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

Highpoint Flats Apartments successfully incorporates many of the standard amenities commonly found in modern, high-end buildings without losing sight of its historic roots. Amenities include a ninth-floor clubhouse in the old elevator equipment room, and a large ipe rooftop deck with grills and furniture, in addition to a main-floor game room, fitness center, and onsite parking and storage.

The bottom two floors of the building contain 5,000-square feet of retail space and a mezzanine, adding another 5,000-square feet of office space. The two floors of commercial space were completed in December 2019 and now include a credit union, which kept an original bank vault as a design feature; an insurance agency; a doctor’s office; and charitable organization office. Future plans aim to utilize an area under the sidewalk for exterior access to an 8,000-square-foot, 14-foot-tall basement, which houses the other large bank vault, ultimately bringing in natural light and hopefully attracting a restaurant or nightclub tenant.

To hide each unit’s heat pump, 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. PHOTO: Parkland Properties of Michigan

Catalyst for Growth

Highpoint Flats Apartments strategically engages tax benefits to help generate demand. Parkland Properties secured a Renaissance Zone designation for the property, which provides state and local tax abatements for tenants through 2023. The Renaissance Zone has had a monumental impact in spurring interest and success for new projects in emerging markets, ultimately kickstarting the establishment of a new residential market in Muskegon. The tax credit means the developer pays no property taxes and residents are exempt from city and state income tax, meaning it saves them 5.25 percent of their income annually until gradually phasing out in 2023. Under this program, the more money an individual makes, the more money he or she saves in rent. For example, a couple collectively earning $160,000 per year would only spend $650 per month for an apartment that would otherwise rent for $1,350 because of $700 in state and local income tax savings, according to Parkland Properties.

Highpoint Flats Apartments opened in spring 2018, and the project has made one of the biggest impacts in Muskegon in the last 30 years. It has motivated five new market-rate housing projects downtown, successfully building on the legacy of Charles Hackley and his commitment to the region’s economy.

A Brief History of the Hackley Union Bank Building

With no expense spared in its design, the high-end Hackley Union Bank Building embodied the growth and prosperity of Muskegon, Mich. It featured a 4-story curved, all-granite staircase with ornate metal-crafted railings; two large bank vaults with safety-deposit boxes and huge round vault doors; and large concrete columns throughout.

By the late 1960s, the building was given a facelift with white marble and black serpentine, which is still present on the building’s exterior today. In the 1970s, a 2-acre, eight-block indoor mall was built, surrounding the building and attached on all sides, which effectively preserved the structure. To create what would be known as the Muskegon Mall, four additional historic buildings were treated similarly, but dozens of other buildings were demolished to build the modern mall. As was common in the late 1990s, large outlet malls and suburban malls caused the Muskegon Mall to fail and, by 2003, the largely empty mall was scheduled to be demolished. With the fierce support of community members, the Hackley Union Bank Building was saved.

Despite the unique opportunity to be redeveloped (including a time when the price of the property was just $200,000), for many years, developers passed on the vacant building. Parkland Properties purchased the building for $1 in 2008 with the intent to transform it into condominiums. Jon Rooks, Parkland Properties’ president, was initially attracted to the building because of its rich history, height, and quality, in addition to its proximity to public transportation, shopping, entertainment, restaurants and two colleges.

When the economy spiraled in 2008, Rooks had to postpone his plans to convert the building and, for the next nine years, it remained unoccupied while Rooks hoped someone would buy it, spurring development in the area. As factories and industry closed on the shores of Muskegon Lake, the focus largely shifted to residential development in the urban core, spurring more than $50 million in construction activity, in hopes of drawing people downtown to live and further support businesses and retail. Still, no investors were interested in purchasing the Hackley Building because of architectural challenges and perceived construction risk.

In 2017, recognizing the increasing demand for downtown housing, Parkland Properties representatives made the decision to complete the project.

In Search of Civil War Gold

The Hackley Building was featured on a 2019 episode of the History Channel’s “The Curse of Civil War Gold”. A team from the show believed the building’s namesake, Charles Hackley, had acquired the Confederate’s Civil War gold after the war ended. During the Civil War, Muskegon, Mich., had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the nation, and Hackley, who was a lumber baron, was one of these millionaires. The History Channel team thought some of the gold was hidden in the Hackley Building’s basement behind clay walls or in one of the existing vaults. Ultimately, the History Channel team did not find any gold hidden in the building.

The original Hackley Union Bank logo was left untouched in the terrazzo flooring but was protected with glass. PHOTO: Ghafari Associates LLC

Retrofit Team



MEP ENGINEER // Classic Engineering




CARPET // Lure 18585 and Azure Heather from Shaw Contract

WALLCOVERING // Sway in Firefly from Knoll

CERAMIC BACKSPLASH // Expression in Dusk from Ceramic Tiles International

LUXURY VINYL TILE // Silver Spur Oak Embossed from Eagle Creek

CABINETRY // Avenue Laminate Cabinetry in Classic White from Armstrong Advanta

LIGHTING // Lithonia Lighting and Lighting Science Group

ACOUSTIC CEILING TILE // Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions

HEAT PUMPS // Carrier

About the Author

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

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