In just over five years, Ray Minervini has done what many thought impossible: He has given new life to the Grand Traverse Commons and, in the process, created a real live urban village.
OK, so "urban village" is one of those terms tossed around in artsy New Yorker articles about Upper West Side loft districts or whatever.
But right here in Traverse City, tucked out of sight on the old state hospital grounds, Minervini really has created a virtually stand-alone community. There are condos and apartments, a winery and a bakery, a CPA, therapists, an engineering firm, a film studio, laser therapy, art galleries, a florist, an upscale restaurant, coffee shops, a salon, real estate agents and even a Montessori school.
So far there are more than 50 firms, employing about 300 people, doing business at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and more are signing up all the time. Coming next: another wine outlet and a specialty cheesecake shop. Nirvana.
All of it, from the very first work -- installing a quarter mile of new roof -- has been done step by step, affordable bit by bit. Minervini has sold or leased everything he has done as it got done. One step led to the next; as the capital came in, projects got done.
Last week the Historical Society of Michigan honored Minervini for his achievement in preserving the magnificent old main building and many of the outbuildings that made up the hospital.
The Minervini Group LLC is on pace to restore approximately 240,000 square feet within Building 50 and other structures by the end of the year. Plans include an upscale hotel and more.
Minervini has also mastered the reams of red tape that come with the territory, no small feat. He has to satisfy a host of regulatory agencies, including local zoning rule, state agencies, the state's historic preservation office and even the National Park Service. He deserves a medal for that alone.
The amazing part is that the redevelopment has just begun. There is much more space to be revamped. The development badly needs a roads and parking upgrade and much better signage, but tenants don't seem to mind.
Ten years ago, the future of Building 50 and the other buildings was uncertain, at best.
Now, the old buildings are ready to make history again.