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As published in Toledo Business Journal - August 1, 2018

The Keefer House in Hillsdale, Michigan

The Keefer House in Hillsdale, Michigan

Hillsdale TIFA to redevelop Keefer House

In October 2016, the City of Hillsdale Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) purchased the Keefer House with the express purpose of positioning the property for redevelopment. The previous owner had purchased this historic property to save it from possible demolition or other misuse, but was never able to redevelop it.

In March 2017, TIFA published a Request for Proposals (RFP) but failed to receive any viable projects. Then, in August 2017, with the help of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) through Project Rising Tide (PRT), a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was developed which resulted in a very promising proposal to the City, according to Mary Wolfram, economic development director for the City of Hillsdale.

According to Wolfram, if all goes well, purchase of the building should take place by December 2018 and the actual construction and renovation of the building could begin as early as summer of 2019. Wolfram noted that it should be substantially complete within three years.

“The Keefer House is a signature building in the center of downtown which has stood at the center of social life in the city of Hillsdale for over a century,” said Wolfram.

TIFA recently signed a purchase agreement with Keefer House Hotel LLC, a subsidiary of CL Real Estate of Peru, Illinois, which should be finalized in December. Keefer House Hotel LLC will seek private commercial financing to fund the bulk of the project. In addition, Wolfram said Hillsdale has just graduated from Governor Snyder’s PRT initiative under MEDC through which the City received technical assistance in economic development. The Keefer House was designated as Priority Property, so MEDC is aware of this project and may be a source of funding as well, according to Wolfram.

Keefer House Hotel LLC will own and operate the Keefer House Hotel and a restaurant. It is possible that a hospitality services company will be contracted for day-to-day operations for event planning and food and beverage service, noted Wolfram.

“The developer is in the due diligence period of the purchase agreement, but has every expectation to move forward with a complete rehabilitation and redevelopment of this 30,000 square foot property. In addition, the Keefer House Hotel LLC has purchased the adjacent property at 96 North Howell Street in order to increase the footprint of the project,” said Wolfram.

The Keefer House, according to Wolfram, will be restored to its former glory as a boutique hotel serving the many guests and visitors to Hillsdale and Hillsdale College. The initial plans include at least one restaurant on its premises with complementary businesses in the two storefronts. Demand for hotel rooms is expected to be generated from the many activities on the Hillsdale College campus, local business travelers, business conferences, weddings, and other new events in Hillsdale.

“Built in 1885, this very large three-story, late Victorian hotel building has three storefronts facing on Howell Street and extends along North Street all the way to the mid-block alley. Its facades are constructed of red-brown brick with yellow-buff brick used for the impost blocks for the second- and third-story window arches and to highlight soldier-course belt courses at the windowsill and lintel level in both the second and third stories. The second-story windows have segmental-arch caps, the third triangular-arch ones. The building’s eaves display paneled and corbelled brickwork in high relief supporting the cornice, which appears to be of pressed metal. Brick piers, which subdivide the facades, have horizontal bands of yellow-buff brick at belt course levels. A small gable directly above the hotel entrance displays the date “1885” and the name “C. E. KEEFER.” The Keefer House Hotel is a Hillsdale landmark,” said Wolfram.

The total amount of investment is not known at this time noted Wolfram, however, a hotel feasibility study conducted by Hotel Investment Services (HIS) of Troy, Michigan in January of 2017 estimated a redevelopment cost of $4 million.

“The redevelopment of the Keefer House has the potential to be a game-changer for Hillsdale. This redevelopment is contingent on the successful rehabilitation and reopening of the Dawn Theater as an event space, which will also be under the management of Keefer House Hotel LLC. Together, these facilities will bring ‘green’ dollars to Hillsdale, that is, new tourism traffic and revenue generated from outside the community. We expect the two development projects to change the face of downtown Hillsdale and spur economic development throughout the city,” said Wolfram.