By Michele Bourdieu
HANCOCK -- While pouring rain caused postponement of the scheduled ground breaking for the Quincy Haven Apartments on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010, the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new facility for special needs residents celebrated the beginning of a dream come true for Gail Ross, executive director of the Hancock Housing Commission and Foundation, who has worked for several years to make the project a reality.
Gail Ross, executive director of the Hancock Housing Commission and its Foundation, addresses a community audience at the Aug. 13 Ground Breaking Ceremony for Quincy Haven Apartments, held at Lakeview Manor. Ross worked tirelessly for several years to secure funding for the facility, which will provide affordable housing for low-income residents with special needs. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated)
The ceremony and celebration luncheon took place at Lakeview Manor in Hancock, which will soon be the neighbor of the projected Quincy Haven Apartments -- a three-story, 24-unit special needs supportive housing facility with 18 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments. It will be designed to accommodate physically disabled individuals in a modern, energy-efficient building to be located on the Hancock Housing Commission's property adjacent to Lakeview Manor, Hancock's current public housing facility.
In reply to many requests received by the Hancock Housing Commission, the new Quincy Haven Apartments will accommodate physically disabled/handicapped persons as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Currently the Commission has no handicap-accessible units that will meet ADA regulations and design criteria. Furthermore, through the housing commission’s membership on the Continuum of Care Coalition, a need has been identified for this type of housing in this area.
This drawing by OHM Engineering (formerly Hitch Engineering), designers for the project, shows the projected Quincy Haven Apartments as an extension to the left or west side of the present Lakeview Manor residence in Hancock.
"The target population for this project is low- and extremely low-income individuals and families with physical or mental disabilities, homeless persons and survivors of domestic abuse," said John Haeussler, Hancock Housing Foundation vice president.
Addressing an audience of local community leaders and residents at Lakeview Manor in Hancock, Haeussler gave a history of the planning for the $4.8 million project, which is now fully funded.
"In March 2005 Hancock Housing Commission President John B. Garber (now deceased) and Executive Director Gail Ross approached the Hancock City Council in support of their mission to create a non-profit corporation to provide affordable housing to persons with special needs in the area," Haeussler said.
By 2006 the IRS approved the Hancock Housing Foundation as an official 501C (3) non-profit corporation, Haeussler added. The project was presented to the Hancock City Council and the Hancock Planning Commission, and by 2007 the project and its impact on the community were presented at the City's Economic Development Summit.
"A strong collaborative effort of city and state government, service providers and neighboring residents resulted in a consensus to pursue funding for a special needs supportive housing facility in the City of Hancock," Haeussler explained.
During the Friday, Aug. 13, Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new Quincy Haven Apartments, community leaders wait inside Lakeview Manor for the rain to stop for the actual ground breaking. Pictured here, from left, are Christine Miller of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA); Hancock Mayor Bill Laitila; State Rep. Mike Lahti (D-Hancock); Tim Seppanen, vice president of Yalmer Mattila Construction and project manager; Ron Antila, Hancock Housing Commission president; Gail Ross, Hancock Housing Commission and Foundation executive director; Tracie Williams, OHM Engineering local office general manager; and Jamey Markham, vice president of Range Bank.
Haeussler read a letter of congratulations to the Hancock Housing Foundation from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, who stated, "It is exciting that your vision of creating a supportive and affordable living space for vulnerable populations is becoming a reality. This will be a wonderful addition to the community. I know the residents will appreciate having a home that accommodates their needs and enables them to live independently."
Haeussler introduced Ross, who extended thanks to all who worked against many obstacles to obtain funding for the project and to OHM Engineering (formerly Hitch Engineering) and Yalmer Mattila Construction.
"Quincy Haven Apartments will provide an atmosphere in which individuals and families can gain confidence and independence in their lives," Ross said.
Michigan District 110 Rep. Mike Lahti (D-Hancock), now a candidate for the Michigan Senate, praised Gail Ross for her "intestinal fortitude" and "hard work" on this project for the community.
