THE RENOVATED AND REPURPOSED OWOSSO ARMORY was the location for the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce Topics@Twelve on Tuesday, June 26. An assortment of chamber members gathered on the main floor, still showcasing the original emblem and basketball court lines, to enjoy a summer lunch and discuss local business, in the beautiful, historic structure.
The former National Guard building, located directly at the head of Exchange and Water streets, is once again a shining and useful feature of the downtown area. In previous decades, the main floor where Topics@Twelve was hosted on Tuesday, was utilized for wedding receptions, craft shows, National Guard events, concerts and even high school proms and dances.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The newly-renovated Armory, which is located just north of M-21 on Exchange Street in Owosso, was unveiled to the community on Thursday, June 14, with hundreds of stakeholders and dignitaries gathering to celebrate the beginning of the 103-year-old building’s next chapter. The historic building has served as a meeting place for the National Guard and several other military units and it has been the site of countless concerts, dances and community events, with notable stars such as Grand Funk Railroad and Alice Cooper gracing the building’s stage over the years. Now, after sitting vacant for years, The Armory has been transformed into a regional hub for collaboration and growth by combining the building’s history with the forward-thinking momentum of Shiawassee County.
The Armory’s new look is impressive, by all accounts, due to its sleek modern touches that have been melded with the building’s many historic elements. The once-dreary interior has been transformed with the addition of a large circular window near the top of the east wall and an expansive wall of glass on the west side of the building, which offers an unmatched view of the Shiawassee River and plenty of natural light. The dropped ceiling has been removed to take full advantage of the building’s high ceilings, which made room for an upper level mezzanine that offers an overhead view of the entire main level.
The building’s original brick shell was preserved, as was the basketball court that serves as the floor for most of the main level. A large conference room was created on top of the stage at the west end of the building, and many of the building’s doors, trim and stair rails were utilized throughout.
“This place is a gem,” said Jeff Deason, the President/CEO of the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I have put about four years of my life into this building, so I am really proud to see it come to life. The Armory has always been a hub for the region, so it is exciting that this amazing building will once again be a hub of activity, where people from all over the region can gather and collaborate.”
The Armory’s main tenants are the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership, Michigan Small Business Development Center and Shiawassee Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, so it is really a one-stop resource center for budding entrepreneurs and small business owners.
In addition, the building houses Oxford Bank, AZEE Business Solutions, Woodworth Commercial, the Triterra environmental consulting firm, Lighthouse Hypnotherapy & Social Work Services, Kori Shook & Associates, Benefits Your Way, Woda Group, Visiting Angels, the Transnation Title Agency and it will soon welcome The Arc Shiawassee. Though the building opened less than three weeks ago, nearly all of the available leasable offices are filled, with the exception of two single-use spaces on the main level, a 600-square-foot lower level office and a 4,000-square-foot space on the lower level overlooking the river that could potentially house a restaurant or brewery.
There are, however, plenty of dedicated work/collaboration spaces still available, such as lockable cubicles on the upper level, drop-in spaces with internet access on the main level, and a large community room on the lower level that can be utilized for activities or large gatherings. There are also plans to use a section of the building’s lower level, which borders the James Miner Trail, for community restrooms and a travel center.
With The Armory’s centralized location, the building is an ideal waypoint between Owosso’s business district east of the river and the historical buildings in Curwood Castle Park on the west side of the river. And while the building is open to the public, the full scope of services that will be offered at The Armory are still yet to be completely hashed out.
Deason sees the space being utilized as a corporate retreat, especially the large conference room and large raised porch overlooking the Shiawassee River (shown). One of the main visions of SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath is for The Armory to be a business incubator, an idea he has been ruminating over for years.
“We have a great diversity of businesses here already, and most of them are new to Shiawassee County,” notes Horvath. “We did not just take existing businesses and move them in. These are businesses that wanted to take advantage of the cool, vibrant, inspirational vibe that we have in this building. Moving forward, we want The Armory to be an incubator for new businesses. There are a lot of home businesses that don’t have a brick and mortar presence that could really benefit from the space and resources we have to offer. With us (the SEDP), the chamber and the Small Business Development Center all under one roof, we can provide the resources to assist businesses of any size.”
More information about The Armory, including the history of the building and leasing rates, can be obtained by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (989) 723-5149.