On February 14, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to announce the revitalization project that will bring new housing and vitality to downtown Marshall with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund.
The Schuler’s Inc. Rental Rehabilitation Project will renovate the second and third floors of the historic Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub building in the city of Marshall. When completed, the project will include seven new, mixed-income apartments to the second and third floors, activating long-vacant, unutilized space in a highly visible building in the heart of downtown Marshall.
“Schuler’s has been known for its hospitality since we first opened in 1909 and we are thrilled at the transformation that is taking place inside our historic building as we create much needed housing in our community,” said Schuler’s President and CEO Sue Damron. “These former hotel rooms, which once welcomed travelers, had become nothing more than storage for us over the past fifty years. Now, we are creating spaces for people and families to call home. The seven apartments are being designed to reflect Schuler’s brand by mixing historic and traditional elements with an updated look and feel, right in the heart of downtown Marshall.”
Construction has begun to convert three-quarters of the two L-shaped wings into the apartment units, with the hope that they’ll be completed by the end of 2022 at which time a public open house will be held. The second floor will feature five apartments (one, two and three bedroom units ranging from 675 to 1600 square feet); the third floor will have two units (a one bedroom and a two bedroom). Monthly rates have not yet been established but will be in place in the fall closer to completion when the application period opens.
“As with any project of this scope, there will be occasional disruptions to business, but we hope to make that as minimal as possible,” Damron says. “Construction projects aren’t new to us however, as we’ve been working over the years on the restaurant, pub and banquet spaces to provide more suitable spaces for our guests.”
An elevator will be added to the building, providing access to the second and third floor apartments but this will replace employee restrooms and shouldn’t impact the restaurant guest experience. The Heritage banquet rooms will also get a new ceiling which may temporarily displace larger group events.
This project will not only provide much-needed housing in the downtown area but will help diversity Schuler’s business after shutdowns and other fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic took their toll on the company, which has been a focal part of the community for over 110 years.
“We know our employees are always struggling with finding affordable housing,” Damron said. “We’re not only a business, but we’re a strong community partner as well. Our staff is like family, and it is in our best interest to find ways to help them whenever possible.”
A second phase of development will include the creation of five hotel rooms in one of the defined wings of the building. Reopening the hotel, which closed in 1971, has long been a dream of Larry Schuler, the fourth-generation restaurateur who is on the Schuler’s Restaurant Advisory Board. Damron said she is looking for other ways to support the local community while enhancing the Schuler brand, including the purchase of a dilapidated downtown building that she plans to turn into an event space that can seat up to 300 people.
“These are exciting times for the Schuler’s team,” said Damron, who purchased the company in November 2019 from Hans Schuler, grandson of founder Albert Schuler. “I’ve been here for more than two decades and it is exciting to be part of this next chapter as we expand and enhance our brand. But we don’t work alone. We are fortunate to have the support of our local community and regional leaders, as well as MEDC which has contributed to this project. Without these partners, this and future projects wouldn’t be possible.”
The apartment project is being supported by $725,450 in Community Development Block Grant funds awarded to the city of Marshall from the Michigan Strategic Fund. The grant will be used for construction activities and expenses including lead and asbestos testing, and also includes $25,450 for administration expenses. Schuler’s Inc. is expected to contribute private investment of $1.7 million to the project, and the city of Marshall has approved a 12-year Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act tax abatement valued at $561,600. The city of Marshall is certified with MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program.
“The restoration of the Schuler’s restaurant building will revitalize a beloved historic fixture while building on the vibrancy and attractive amenities that already exist in downtown Marshall,” Gov. Whitmer said. “This project is a great example of how we continue to focus on supporting community efforts that fill housing needs for our residents and build a foundation for long-term economic opportunity in Michigan.”
In addition to bringing much-needed housing, including four units that will be affordable to low- to moderate-income residents, to the area, the project will transform unused space into a development that will drive economic activity and contribute to the vitality and density of downtown Marshall. The local Area Median Income used for affordable housing is $45,200 for a single person.
“The city of Marshall is excited to help support the Schuler’s Rental Rehabilitation project. We appreciate the commitment that Sue and Shannon Damron have made to Marshall by continuing to invest in our downtown and bringing much needed housing to the community,” said Marshall Mayor Pro Tem Ryan Traver. “Schuler’s has been a major part of our downtown for over 100 years and this project will help ensure that it will be here for the next 100.”
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is committed to supporting long-term economic development opportunities both within Marshall and throughout the Southwest Michigan region. Since 2019, 40 projects across Calhoun County have received more than $35 million in public support through placemaking grants, access to capital, business development investments and export support. In late 2020, MEDC awarded a $50,000 matching grant to support a successful crowdfunding campaign for the restoration of the well-known Wagner Ballroom, a landmark in downtown Marshall. Another local Marshall business, the Plaid Herb, was awarded a $4,000 MI Local Biz crowdfunding program grant from MEDC in 2020 as part of the state’s COVID-19 small business relief efforts. This builds on additional placemaking investments in the region including Milton Tower in Battle Creek and the Peabody Building and Brick Street Lofts in downtown Albion, all of which contribute to the region being an attractive place for both businesses and talent to grow and thrive.
“Vibrant, attractive downtowns in our iconic communities like Marshall are vital to Michigan’s economic success and the well-being of our friends and neighbors,” said Quentin Messer, Jr., CEO of the MEDC and President and Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund. “By focusing on traditional downtowns and increasing much-needed housing options, we establish unique places that residents and visitors will enjoy. We’re pleased to work with our local partners in supporting this project that helps Marshall become an even better place for Michiganders to live, work, visit, play and create futures.”
Founded in 1909, Schuler’s is noted as one of Michigan’s most iconic restaurants. With more than a century of successful years in the industry, Schuler’s remains a hospitality leader not only in Michigan, but throughout the country.