The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 27, 2017

Nonprofit initiates fresh start for old Saginaw News Building

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

SAGINAW - These days, the revitalization of Michigan's downtowns, big and small, are often tied to the adaptive re-use of old buildings into new purposes.

So it goes with the SVRC Industries, which is in the midst of a wholesale renovation of an historic newspaper and press facility into a multipurpose building that will include a new home for vendors in the city's Farmer's Market - to be named the SVRC Marketplace - as well as other tenants. The project includes the redevelopment of a 4.36-acre tract of real estate at Washington and Federal streets that had primarily been the site of the former 100,000 square-foot Saginaw News Building. 

The renovated three-story building and nearby grounds will include a new first-floor entrance on the Water Street side, an atrium, a food court, a European-style market with various vendors, and a year-round, indoor-outdoor farmer's market plaza. Other space in the building will be devoted to a new headquarters for Spence Brothers Construction - which originally built the Saginaw News building - as well as a Central Michigan University Research Center, a Frankenmuth Credit Union office and a clinical and observation center for autistic children. The building will offer kitchen space, coolers and wash and pack rooms for food preparation and for farmers to get their produce ready for the market when it becomes the permanent home for the Saginaw Farmer's Market, currently about three blocks away on Washington Street.

"This project is huge for the City of Saginaw," said Dean Emerson, CEO of SVRC (Saginaw Valley Rehabilitation Center) Industries. "This is a community that is starting to turn the corner, and what this project will do is bring more people, activity, entrepreneurs, and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods to an area that has been struggling."

SVRC is a non-profit organization that has been providing vocational rehabilitation services in Saginaw County and the surrounding community since 1962. The group says that the Marketplace project "builds on SVRC’s core-mission of creating employment opportunities and community access by offering healthy food options, integrated jobs, supportive services, and vibrant gathering spaces in a single downtown development." Emerson said the project will also bring more opportunities for SVRC clients in areas such as skills and employment training. "We're moving right along, the trades have been excellent to work with," Emerson added. 

Erected 1958-1960, the steel-framed Saginaw News Building was built in the International Style and has many elements of Mid-Century Modern architecture. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which was a major factor in assembling tax credits to make this $22 million project viable. The application for the designation cites the building's long north facade, which "displays a metal frame curtain wall in the second and third stories formed of alternating bands of single-light rectangular windows and light green porcelainized enameled steel panels. The east facade facing Washington Street, which also sits on a dark granite base, is highlighted by polished white Maine granite set in rectangular panels, as well as 12 windows on the second and third stories."

To be retained on the inside of the building are the natural light-filled lobby, the lobby's Italian Travertine floor, a recessed counter faced in dark Boise Giordan marble and walls faced with light colored Italian Perlatto marble. Another feature: a "floating" lobby staircase whose design "appears inspired by Eero Saarinen's sweeping staircase in the General Motors Technical Center lobby space," the historic designation application says.

The building served as the headquarters for the Saginaw News for 50 years until its operations were moved in 2010. 

Spence Brothers is managing the renovation of the building. Project Supt. Bob Slavik said they haven't run into any major difficulties during the renovation, although they are "very aware" of the nearby Saginaw River being a couple hundred feet out the back door as they have made excavations. An old Firestone property had to be demolished to make way for the project's outdoor pavilion. Large printing presses, ink storage and other related mechanical components had to be removed. And they have had to work around several old foundations, possibly as old as the 1880s. "The only cool thing we dug up is an old beer bottle," Slavik said. 

The project involves the wholesale replacement of the building's mechanical systems, many of which are original. For example, the old hot water boiler was about 60 percent efficient; the new one will be about 98 percent. Emerson said the new mechanical systems should save about $12,000 per month on utility costs. Hazardous materials abatement has been more extensive than expected, and "that really has been about the only surprise we've had," Emerson said. 

Slavik said there have been about 40 trades workers on site, and that number will about double when the job reaches peak employment. "And most of the trades and contractors are local," he said. "We have a great crew of guys out here. They've been around a long time and you don't need to push them, they're just good." The project is expected to be complete in May 2018.

SIX-INCH HEAT and chilled water lines are installed in the upper reaches of the mechanical penthouse of the SVRC Marketplace project in Saginaw by (l-r) Shawn Haggart and Randy Vendlinski of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 85. They’re employed by Johnson and Wood.

COMPLETED IN 1960, the former Saginaw News building at 203 S. Washington Ave. is being repurposed into a new multipurpose building for SVRC Industries. Doing the work is Spence Brothers, their subcontractors and building trades union workers.

INSTALLING A 400-AMP panel at the SVRC Marketplace project in Saginaw is Dewey Weiss of IBEW Local 557, employed by Nelson Electric. In the trench behind him is four-inch conduit that will contain the new main electrical feed for the former newspaper building. The red iron will support the roof over an adjacent indoor-outdoor farmer’s market plaza.