EDMORE — A major grant seven years in the making is finally a reality for a historic building in this village.
Village Manager James Lower on Wednesday announced that Edmore has been awarded a $625,875 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) for the old General Bag Corp. building.
The grant will be matched by $244,125 from the Edmore Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for a total investment of $870,000 to renovate the old factory into the Edmore Marketplace.
The vision calls for a tourist attraction similar to Indiana’s Shipshewana, including dozens of vendors selling local goods in the fully restored 1800s-era building, from Amish woodworkers to organic produce and possibly even a reception hall and restaurant.
“This is great news for Edmore,” said DDA President Jack Miller. “The development of the Edmore Marketplace is the first, and perhaps most important step, in our longterm plan for Edmore.”
The three-story structure was built by W.R. Roach & Co. as a canning factory in the 1880s. General Bag Corp. purchased the facility in 1939 as a factory for cotton and burlap bags for beans, chemicals, feed, fertilizer and salt.
The factory went out of business in the mid-1990s and sat vacant for years, occasionally victimized by graffiti, looting and partying. The property gradually became a prime location for tourism opportunities due to being situated just off the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.
In 2009, DDA officials saw potential in the property and purchased the old factory for $15,000. The hope was to bring new life to the village after the closing of Hitachi Magnetics in 2004, which resulted in 500 employees losing their jobs.
The past seven years have seen multiple village presidents, village managers and village council members, but Miller continued to plug away at making the grant a reality.
Lower was hired as the new village manager last October. Within his first month in office, he obtained a pledge from the MEDC to fund up to 75 percent of the total eligible project costs associated with rehabbing the building.
Nine months later, the pledge has become reality.
“I cannot stress how instrumental James was to securing this grant,” Miller noted. “A lot of preparation had gone into this project over the years, however it was his tireless efforts and skill that got us over the finish line.”
Lower said architectural and engineering work began on the building in April, even though the grant wasn’t yet finalized. This proved to be a move that paid off as the MEDC agreed to count the cost of that work toward the matching portion of the grant, meaning village officials can start requesting bids for portions of the renovations in a matter of weeks instead of months.
Lower noted Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, and Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, were both “extremely helpful” throughout the grant process.
“There is fierce competition for funding from all parts of the state,” Lower said. “Without the enthusiastic support of our two legislators it is unlikely this project would have stayed on the state’s radar over the last several years.”
“I am very excited that Edmore is receiving these grant dollars,” Emmons said. “I look forward to visiting the Edmore Marketplace once the renovations are complete.”
Village President Karl Kluwe called the grant approval “huge” for the community.
“Edmore has always been a wonderful place to live,” he said. “This project will help us ensure that continues to be true for the generations to come.
Edmore Village Council members expressed their excitement as well, including Councilwoman Bonnie Davis, who had many relatives who worked at the building when it was a factory.
“It is so wonderful that we are able save this historic building,” she said. “It has been part of our community for more than 100 years. I hope it will be around for the next 100.”
“This is such great news for Edmore,” Councilwoman Karen Deja added. “I cannot wait to see the building once the renovations are complete.”
Councilman Phil Kohn has been working on the idea of housing a microdistillery in the building since he was elected to the council last November.
“If we can find the right partner, I believe a microdistillery would do very well at this location and help drive traffic to other vendors in the marketplace and downtown,” he said.
Councilman Jamie Ballard has been involved in the village’s business community for several years.
“I think this project will help all existing Edmore businesses,” he said. “Having more people in town and increasing the range of what we have to over will make the community as a whole more attractive. “
“It’s wonderful news,” Councilman Eddie Adams added. “We have a lot of positive things going on in Edmore right now. I am glad to be a part of it.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Ashbaugh summed up the news the best.
“Finally,” she said.