Montcalm Alliance looking to move forward after setbacks

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:02 pm on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Franz Mogdis has been executive director of the Montcalm Alliance since 1997. He works out of the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District office in Stanton. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

The Montcalm Alliance may have been in the news lately regarding a failed millage proposal that never even went to a vote, but in the meantime, the Alliance’s executive director has been staying busy working to assist local businesses.

Franz Mogdis gave a report to the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners at their Economic Development and Physical Resources committee meeting on Monday of last week. Mogdis has been executive director of the Montcalm Alliance since 1997.

“A lot of these projects, until they reach fruition, people aren’t really aware of them, but all of these projects are in a very active development stage right now,” Mogdis told The Daily News. “I think there’s a lot people don’t know and they’re not aware of what the Alliance has accomplished. We’ve accomplished a lot.”

Keith Sterling does construction work on Bell Tower Estate in downtown Lakeview. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

Consumers Energy Public Affairs Manager Yolanda Lewis became chairwoman of the Montcalm Alliance last November. She is preparing to lead her first Alliance meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District building in Stanton.

“I think there’s a lot of things Franz is plugging away on behind the scenes,” Lewis said. “I’m looking at what sort of direction we should take and the board will take it from there. It’s not a one-man band, although we have asked Franz to do everything. I hope I can bring a little new direction and a little new life to the organization.”


Bell Tower Estate

One of the main projects keeping Mogdis busy is an apartment development.

Bell Tower Estate, an eight-unit independent living complex for senior citizens, is located at 301 Fifth St. in downtown Lakeview. The venture is the vision of sisters Christine Helms and Claudia Sterling.

Bell Tower Estate is located in a historic building that previously housed a church and, much later, a theater. The sisters named their new facility Bell Tower Estate in honor of the old church bell they saved. They hope to one day put the bell on display in apartment complex’s garden.

Mogdis was approached by the sisters to see if the Montcalm Alliance could help obtain financing for the facility’s multiple items of handicap-accessible equipment. The sisters had heard about the Alliance from Lakeview Village Manager James Freed.

“I think it’s a good resource,” said Helms of the Alliance. “There’s so much handicap equipment and elevators and things to help older folks with the ease of transition. That’s where we approached him (Mogdis) on it. We wondered if there was any funding available.”

While Mogdis looks into funding for the handicap items, Helms said officials with First Bank in Lakeview are working to help the sisters with additional financing options.

“The whole process of financing has been a real eye-opener for us,” Helms said. “It has been a great journey for us though. We’re excited to be able to be opening up this independent facility for people in town. The location is just pristine for that demographic because it’s right by Tamarack Lake, it’s right by the park, it’s right by the hospital, it’s right across from the wellness center, which has a pool and rehabilitation center.

“I think it’s really going to make an awesome place for people to live,” she said.

The sisters hope to have the facility open by late May or early June.


Grant possibilities

Mogdis also updated Montcalm County commissioners about grants he is working on for a four-seasons shopping facility in Edmore and the old Carnation building in downtown Sheridan.

Edmore Downtown Development Authority officials are continuing to work to turn the former General Bag Corp. building and property into a shopping destination near the Fred Meijer Heartland Trailhead. The location currently contains a picnic pavilion, restroom facilities and the old 30,000-square-foot bag factory building, which Edmore officials hope to transform into a home for multiple shops, including turn-of-the-century merchandise and hand-crafted products.

For several years now, Mogdis has been working to help to obtain a possible $650,000 grant via the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program so that Edmore officials can realize their vision for the old factory.

Sisters Christine Helms, left, and Claudia Sterling, right, are hoping to open Bell Tower Estate, an independent senior citizen apartment complex in Lakeview, by late May or early June. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

“We’ve had some really positive meetings with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Michigan State University and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,” Mogdis said. “We’re now nearing the final steps of finalizing that. We’re hoping it will go before the Michigan Strategic Fund Board no later than May.”

Mogdis also continues to work to obtain a CDBG grant to fund the demolition of the old Carnation building in downtown Sheridan. He’s hoping to hear back about that grant by late summer. If the grant is approved, the earliest demolition would take place would be sometime in 2015.

“It’s becoming more dangerous every day,” noted Mogdis of the decrepit building.


Tantalizing tidbits

Mogdis is also working on financing for several other local business officials who wish to remain anonymous at this time, including the possible expansion of a Stanton business, the possible expansion of a Howard City manufacturing facility and the possible creation of a senior citizen housing project in Crystal Township.

As the county’s administrator of the Montcalm County Brownfield Authority, Mogdis is also working on four Brownfield projects, the details of which are being kept confidential for now. Those projects include a possible change in ownership of an existing business in Montcalm Township; an ongoing project at a former gas station on M-46 in Winfield Township; an ongoing project at the former Bollinger’s Chrysler dealership in Lakeview; and the pending sale of the old football complex at Montabella Community Schools.

The duties of the Montcalm County Brownfield Authority are to administer clean-up programs related to environmental concerns, set priorities for funding and assist in obtaining funding.

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