Images and text by Chelsea Batten http://chelseabatten.com
Light filters through the windows of the Calumet Village Hall like a fine rain, lifting the honeyed tones of its woodwork. Joe Snow’s earnest demeanor fits well within this setting. Seated at his desk and peering down at the first of a neat file of papers, he looks like a Norman Rockwell scene. Even more so when you consider that he grew up in Calumet during its heyday, watching the flames rise from the foundry chimneys across from the Colosseum.
As his father’s air force career was coming to a close, Joe’s family resettled in Calumet in 1965. He was in third grade, a student at Sacred Heart. He and his friend used to run around town on a Friday night, excited by the hustle and bustle.
“It was packed all the time. All the stores were open. Vertin’s had all four floors lit up. The Parkside Restaurant was a booming place. There were something like twenty-seven bars, and just as many churches. People were employed; there was activity all the time.”
The village changed quickly when the mines closed. People started moving away, shuttering their homes and businesses behind them. Joe got through high school and college while working at his father’s body shop and Calumet Electronics, then followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Air Force.
Even while traveling the world and starting a family, the Keweenaw stayed strong in his memory.
“It was always home. It was always where I’d planned to be. In the service, a lot of people went on vacations here and there. Our vacation was coming back here [and] seeing our families.”
In 2016, after Joe retired from the service, he and his wife left their home in Washington State to return to the Keweenaw. They moved into Joe’s parents’ old home just north of Tamarack, took up cross-country skiing, and became regulars at the Calumet Golf Course. However, announcing their move brought a certain amount of skepticism, even from his old friends who were still in the area.
“A lot of people I talked to, they said, ‘Are you sure you want to move back here?’ I say, why wouldn’t I? This is home. Yeah, it’s changed a lot, but maybe there’s something I can do to make it better. When I found out this position was open, I thought this would be something I could contribute to.”
As village manager, Joe wears a dizzying array of hats. He jokes that he’s still reading the job expectations in his contract. Along with holding monthly village council meetings and making sure the city’s bills get paid, he serves as an administrator for the zoning board as well as for the Downtown Development Authority. And of course, there’s being the point person for any question a Calumet resident might have. When it comes to the thousand and one questions of daily life in a village, the buck stops with him.
“There’s constantly people coming in, asking questions. Some are fairly simple—‘Can I tear up the sidewalk to put a driveway in?” Other questions are more complicated—“‘There’s a house with a loose pane; I’m afraid it might fall into the street.’ Then we have to track down the homeowner. We had a lady come in because her next door neighbor’s dog was crapping in the yard. She said, ‘Is there an ordinance about the dog running loose?’ And yeah, turns out there is. “There are lots of things I have to bring to council. But I don’t ever say, ‘That’s not us.’ I’ll either find out who they can talk to or point them in the right direction.”
The immediate challenge is picking up where the previous manager left off. The gap between village managers has left Joe to orient himself and restore operations to good working order. “One of the things I'm trying to do is establish Operation Instructions”—Air Force speak for a clear procedural system—“so that whoever comes after me, everything's in place for them.” For this, he depends on the help of village council president Dave Geisler, as well as his secretary, Corrinne, who has held down the village hall office through the tenure of three past managers.
Balanced against all this fine detail is a long-term vision for Calumet's future. Joe has made it his mission to get the village on the path toward revitalization. He is working on preservation measures such as stabilizing Calumet’s historic sandstone buildings and restoring the village hall’s clock tower to function again. Already, he has applied for grants that would set up a fund for the maintenance of Agassiz Park, and he has led the council in passing an ordinance against urban blight.
Taking care of the village’s appearance is a cornerstone of economic development in the area. Another crucial component is forging partnerships amongst the Keweenaw’s many development and tourism organizations. This region-wide effort would not only benefit everyone, but it could potentially restore Calumet to its former place as commercial center for the Keweenaw.
