In downtown Fowlerville, a local couple is prepared to break ground on a more than 13,500-square-foot commercial and apartment structure.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a $1.45 million loan under a Michigan Economic Development Corporation program to assist them to fund the projected $3.7 million construction project.
For the past few years, Jennifer Cooke and her husband Dan, proprietors of the TRV|FIT fitness studio, have been working to build The Fowlerville on the old site of a lumberyard at Grand River Avenue and Grand Street.
The Cookes, who is from Pinckney and live in Dexter, wanted to expand the gym, which has locations in the village, Pinckney, and Dexter.
The concept expanded into a wider plan to provide more affordable rental accommodation and modern commercial space to the village’s downtown, according to the developers.
According to Dan Cooke, the project would not have been financially feasible if their development business, Cooke Capital LLC, had not been awarded a performance-based loan.
They also received $1,465,000 in bank financing and over $800,000 in private equity funding.
The Cookes had been attempting to get “gap funding” for the project through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“In a town like Fowlerville, something like this couldn’t move forward without that program,” Dan said, adding that the cost of building can be prohibitive in the village, where rental rates are lower than in other places.
The pair plans to start ground this spring and finish the construction next year.
Something different for the village
The Fowlerville will include eight apartments, with seven two-bedroom flats upstairs and one one-bedroom unit on the bottom floor that is ADA accessible. According to an MEDC press statement, the project will include more than 6,600 square feet of residential space.
Dan Cooke expects the apartments to be less expensive than other Livingston County rentals.
According to the MEDC, the flats will rent for $844 to $1,378 per month.
“There’s a lot of interest in those,” Dan added. “I believe we’ll be able to rent this place out before it’s finished. Because it is newer, it will be nicer than the ordinary apartment, yet it will be more affordable.”
On the first level, The Fowlerville will have up to three commercial spaces, including a new TRV|FIT location.
According to an MEDC release, the gym will occupy around 4,000 square feet, with more than 1,200 square feet of extra commercial space that might be leased to one or two additional businesses.
“Right now, we’re in a smaller place in Fowlerville, but our community is growing,” she added. “We knew we needed to relocate, but there weren’t many possibilities in Fowlerville. ‘Why don’t we construct something?’ Dan said.”
The new gym, according to Jennifer, will be almost twice the size of her existing Fowlerville site. It will have enough room for two workout rooms, boxing equipment, more one-on-one instruction, and a larger children’s section.
She also plans to relocate her Pinckney gym to an empty storefront she purchased at 140 Main Street in Pinckney.
One or two more firms seeking a lease could fill the remaining commercial space at The Fowlerville in Fowlerville, according to Dan Cooke.
He stated, “Gyms are anchor businesses.” “We’re hoping for something that goes well with the gym, but we’re not going to be picky. Anything that complements the downtown area will be fantastic.”
Filling a void
The Cookes needed gap funding to complete the project, in part because they expect the finished building to appraise for less than the cost of construction.
“It’ll cost $3.7 million to build, but the appraised worth when it’s finished will be approximately $2 million,” Dan explained. “We want to help the neighborhood, but you couldn’t put $3.7 million into a property for $2 million. It’s not going to happen.
A 10-year Commercial Rehabilitation Act tax exemption worth more than $450,000 was also authorized by village officials.
The Fowlerville is a good fit for the loan program, according to Michele Wildman, MEDC’s senior vice president of community development, because it will boost attainable workforce housing in the village and promote walkability downtown.
“When it comes to growing a business and retaining talent, affordable workforce housing is a vital piece of the equation,” she added. “We have a pressing need for those units at a pricing point that is appropriate for that workforce.”
According to her, developers are not always able to provide affordable houses due to local rental costs.
“That’s the purpose,” she added, “to enable those crucial investments that would not otherwise happen in support of a local economic development strategy.” “It’s providing soft, flexible money that allows for those lower rents to be financially viable.