A Michigan Building Maintains a History of Creating Growth in a Community that Continues to Survive Troubled Times

Charles Hackley, a prominent figure in the history of Muskegon, Mich., came to town in 1856 to work on the creation of the area’s early roadways. He opened the Hackley-Hume Lumber Mill on Muskegon Lake, a large inland lake with direct access to Lake Michigan. Over time, Hackley grew his company to be the largest in the country, cutting an average of 30 million feet of lumber each year.


THE HACKLEY UNION BANK BUILDING OPENED IN 1918 AND IS CONSIDERED THE FIRST SKYSCRAPER IN MUSKEGON, MICH. PHOTO: Ghafari Associates LLC

By the turn of the century, most of Michigan’s lower peninsula had become effectively deforested and the mill closed. As a result, many lumber mills moved their operations to the Pacific Northwest, but Hackley remained in Muskegon because he believed there were new opportunities to be had. He and other community leaders saw urban revitalization as essential for Muskegon’s survival and brought new industries to the area, effectively ebbing the flow of people leaving Muskegon. Through- out his life, Hackley gifted $12 million to Muskegon (valued today at $360 million), and his generous gifts—parks, libraries, museums, art collections, hospital buildings and more—are considered one of the biggest factors in the town’s transformation from a small lumber community into a bustling city with diverse industries.

In 1918, Hackley’s legacy was honored through the opening of the Hackley Union Bank Building, designed by world-renowned Weary and Alford Co. To this day, the 9-story building is one of the most noticeable structures in downtown; it remains the tallest manmade structure in Muskegon County and is considered Muskegon’s first “skyscraper”.

After years of vacancy (see “Brief History of the Hackley Union Bank Building”, page 2), Parkland Properties, a local real-estate and development company that specializes in the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, undertook a $9.5 million restoration and redevelopment of the building into Highpoint Flats Apartments, a 56,000-square-foot mixed-use building, containing apartments and common space, as well as retail and office space.

To complete the restoration and redevelopment of the historic building, Parkland Properties enlisted Ghafari Associates LLC to provide architectural and interior design services for the project, Visser Brothers Construction as general contractor, and the law firm of Warner Norcross and Judd to assist with tax credits.

Original Elements

The project kicked off in mid-April 2017, beginning with abatement and installation of safety controls, followed by demolition in early May. The project had critical milestones mandated by the city of Muskegon and the state of Michigan to earn tax credits. The exterior renovation, including window replacement, needed to be complete by Nov. 1, 2017, and the city set a substantial completion deadline for the apartments, which would occupy floors three through eight, by May 31, 2018. The extensive renovation work required new water service for domestic and fire, new electrical and gas service, and the repair of existing sanitary and storm services. Although the building had two existing elevators, they had not been used in decades, requiring the team to demo the existing shaft walls because of their poor condition. New shaft walls were built in their place to support new elevators.

Through close collaboration with Parkland Properties, Ghafari Associates worked meticulously to fit the 47 desired apartments into the space, accommodate existing conditions and apply current building code to the historic building. Of paramount importance to the owner was the desire to leave some of the original building features untouched, requiring the architectural team to evaluate the existing construction to determine what could be left exposed. Original elements include the curved granite staircase, ascending from the basement up to the third floor, the brick on the perimeter walls and the window openings.

To expose the brick on perimeter walls, for example, the team removed the plaster that was added in the 1960s and then cleaned and repaired the original brick. In the areas where the original terrazzo flooring was left, extensive polishing and repair was required. The original Hackley Union Bank logo was left untouched in the terrazzo flooring but was protected with glass. On the exterior, existing granite stone panels and joints needed to be repaired because of damage and vandalism, and masonry tuckpointing of the exterior brick facade also was necessary.


GHAFARI ASSOCIATES WORKED METICULOUSLY TO CREATE THE 47 DESIRED APARTMENTS WHILE PRESERVING THE BUILDING’S ORIGINAL ELEMENTS, LIKE BRICK ON THE PERIMETER WALLS AND WINDOW OPENINGS. PHOTO: Parkland Properties of Michigan

Parkland Properties wanted to keep the original treads and railing on the internal stair that spans from the third floor to the roof but, because the staircase did not connect to the point of egress, it did not meet current code. To rectify this, holes were sawcut into the second and third floors and a new stair was built that connected the first floor to the third, allowing the stair to exit to the outside.

Living Space

Filled with the historic features of a bygone era, Highpoint Flats Apartments brings vibrant living to Muskegon, attracting young professionals, empty-nesters and retirees alike. In total, there are 14 apartment floor plans, featuring one- and two-bedroom market-rate units that range from 600 to 1,100 square feet. The units contain high-end finishes, walk-in closets and in-unit laundry, as well as exposed brick walls, concrete pillars and beams. In addition, each unit features high ceilings and expansive picture windows offering views of Muskegon Lake and a bustling downtown area. On clear days, Lake Michigan can be seen from some units.

Prior to the transformation into apartments, the building contained office and support space for the bank. The entire building was gutted before work began on the apartments, and no walls or ceilings were saved in the process. Because of the existing building shape and column locations, each apartment is unique. In addition, not all spaces are stacked from floor to floor because there was a change in the building footprint and also because the art deco stair only reaches the third floor.

To allow for more insulation and greater sound attenuation, thicker walls were added and resilient channels were used. A greater STC rating than what is required by code was achieved between the units and corridors to ensure more privacy for tenants. The existing concrete floor was not thick enough to provide the required acoustic ratings, so a new ceiling system was added, and LVT flooring with acoustic backing was incorporated.

Every unit has its own heat pump. To hide the heat pumps, the entries into the units and kitchen ceilings are lowered while the rest of the living spaces have high ceilings to expose the ductwork in these rooms. Meanwhile, bathroom and kitchen exhausts had to be vented outside the building. On the facades facing the street, a metal panel was placed into the top of the windows, where ducts are exhausted through small vents that magnetically close when not in use. This prevented the team from cutting holes in the marble facade.

About the Author

Kendra Achenbach
Kendra Achenbach is a marketing coordinator for Ghafari Associates LLC.

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