“People in this area have a lot of pride in the community. I don’t mean just Calumet. The Keweenaw is really one big community. I want to work with other municipalities to get people to work together, instead of in isolation.” Partnership, Joe says, is essential for any of these efforts to be effective. “There are some things that I can do, but there are things a lot of other people can do. I know people from my experiences traveling around that may be able to financially assist—bring a business in, maybe invest in the village. [And] citizens can help out, also. People here are very friendly and helpful."
Joe says that he took the Midwest’s work ethic for granted until his travels around the country showed him how rare a quality it is. People from this area, he says, are closely bonded by their pride in their hometown, their community spirit, and their commitment to getting a job done well. “I think those people would be the same ones who would be able to help the village move forward.”
Fortunately, this fierce local spirit is one of Calumet’s richest resources. And unlike copper, it doesn’t go away.
“I don’t think anything’s going to happen tomorrow. But if everybody continues to work together, the small things start showing up, and hopefully people get a little more pride in the community. Then they can maybe take on things themselves. We have to grow together. You don’t forget about home.”
Keweenaw Coffee Works, Calumet's popular micro roastery, is expanding their operations with a bigger roasting machine in order to upgrade their manufacturing capabilities, to keep up with the steadily growing demand for their delicious artisan coffee. The exciting upgrade means the small batch roastery will be able to bring more sustainably produced coffee to more coffee-loving customers, while also creating great job opportunities in the local community.
Appreciated for their fresh, high-quality, and sustainably produced coffee, Keweenaw Coffee Works has maintained a steady business growth for the past 5 years. With happy customers returning frequently, and public demand for specialty coffee drastically increasing, the company is nearing capacity and needs to upgrade manufacturing capabilities to continue to grow.
Keweenaw Coffee Works is currently operating on a 6 lb roaster, roasting 15 to 18 lbs per hour. The new machine will be able to roast 25 lb per batch, with an output of approximately 80 to 100 lbs per hours, greatly increasing the capacity and supply capabilities so they can bring their specialty coffee to more locations across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Midwest.
“Basically, a new machine means we can roast in one hour what we normally roast in one day!” says founder Valerie Baciak. She continues, “Those who drink our coffee know we've done our research and taken the time to inspect all aspects of our product to meet their expectations – passion is our number one ingredient! We are so happy that the response to our coffee has been so great, and now we can’t wait to expand our operations further and bring more people in!”
About Keweenaw Coffee Works Keweenaw Coffee Works opened in 2013, and was founded by Nate and Val, a married couple sharing a passion for great food and hospitality excellence. Their love for high quality coffee started when Nate started to roast his own coffee at home and sharing it with friends and family. The roastery is focused on providing sustainable, great tasting coffee served with a smile, and their philosophy behind every cup is that small is beautiful – that’s why they work closely with suppliers to support small artisan farms.
In order to raise funds for the new equipment and expand their business, Keweenaw Coffee Works has launched a Kickstarter campaign, which has already surpassed its original funding goal. To keep the momentum up, they have introduced some great stretch goals. For example, if they hit $45K, they'll donate a pound of coffee to food banks and Meal on Wheels programs across the state of Michigan in the name of each backer who joins the campaign. From now until April 23 2017, fans and coffee enthusiasts can back the campaign in return for some great rewards, such as delicious coffee (of course!), exclusive enamel mugs, original artwork, T-shirts, and more.
For more information about Keweenaw Coffee Works check out their website, Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.
Contact: Valerie Baciak firstname.lastname@example.org
If you were unable to attend the March 15th, 2017 Calumet community meeting that this year was called the Calumet Rendezvous (and last year was called Pizza and Politics) what follows is a step-by-step account of the event!
Around 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 15th a group of about 40 folks filed into the Keweenaw Heritage Center at St. Anne's, signed in and got down to the business of eating. Main Street Calumet (MSC) hosts this event and provided pizza from Jim's Pizza of Calumet, a gluten-free option, and a tossed salad. Around 6:30 pm Main Street Calumet Executive Director Leah Polzien welcomed the group and introduced the first of six speakers for the evening, Calumet Township Supervisor Paul Lehto.
