Traverse City News and Events

A New Future For Old City Hall

By Todd VanSickle | Feb. 23, 2019

At the corner of Cass and State streets, Traverse City’s Old City Hall building sits vacant and gutted, under complete renovation by its new Kalamazoo-based owners.

Work on the Downtown Historic District building will be complete in mid-to-late summer 2020.

Catalyst Development bought the building in January 2018 for $1.935 million, according to the Grand Traverse County Register of Deeds.

The building was first designed by John Knox Taylor, who also served as architect of the United States Department of the Treasury from 1897 to 1912. The Traverse City building was built in 1904 and served as the city’s post office until 1939, when today’s current post office was built at the corner of State and Union streets. The building was sold to the city and a second story was added to the cavernous interior and housed City Hall for several years, according to the Traverse Area Historical Society.

The Traverse City Historic Districts Commission approved the renovation plans and drawings in a 4-0 vote during a December 2018 meeting.

The Kalamazoo-based architecture and engineering firm TowerPinkster is designing the building, while CSM Group Inc. will manage the construction. At the Historic Districts Commission meeting, Steve Loney of TowerPinkster presented drawings and answered questions about the project.

“We are very sensitive to the desires of the historic groups and want to make sure the architecture fits in the community that it lives in,” Loney says.

The Commission recommended that the railings and windows be a dark bronze color and that project liaison Michael Callahan approve the final design of the entry sitting wall, column base, and materials used.

Loney says there has already been “major demolition” done for the complete restoration of the building, which will include new mechanical and electrical systems, an elevator, new code complaint stairs, windows, a second-floor balcony, roof, and restoration work of existing exterior masonry.

“The interior has really been gutted down to the structure of the walls, beams and columns required to keep the building standing. It will be brought up to current code and be improved from an energy efficiency standpoint,” he says.

The new design also calls for arched windows that are reminiscent to the original building’s design. Improvements to the parking lot and surrounding sidewalks are also in the plans, which includes a snow melt system.

Loney did not confirm the costs associated with renovating the 15,000 square-foot building.

“We are using all local vendors and local trades in the area to actually perform the work under the management of CSM group,” says Patti Owens, Catalyst vice president and managing director. “Our vision with a building like this is to merge its rich history with modern technology. We lead with green and sustainable expectations and tailor a plan to meet that goal. The Federal-style architecture is a perfect complement to the home office of Greenleaf Trust in Kalamazoo.”

Investment management firm Greenleaf Trust will rent the entire top floor, while the ground level will have a possible four suites available for lease. Building owners are also in discussion with former tenants, some of whom have shown interest in returning after renovation, according to Owens.

In the past, TowerPinkster and Catalyst have collaborated on several other projects. Currently they are working on a $70 million, seven-story, 290,000-square-foot mixed use building in Kalamazoo. In 2011, they renovated Kalamazoo’s City Hall.

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