right and if we can get the right tools, we can do something with the RTC. It gives me some encouragement.”