Lehto spoke for 10-15 minutes, recounting the past year's successes and updating the group about projects that are in the works for Calumet Township in 2017. The list included road work projects, acquisition of the Depot building and lot, new rink boards at the Calumet Colosseum, improvements to the Calumet Lake Lion's Park and the Drill Shop/Curling Club Building. While the Depot Building has already been acquired, several of the other projects Lehto mentioned are in the planning stages and the Township will be seeking funding over the next several months to complete these plans. Lehto also spoke with pride about the Calumet High School Hockey program and congratulated them on making it to the State Championship game on occurred March 11, 2017.
Polzien then introduced Village of Calumet Council President David Geisler. While cake was distributed Geisler announced the reason for the celebratory dessert, which was to acknowledge the March 19, 1875 incorporation of the Village of Calumet and to welcome the new Village Administrator, Joe Snow. Geisler introduced Snow who then briefly recounted his military background, his happiness to be in Calumet and his desire to serve the community. Snow encouraged anyone with concerns to give him a call at the Village Hall or to stop in and see him. Geisler then reported on a few projects ahead for the village including an infrastructure project on Elm Street and a portion of 8th Street which will result in replacement of the water and sewer lines as well as resurfacing the overlying streets and sidewalks. The project could take place in 2017 and will cost around $800,000. The project will be completed if the Village is successful in its bid for a State of Michigan Infrastructure Grant that will cover 90% of the cost.
Geisler also reported that the Village will need to begin taking part in the State of Michigan's Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) Program if it is to be successful in competing for grants in the future. Starting in autumn 2017, communities that are not RRC Certified will lose points when being considered for grants and eventually may become ineligible for grant funding through the state. The RRC Program requires communities to participate in best practices for community planning, including having up-to-date Master Plans which must include a Complete Streets Plan and Zoning Plan (all of which must be made available on-line). The community must also have in place a Corridor Plan and a Capital Improvements Plan. These plans are typically written by professionals and often cost upwards of $10,000 to produce. While the process is costly the purpose is that a community have a well-developed, efficient, clear, and transparent process for anyone wishing to develop or redevelop property within a community.
The next speaker to take the floor was Village of Calumet Historic District Commission (HDC) Chairman, Chris Green. Green recounted the mission of the HDC: to keep the Calumet Historic District looking historic. He explained where the HDC's authority comes from and where to find the HDC Guidelines online (under the Resources tab at www.mainstreetcalumet.com). Green made it a point to clarify that it is not the Keweenaw National Historical Park (KNHP) that dictates changes to the exterior of buildings, but rather the Historic District Commission, which issues Certificates of Appropriateness to building owners for façade improvements. Chairman Green also let the group know that while the HDC meets monthly, its members are available to help folks plan their projects at any time. The HDC does not intend to be a punitive body but rather one that helps building owners make choices regarding changes to façades that preserve the historic look of our community.
Lastly, Polzien presented the Main Street Calumet (MSC) Annual Report and spoke about the organization's achievements over the past year. She then introduced the 2017 MSC membership program. One exciting development is that residential and business members are now able to sign up and pay for Main Street Calumet memberships directly through the Main Street website. The change reduces paperwork for volunteers and allows members to manage their own accounts, including what shows up in the on-line member directory. Polzien was also happy to report that MSC will be producing 5,000 copies of a new Calumet Adventure Guide that will be distributed to Visitor's Centers across Michigan. The brochure is currently the only brochure available that features the Village of Calumet, its businesses and surrounding attractions. To support Main Street Calumet, view the Annual Report and learn more about what supporting Main Street does for Calumet, click here.
Supporting Main Street Calumet is as Easy as 1, 2, 3!
Are you ready to support Main Street Calumet's mission but aren't sure how? We've made it easier to partner with Main Street Calumet through online membership. As an added bonus, online memberships improve efficiency! This gives our volunteers more time to focus on the community they serve.
