Oct. 11 2018 11:32 AM

Lansing City Council approves property sale


A retail store for salvaged building materials will soon move into one of the more iconic historical sites in the downtown area following a recent, unanimous vote by Lansing’s City Council.

City Council members voted Monday to offload the historic, city-owned Cooley Haze House on Malcolm X Street to a local real estate agent for $20,000. The Realtor, Joe Vitale, said he plans to restore the exterior and renovate the interior for a shop for “architectural and building material salvage.”

If all goes as planned, Vitale hopes to open the store by next summer.

“I’m very excited,” Vitale added. “The comments at the Committee of the Whole meeting were all very encouraging and supportive. They liked how the architectural details will be preserved even if the property isn’t preserved. They also liked the educational components and all of the classes we have planned.”

Vitale, the former president of Preservation Lansing, plans to seek grant money that would allow him to host classes on key preservationist skill sets like how to reglaze windows, restore plaster and install wood trimming. Rooms of the home will also be filled with salvaged building materials that will be sold for similar projects.

“We will have the skills and the space available to help homeowners in Lansing and historic preservationists learn skill sets they can take into the community,” Vitale said previously. “The goal is to save the property and create a business and resource that doesn’t currently exist in Lansing.”

City officials labeled the site an “attractive cultural asset.” And Mayor Andy Schor said Vitale’s proposal was the better of two the city received since it opted to allow the sale of the property last year and opened it to a second round of bidding in June. The plan will ensure the property is renovated and maintained for years to come, Schor said. The only other proposal the city received was from a Jackson artist who wanted to make it her home. She offered $10,000.

“We are excited that this historic property will be purchased and fixed up,” Schor said in a statement.

Voters authorized the sale last year, but nobody showed an interest when the city first advertised its availability.

A bit of renovation work and a zoning change are now the only obstacles standing in the way of opening. Vitale also said he will employ licensed contractors with plans to eventually place the home on the national historic registry.

The Colonial Revival house sits between Cooley Gardens and the new Central Substation that the Lansing Board of Water & Light is building on the southwest corner of Washington Avenue and Malcolm X Street along I-496. The city has maintained the home for decades and last year took steps to repurpose the property.

Eugene Cooley, son of 19th century Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas M. Cooley, built the three-story home. It was also home to Dr. Harry Haze and Michigan Gov. G. Mennen Williams and the headquarters for the Michigan Baptist Convention before the city acquired the site in 1978.

Until last year, it housed the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. It has since moved into the Meridian Mall.

Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and continued coverage at the Cooley Haze House.