Michigan District 110 Rep. Mike Lahti (D-Hancock), now a candidate for the Michigan Senate, addresses the guests at the Aug. 13 Quincy Haven Apartments Ground Breaking Ceremony at Lakeview Manor in Hancock.
"Lakeview Manor has been a good neighbor for this city for many years. It is providing safe, affordable housing for residents of the Copper Country. Quincy Haven will do the same for folks with special needs," Lahti said. "Gail worked tirelessly with MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) to get (the project) done for the community."
Mark Dennis, Hancock Housing Commission vice president, said the new building would have the same brick exterior as Lakeview Manor but would be much more energy-efficient.
"Every window, every light -- all the washers, dryers and refrigerators -- will be Energy Star related," Dennis said.
In addition, the entire building will feature signage with Braille, audible/visual alarms and lever door handles. Public spaces will also be designed for accessibility. All units will include individual heating and cooling systems, high speed internet capability, energy efficient windows and doors, mini blinds and an individual balcony or patio.
Dennis said the funding for the project is all arranged through various sources and the project will serve the whole western U.P. without being a tax burden on Hancock residents.
Funding sources include MSHDA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis. The units will also be subsidized by 18 Project-Based Vouchers from MSHDA and 6 Project-Based Vouchers from the Hancock Housing Commission Section 8 Rental Assistance program.
"It's been a long, hard fight but it's worth it," Dennis said. "It's going to be a great asset to our community. That's for sure."
The new building will benefit from the Hancock Housing Commission's 40 years of public housing management at Lakeview Manor and will integrate all residents to a centrally located administrative office, 24-hour on-call maintenance staff and all the amenities to the existing operations.
Dorn Dittmer, an 8-year Lakeview Manor resident, noted the advantage of maintenance-free living in the current facility, especially snow removal.
Hancock Mayor Bill Laitila acknowledged the hard work that Ross and others have put into the project planning.
"It took a lot of effort by many, many people to get this done," Laitila noted. "The public doesn't realize how many pitfalls they had."
Tim Seppanen, vice-president of Yalmer Mattila Construction and project manager, called Gail Ross a model of professionalism, who sets standards of excellence.
"Gail Ross has been our captain, our coach, our team leader in this project," Seppanen said. "She fought a successful battle with ovarian cancer while bringing the planning to completion."
To symbolize making a wish for the dream of Quincy Haven, Ross brought to the ceremony small boxes of butterflies from Florida to set free according to a Native American legend, which she distributed to guests on a small card that said, in part, "Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly cannot reveal the wish (that is whispered to it) to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish."
Gail Ross, Quincy Haven Apartments executive director, prepares to set her butterfly free to symbolize her wish to make Quincy Haven a dream come true. Guests at the Ground Breaking Ceremony received a small box with a butterfly for the "Butterfly Release" part of the ceremony.
Mary Tuisku, former Hancock Housing Commissioner and former City Councilor, had praise for the project and for Ross's persevering efforts.
"It's truly a dream come true. It's a recognition of the responsibility that every society should have to take care of those who are in need," Tuisku said. "There aren't enough words to describe what a wonderful person Gail is and how she persevered to set her butterfly free."
Guests at the Aug. 13 Quincy Haven Apartments Ground Breaking Ceremony at Lakeview Manor in Hancock set butterflies free to symbolize a wish coming true. (Photo © 2010 and courtesy Roland Burgan*)
Bucky Beach, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Houghton, gave an opening prayer and a benediction at the end of the ceremony.
"One of the things I like about this community is that it takes care of its own, and that's important," Beach said.
Steve Albee, former Hancock Housing Commissioner, admires a liberated butterfly during the ceremony celebrating Quincy Haven Apartments.
Jordan Peterson of Houghton displays two butterflies that paid him a visit during the Butterfly Release.
Tracie Williams, general manager of OHM Engineering, Houghton office, said they would be moving to a new office in Hancock at the end of this month. She estimated the project would take 12 months of construction.
Seppanen noted construction would begin on Monday, Aug. 16.
*Editor's Note: See more of Roland Burgan's photos of the Quincy Haven Apartments Ground Breaking Ceremony on the City of Hancock Web site.