Here's how it works:
Step 1) Learn about Main Street Calumet's mission and work by reading our Annual Report (pdf)
Step 2) Find out about partnership packages and perks (pdf)
Step 3) Join us in revitalizing, preserving, and serving Calumet!
Our Early Bird special promotion is available for business partners who join before June 1, 2017:
Be on our supporter banner!
We'd love to let everyone know about your support by including your name with membership level on the 2.5' x 8' Supporter Banner at our public events throughout the year.
The Mineral Range/DSS&A Passenger Depot, commonly known as the Calumet Depot, has found a new future! Calumet Township has acquired the Depot for “the purpose of historical preservation”, reports Township Supervisor Paul Lehto.
On the corner of 9th and Oak, the Depot (replacing an earlier structure in 1908) was the gateway to Calumet for thousands who migrated to the area in the boom years at the turn of the last century. The width of Oak Street demonstrates the thoroughfare necessary to accommodate the masses of people moving from train to trolley and into the community.
While marble floors speak to the former grandeur of the building this historic landmark has fallen into a state of disrepair and will require considerable funds to revive. Having the building in the hands of a government entity like Calumet Township opens doors to some funding sources that would otherwise be unavailable. With most grants matching dollars are required and finding that capital is never easy.
Over the years various ideas have been suggested for repurposing the depot, including a bar/restaurant, a visitor center and more recently, a trailhead for the adjacent multi-use trails. The township is currently working on ideas for future uses and to secure funding to bring the Depot back to its former glory.
Supervisor Lehto reports that the short term approach is to secure the structure. The township plans to bring power into the building to install safety lighting, secure doors and windows and clean up any debris inside the building.
The decay of downtown Calumet has had residents concerned many years. Following the mine closures of the 1960s residents have decried the decline of buildings and loss of businesses in the downtown area. As businesses and residents have left the area the tax base in Calumet has suffered and with it the ability of the Village to provide services and maintain the communities aging infrastructure. It is apparent to all that the state of disrepair and lack of up-to-date housing in the downtown area must be remedied in order for Calumet to revitalize.
While the problems are obvious the solutions are more elusive. Rehabbing large historic structures is a costly undertaking and when a timely return on such an investment is uncertain it’s difficult for building owners to commit to such projects. Calumet has also suffered from lack of a minimum maintenance standard or blight ordinance to set expectations for building owners (the Village Council is currently working to pass this legislation currently).*
There have been several successful rehabilitation projects in the downtown area, some privately funded and others funded with some combination of both private and grant monies (see images). Despite these efforts there is currently a backlog of threatened properties. Aware of the need and seeing great opportunity, in early 2016, Jeff Ratcliffe, Executive Director, at Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) began devising a plan to help Calumet revitalize its downtown, a plan he named Bring Back Calumet.
To start, he set about creating a redevelopment catalog for Calumet, or prospectus, including information on area demographics, design professionals and a list of the threatened buildings in the downtown (with photos, ownership information, dimensions and condition of each structure). He spent months gathering information from local administrators and realty websites and ended up with a document that seems to accurately portray both the great opportunity and amount of work needed in downtown Calumet.
At the same time Ratcliffe worked with a small group to create a presentation for grant funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). Chris Green from the Village of Calumet Historic District Commission (HDC) and John Rosemurgy, Keweenaw National Historical Park (KNHP) Architect, provided the scope of work necessary to “mothball” (complete construction tasks necessary to stabilize and prevent further decay and secure the building from break-ins) each building and LJJ Construction then provided cost estimates for the designated projects. John Arnold, architect and PhD Candidate in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology at Michigan Technological University created graphic overlays of historic building location maps with present day structures. These images provide the reality of the fragmentation of the downtown district since the early 1900s. The group ultimately prioritized 11 threatened buildings in the Calumet Historic District and worked to translate the value, opportunity and cost to stabilize these structures into a presentation that would be used to sell Calumet to outsiders.
