by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

The transformation of the Shiawassee Street School, 106 S. Shiawassee in Corunna, into Cavalier Greene, a 40-unit low-to-moderate-income apartment complex, is making strides as the calendar turns to 2017. The inside of the historic school building, which dates back to 1908, has been gutted, and several teams of contractors are hard at work putting all the pieces together. The school building will contain 24 units among its three floors, and a second three-story structure that will contain 16 units is in the process of being constructed. Additionally, the parking lots located on the north and west sides of the complex have been excavated and are ready to be completed following the construction and renovation of the buildings.

For the new building, which is located to the west of the Shiawassee Street School, walls were built off site and are now being lowered into place by a crane. In six days, builders have framed most of the first two floors, and they could be ready to begin adding the third floor by Jan. 16. The entrances to the new building will include ramps to provide access to persons with physical disabilities, and an elevator shaft has been constructed as part of the new structure to make both buildings fully compliant with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The units in the new building are spacious and will be similar in layout, room to room.

The unique layout and design of the school building has presented some huge benefits and challenges to the developers. Neither of the first two floors were built at ground level, so it is necessary to climb stairs to reach any of the building’s units. Additionally, the ceiling heights vary greatly between floors and increase from the first level/basement to the third floor. As such, the new building had to be designed so that residents and visitors

could access each floor without climbing stairs. The problem was solved with the addition of the elevator, and construction crews are currently working to construct hallways that will connect each floor of the school building to the elevators that are part of the new structure.

The $950,000 in returns the Woda Group, Inc. has been granted in Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits dictates that the school building will need to be renovated to match its condition upon completion in 1908. While this means that the building’s beautiful masonry walls will be covered with plaster, it also means that many of the building’s unique early 20th century features, such as the nearly floor to ceiling windows and tall archways, will be preserved.

While the units in the new building have been designed to be very similar, room to room, no two rooms will be the same in the school building, which will go a long way towards preserving the historic building’s charm. The height of the ceilings will vary within each unit to accommodate the windows, and the developers hope to salvage the original hardwood floors on the second and third levels.

Significant changes are also underway to bring the building up to the residential occupancy standards of the 21st century. To maximize space, much of the elaborate, though outdated, ventilation/heating and cooling system has been removed, and many of the interior walls have been torn down and are being rebuilt. Also, additional floor supports have been added to provide structural reinforcements to the already sound building. The site has been connected to the city’s sanitary water and waste water systems, and a new sprinkler system and plumbing are being installed.

Each level of the building is unique and is currently at a different stage of completion. The natural stone walls of the first level still need preparation before they are ready for plaster, and the floors are virtually non-existent as crews finish work on the plumbing infrastructure and a preventative radon remediation system. The second and third levels are further along, with all the interior walls built and awaiting electrical.

Corunna City Manager Joe Sawyer is excited to see the finished product, and is looking forward to the project being completed and ready for occupants in 2017. Since opening in the early 1900s, the building has housed Corunna Public Schools students of every grade level, in addition to the district’s administrative offices, alternative education program, and head start program at one time or another. Sawyer remembers his time at the Shiawassee Street School fondly.

“We’ve come a long way since I went to school here,” Sawyer remarked recently during a tour of the work site. “We used to use the cast iron heaters in the classrooms to dry our boots, and the heaters would actually melt our boots if we forgot to take them off in time. Standards sure aren’t what they are today, but this place has a lot of memories for a lot people.”

Sawyer went on to say, “The school district got more than 100 good years out of this building, and we are lucky that the Woda Group came along when they did. This building only sat vacant for about a year, so that makes this already daunting project a little easier.”

Cavalier Greene is still a number of months away from completion, but interested persons can set up a lease by visiting the Woda Group, Inc. website,, or by phone, (844) 373-7814. More photos of the project are inside this edition.

Woda Group’s Cavalier Greene Project In Full Swing was last modified: January 11th, 2017 by Karen Elford