Sartos donate building for new housing project.

October 16, 2019

Sartos donate building for new housing project.

LUDINGTON — Business owners Ron and Dawn Sarto have recently donated the 100-year-old three-story building at 801 N. Rowe Street towards a redevelopment project that will create affordable housing. The planned 65 apartment project is being led by Third Coast Development and Michigan Community Capital.

The site had long been eyed for redevelopment, but it was the Sartos benevolence that helped get things moving this summer for Ludington-based Pennies from Heaven Foundation, which, for several months, had been looking for potential developers to redevelop vacant space in the area into affordable housing options.

In 2018, Monica Schuyler, executive director of Pennies from Heaven Foundation along with the Mason County Economic Development Corporation assembled packages of potential redevelopment projects to consider in order to improve housing in the community.

“We know from our involvement in the community, working with local leaders and nonprofits as well as the data that housing is one of the greatest needs, especially in price points that are affordable to year-round working residents,” said Schuyler. “Lack of affordable housing creates a lot of pressure on a household and a community, and we have witnessed those negative side effects here in Mason County. While there is a lot of work yet to do, we are so excited by the opportunity and collaboration that has taken place so far.”

After speaking with Grand Rapids-based commercial real estate developers Third Coast Development and Lansing-based nonprofit investor Michigan Community Capital, Pennies from Heaven facilitated discussions with Ron Sarto, owner of Ludington-based Change Parts, Inc. about the possibility of an adaptive reuse of a building he owned on Rowe Street. In July 2019, Sarto and his wife decided to donate the building and property for the Lofts on Rowe project.

“The best way to transform a community is to start within the community,” said Eric Hanna, president and CEO, Michigan Community Capital. “The generosity of Ron and Dawn Sarto and leadership of Pennies from Heaven Foundation are important signals to other stakeholders that the community is going to be the critical partner and catalyst for change that is necessary to accomplish great things.” 

It was an easy decision, Ron Sarto said.

“Both sets of parents taught us at an early age that giving to the community that gives us so much is the right thing to do,” he said. “They helped us to open our eyes and look for ways to contribute, so we thought helping to address the housing problem is one way to give back. Affordable housing is a huge problem right now in our community, and it’s tough to find human and financial resources to get projects done. Dawn and I thought the donation would kick-start the idea that was presented to us, which is led by smart, creative and experienced people. We’re excited to see the old but beautiful factory come back to life.”

“Third Coast Development and Michigan Community Capital have worked to capture and adopt a vision for something that we think could be a great fit for our community and that vacant space,” Schuyler added. “It is clear that they care about making a lasting impact here.”

Third Coast, which owns and maintains hundreds of residential units across Michigan and Illinois, was very drawn to the community collaboration and believed the renovation into housing would fill a gap, said Brad Rosely, partner.

“It’s a beautiful building that we think can be repurposed into a wonderful residential setting that will add to the value of the neighborhood,” said Rosely. “We love to preserve the natural beauty of the buildings we renovate, and we think the Sartos and the neighbors are going to love how we repurpose much of the interior. We have a long way to go before we start doing any work, but we’re hopeful that our project plans will meet all local and state approvals.”

Lofts on Rowe, as it will be named, calls for converting the building into 65 apartments, ranging from studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units. Surface parking would be created for residents and guests. A small section of the ground floor could contain a small commercial office or retail space. There are also plans for a ground-floor community room, which could host neighborhood association and community nonprofits. Once operational, Third Coast will oversee all operations with on-site staff.

Although there is a lot of work ahead for the project to proceed, including various local and state zoning and financing approvals, the development team looks at the Sartos gift as a pivotal point in making the project successful.

“Ron and Dawn have given Ludington a gift. We hope to make them and the community proud with our Lofts on Rowe idea,” Rosely added.

 “We are grateful for the support of Ron and Dawn Sarto, in donating their building to help make this project a reality. For a community to thrive, it takes great partnerships like this. We are proud to help support this project,” said Schuyler.

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