In July, 2016 both the presentation and prospectus were complete and Ratcliffe was able to entice three representatives from MSHDA to fly to Calumet to hear the Bring Back Calumet presentation and see the community themselves. On hand to greet them Ratcliffe had gathered a large group of community stakeholders; local developers, bankers, representatives from CLK Schools, Houghton County, Main Street Calumet, the Village of Calumet, Calumet Historic District Commission, KNHP, HDC, KNHP Advisory Commission, and State Representative Scott Dianda.
MSHDA representatives Andrew Martin, Michelle Wildman and State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway all seemed adequately impressed with the sandstone architecture and historic feel of Calumet but instantly denied the initial ask of $1.3 million to stabilize 11 buildings.
While the initial proposal was denied, MSHDA suggested Calumet reapply with a narrowed scope. Ratcliffe then reconvened the community stakeholders interested and available to form the Bring Back Calumet Task Force. The Task Force then began what became a seven month process of whittling down the stabilization wish list and resubmitting applications until finally, after three attempts, in January, 2017 MSHDA awarded Calumet $33,000 to fund stabilization of one building.
After months of pruning the building selected for the grant was 512 Portland Street, often called the Curto Saloon or Wine Cellar. Standing on the Southeast corner of 6th and Portland, 512 Portland Street was an easy selection for the Task Force to agree on, according to Village President and Task Force Member, Dave Geisler. He listed the following attributes, "this structure is wood framed, not sandstone and thus easier to repair. It is owned by the Village of Calumet Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which removes access issues. It is in a high visibility area and when addressed will remove an eyesore from the landscape. Lastly this building is relatively small and stabilization will only require re-roofing and masonry work in the basement." Geisler reports that, "these fixes won’t make the building new again but they will prevent further deterioration and make it a more attractive project for potential investors."
At the Tuesday, February 21st meeting of the Calumet Village Council the paperwork for the MSHDA grant should be signed and the process both complete and just begun. A call for construction bids will take place over the next few months, when contractors can gain access to the structure and the project at 512 Portland Street should be finished by the end of summer 2017.
As is common with grants, the applicant in this case must come up with matching funds. While this particular grant does not give a specific percentage that must be contributed by local dollars the suggestion was 30%. To gather the needed funding the Task Force reached out local organizations, businesses and municipalities to support the Bring Back Calumet effort. Together, the River Valley Bank Foundation, the Village of Calumet, KNHP Advisory Commission, Main Street Calumet and the Houghton County Lank Bank pledged $49,000 to supply the matching funds needed. This amount was gathered to cover matching funds for an earlier application which would have covered two buildings and can now be used in the next application.
The next MSHDA grant cycle opens in March/April, 2017 and the task force intends to submit another application for a new group of projects. The Task Force is also working to obtain funding (which must be matched with local dollars) from the Upper Peninsula Collaborative Development Council (UPCDC) to have structural evaluations performed on four publically owned buildings on the threatened list. Cost per building is estimated at $2500 and would provide any potential buyers with accurate information on structural issues, current floor plans and quotes for structural repairs.
*In an effort to prevent the downtown buildings from going the way of the dodo, in 2013 the Village of Calumet adopted a Demolition by Neglect Ordinance which provides a guideline for maintenance and a method for enforcement. The Ordinance allows for inspection and evaluation of a building to determine what repairs need to stabilize a structure. Once an analysis is done the owner will be asked to make the necessary repairs and if declined the Village can have repairs done and a lien on all of the titleholder’s Michigan properties. This process requires that the Village have funding to pay for legal fees and recommended construction should an owner decline to undertake work themselves. With little extra funding the Village of Calumet has not yet been able to utilize this ordinance.
View the Demolition by Neglect Ordinance.
Read more about the history of 512 Portland Street and proposed rehab.
View the Bring Back Calumet Prospectus.
View the initial MSHDA presentation.
KNHP Architect, John Rosemurgy and Architectural Tech. Tom Sickles have created a series of renderings that reflect current conditions and recommended rehabilitation actions for 512 Portland. View the PDF here. *Note rehab recommendations are draft schematic concepts not for construction.
Compiled by Lynette WEbber, Keweenaw National Historical Park