Ray and Marsha Minervini moved to northern Michigan in 1989 expecting they would soon retire and "take it easy" after running construction companies for many years in Detroit. "But that isn't my personality," Ray admits. "I enjoy working too much."
Since their move, the Minervinis have worked tirelessly to rescue from demolition the historic Northern Michigan Asylum, located in Traverse City on a 64-acre campus. Today they are five years into redevelopment of a 36-acre portion of the complex called The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Housing nearly 1 million square feet of buildings — including the 400,000-square-foot centerpiece of the complex, a structure formerly known as Building 50 — the redevelopment is one of the largest historic preservation and mixed adaptive-reuse projects in the country.
The Village People
While Ray and Marsha have years of experience in construction, the scope and complexity of the redevelopment are unparalleled. To accomplish their goals and not feel overwhelmed, they divided the remodeling project into eight manageable sections and split business responsibilities between two companies. Ray dissolved his construction company and bought out his wife's company, MAM Contracting, which now handles the construction and contracting part of the job, including managing about 40 subcontractors. Ray formed The Minervini Group in 2000 specifically for the development side of the project. Both companies have their offices in The Village.
The project has become a family affair. Ray serves as managing member of The Minervini Group; Marsha is a licensed Realtor and handles sales for the company; their son Raymond is a partner of The Minervini Group; and Ray's sister, Mini Minervini, works on custom design and recruitment of key tenants and purchasers for office, retail, and residential space. Ray and Marsha's three other sons are also involved with the business: Two work in the field, and one is a project manager with MAM. "We have 40 people we employ [and about] 80 working on the project right now," Ray says.
The Right Fit
The Minervinis recently completed the first phase of the redevelopment, reviving the former Cottage 20 and the 45,000-square-foot section 1 of Building 50, which housed the "men's most disturbed ward." Now called Southview, it includes an Italian restaurant and art gallery on the garden level, offices on the first and second floors, and a total of nine residential units on the third-floor and attic levels.
The biggest challenge with the Southview residential space was reconfiguring 9-by-11-foot patient rooms into livable condominiums that meet today's market standards. "A house is easy to rehab; it's open space," Ray says. "An institutional building, like this old hospital, is difficult. You start off with many small rooms and solid 18-inch-thick masonry walls, so any modification requires the demolition of load-bearing walls." The solution? "Every space is different. We have to reconfigure the spaces and listen to the building," Ray says.
The result of the Minervinis' attentive approach is not only a mixed-use community but a diverse array of condos that range from 300 to 3,000 square feet in size and $65,000 to more than $600,000 in price. The original 13-foot ceiling height was preserved, as were the 8-foot-high window openings. More efficient, custom-built six-over-six-pane windows have replaced the metal 15-over-15-pane originals. "We were also able to salvage the wood floors and moldings, [and] had new cuts and patterns made to emulate the originals if they were too damaged," Ray says.
While each condo boasts a different design, every space shares what the Minervinis call an "interior porch," created by the 12-foot-wide corridor that runs the length of the building on every floor (except for the attic level) and is as wide as the rooms on either side of it. The corridor was deemed to have historical significance, so the Minervinis preserved the space, which has become "like the streetscape where you can put furniture, couches, chairs," Ray says.
Creating a Market
Nestled within 320 acres of preserved parkland, with views of Lake Michigan and just steps from the city, The Village is prime real estate. Rather than create a monoculture for the rich, however, the Minervinis "strive to create a cross-section of people, generationally and socioeconomically," Ray says. "We see a market for small spaces; they're affordable for young people." The approach has worked: Everything that is built is sold, and the majority of phases 2 and 3 is reserved. "The market has really embraced the project. People see value in it," Ray says.