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Mayor: Retail store to save Cooley-Haze House

Proposal heads to City Council for final approval


TUESDAY, SEPT. 18A retail store for salvaged building materials could move into one of the more iconic historical sites in downtown Lansing. The plan only needs approval from the City Council to become a reality.

Mayor Andy Schor today crafted a long-sought recommendation to City Council: Sell the historic, city-owned Cooley Haze House on Malcolm X Street to a local real estate agent for $20,000. The Realtor, Joe Vitale, has proposed restoring the exterior and turning the interior into a salvage retail store for “architectural and building material salvage” with an educational area to boot.

It’s the best proposal the city has received and will ensure the property is properly renovated and maintained for years to come, Schor outlined.

“We are excited that this historic property will be purchased and fixed up,” Schor said in a statement.

City officials received two proposals late last month to repurpose the home near Cooley Gardens after voters last year authorized the sale, but nobody showed an interest when the city first advertised its availability. Local Realtor Joe Vitale sought to create a retail store. An artist from Jackson wanted to turn the place into her home.

Officials reviewed the proposals and ultimately decided to send Vitale’s idea on to the Mayor’s Office, said Parks Director Brett Kaschinske. Schor also agreed with the recommendation. Now the Council will need to review the deal for final approval, Kaschinske explained. And they’ll meet next on Monday evening.

“We selected Joe Vitale’s proposal because we thought it was the better of the two submissions,” Schor added.

Vitale, the former president of Preservation Lansing, outlined plans to seek grant money “to help people learn how to reglaze windows, restore plaster, restore wood work.” He noted that each room will focus on different materials. “We will have the skills and the space available to help homeowners in Lansing and historic preservationists learn skill sets they can take into the community.”

Vitale also wants to ensure the home finds its place on the National Historic Registry. He further charted plans to have renovation handled by licensed contractors, creating a business opportunity and ensuring the Cooley Haze House avoids demolition and remains a placemaker within the local neighborhood.

“Cooley Haze is a building that I would consider to be kind of endangered at this point,” Vitale said previously. “The goal is to save the property and create a business and resource that doesn’t currently exist in Lansing.”

The Colonial Revival house sits between Cooley Gardens and the new Central Substation that the Lansing Board of Water & Light is building on the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Malcolm X Street along I-496. The city has maintained the home for decades and last year took necessary steps to repurpose the property.

Eugene Cooley, son of 19th century Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas M. Cooley, built the three-story home. It was also home to Dr. Harry Haze and Michigan Gov. G. Mennen Williams and the headquarters for the Michigan Baptist Convention before the city acquired the site in 1978.

Until last year, it housed the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. They’ve since moved into the Meridian Mall.

Kathy Krafft, of Jackson, also submitted a proposal for the property. She offered $10,000 and outlined plans to turn it into her “dream home.” Schor said he appreciated her submission but ultimately opted against it. He hopes that she’s willing to look at other historic properties around Lansing in the future, Schor added.

Visit lansingcitypulse.com for continued coverage as City Council reviews plans for the sale.


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