BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WLNS) — The ‘crown jewel’ and tallest building in Battle Creek is again in use after being vacant for around 10 years.
Clovis Bordeaux, an executive with the Battle Creek Community Foundation, says the transformation has helped the city thrive once again. The foundation made a large contribution to help bring the building back to life.
“This is really like a centerpiece of the transformation of what we are trying to do in downtown and a starting place,” Joe Sobieralski, president and CEO of the Battle Creek Unlimited, said.
Sobieralski’s company gave $3.3 million to help restore the building.
It was originally built in 1930 as the Old Merchants National Bank and Trust Co. At the time, it was the largest financial institution between Detroit and Chicago.
“It was originally built as a bank nearly 100 years ago and it continued to be a bank for several years,” Sobieralski said. “In its later life, it was turned into commercial office space.”
When thinking of the building, people often look back on special memories of proms, weddings and small gatherings that were held on the mezzanine.
“So that history really does lend itself to the specialness, the jewel-like quality of The Milton,” Bordeaux said.
The mezzanine is now open for the public to see. People can come to see the walls that were hand-painted by two artists.
During the decade the iconic building sat vacant, the roof was deteriorating, causing a substantial amount of water damage.
“When the Milton first started, the foundation worked with a developer to get the roofs repatched and redone, because water had leaked in and drained all 19 floors,” Bordeaux said.
Several community members along with organizations fought to keep the building alive. They couldn’t stand seeing it go to waste.
“This type of architecture is nowhere to be found in a market this size. You couldn’t replicate this today. It’s just a true piece of history for the community. The alternative to tearing it down wouldn’t have done it any justice.”Joe Sobieralski, president and CEO of the Battle Creek Unlimited
The $34 million redevelopment project began in 2017. Today, the building is home to 85 apartments, all of which are occupied. Rent ranges from the mid-$700s to over $2,000 per month.
Bordeaux says the community saw the apartments as a way to bring economic development and business back downtown.
“Not only does it bring young professionals and families back living downtown,” Bordeaux said, “but we now have people walking up and down the streets going to businesses that are here.”