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Posted on Sat, May 19, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Chelsea DDA aiming to decide fate of Longworth property

By Lisa Allmendinger

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A view of a portion of the Longworth property on Jackson Street in downtown Chelsea.

Lisa Allmendinger | Ann

What will become of the historic buildings known as the Longworth property, which consists of the Mack and Chelsea House/Livery Buildings as well as a former car dealership on Jackson Street in downtown Chelsea?

The city’s Downtown Development Authority is expected to finally make a decision on the fate of these buildings on June 7 at a special meeting following presentations and discussion with the two firms that submitted bids.

But first the two developers that submitted proposals—110 Longworth Building Development Company and Michael R. Prochaska and Ernest Zachary—will have about an hour each to discuss their ideas and answer questions about them from DDA members at a work session on May 31 at 7:30 a.m. at the Chelsea District Library.

Initially, eight firms showed interest in the project and attended a “pre-submission conference” with the city prior to the April 27 deadline for submission of proposals for the site.

In December 2008, the DDA bought the Longworth property and its three buildings for $400,000, and in June 2009, it voted to demolish the Daniels Showroom, which faces Main Street, and the nearby livery building while leaving the Mack Building, which is between the two.

The buildings at 110 Jackson St. include the old livery, which dates back to 1905; the Mack Building, which was built in 1901; and The Daniels Showroom, which once was home to an auto dealership.

The 110 Longworth Building Development Company proposal includes the purchase, adaptive reuse and redevelopment of the buildings into a mixed use of retail, residential lofts, specialty food vendors, arts and crafts studios and a gallery, according to the group's proposal response letter.

The developers envision a center that will be a local and regional destination and help connect the Clocktower complex with the Main Street district downtown.

The proposal includes commitments from Red Hawk Grill and Revive+Replenish Cafe in AnnArbor for a restaurant; The Art Pursuit of Chelsea, a non-profit art center focusing on ceramics; and Chelsea Farmers Supply, a business next door that would like to expand.

Those involved are Alexander Pollack in association with Kadushin Associates Architects Planners, Inc., J. C. Beal Construction, Inc., and members of the Chelsea Connection, a group of Chelsea residents who have been fighting to save the buildings.

The Mack Building would have a mixed use, while the Chelsea House/Livery would become home to a pottery manufacturing operation and five lofts on the second floor and an aquaponic fishing operation, a restaurant and specialized boutiques.

The Prochaska-Zachary proposal includes 20 loft-style apartments with geothermal heat and air conditioning, solar electric and solar thermal systems.

The proposal states “both the livery building and the Mack building will house 20 units with individually distinct layouts, while the Longworth Showroom portion will "feature commercial availability targeted to the regional market.”

Included in this plan are the two developers, Quinn Evans Architects, MEP Construction LLC of Detroit and Detroit Geothermal LLC.

Hard copies of the proposals can be found at the Chelsea City Offices or those interested can request electronic version from John Hanifan, the city manager.

For more than four years, the DDA has been discussing these buildings that are located on a prominent corner in the city and serve as a gateway to Chelsea from the north. Previous discussions have leaned toward demolishing the buildings, but the Chelsea Connection, came forward to try and save the buildings from demolition.

In January, the DDA agreed to look at two parallel tracks, one for adaptive redevelopment and another that includes the demolition of some of the structures on the site with public walkways on the northern side of the parcel connecting the Main Street sidewalks to the Chelsea Depot property.

One plan would remove the western wall of the “auto dealership addition to the Mack Building” and to restore the entry to the Mack Building to its historic character with the open space be redeveloped as landscaped public space.

Another would remove the livery building with open space redeveloped as landscaped public space.

Bernath, as well as other members of the group, have repeatedly reminded DDA members that there are grants available for cleanup of the property, tax incentives and tax credits for keeping and redeveloping the structures.

A work session has been scheduled for May 31 at 7:30 a.m. in the McKune Room of the Chelsea District Library to interview the two firms that submitted proposals.

In addition, a special meeting has been scheduled for June 7 at 7:30 a.m., tentatively in the McKune Room, to make a decision on the fate of the buildings and property.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Chelsea stories, visit our Chelsea page.