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When Frank Rewold decided to partner with Auburn Hills-based Moceri Companies to redevelop the Rochester Elevator site, he knew some people would be upset.
The president and CEO of Frank Rewold & Sons wishes people had the whole story. Generally speaking, he said, the 2-acre site will feature a live/work community called The Granary — a nod to the historic Rochester Grain Elevator – with 11 two-story townhomes and 19 three-story live/work townhomes. The live/work spaces will feature first-floor offices or storefronts run by those living above them. Residents must abide by a rule barring them from leasing the first-floor space to a third party.
Rewold, a Rochester native, thinks he visited the Rochester Elevator more times than most people.
As a child, he recalls walking on the floors, some dirt, some wood, looking for the horse.
“It felt like you were going into an old horse barn – the smell, and I don’t mean that in a bad way – but the dirt and musty smell … I didn’t look at all the other stuff there. I was looking around for the horse. There wasn’t one,” he said. “But it felt that way.”
The notion of completely tearing down the interconnected buildings that have stood together since 1909 would make sense because they are in terrible shape, he said. The uninsulated building has never had heat or water.
Rewold also knows the red barn-style building at the north end is a Rochester icon.
He appreciates his hometown’s history to the point that he and his father – the late Roy Rewold, who was Rochester’s first mayor and a county commissioner- bought the historic building once known as the Western Knitting Mills and restored it. That building is now on the National Register of Historic Places and home to the Rochester Mills Beer Co., 140 Water St.
Preliminary plans for the grain elevator involve renovating the barn so it can host historical information displays and serve as both The Granary’s clubhouse and an occasional destination for schools doing educational outings or periodic public events.
All the plans are tentative, Rewold said, because they all have to be approved by the city’s planning commission.
“This barn work will take a lot of tender loving care,” he said. “It’ll be a work in progress … one of those things where you take something off and four other things need to be fixed.”
Dominic F. Moceri, executive project manager, said saving the iconic barn was a non-negotiable element of the plan.
“We plan to bring the grain elevator up to code and create a place for local students and community members to visit and learn about the history of our town,” he said.
Built in 1880 and completed in 1909, the grain elevator established Rochester as a hub for agricultural commerce in Oakland County.
The Granary’s design will reflect downtown Rochester’s aesthetic, with reclaimed materials used on the buildings’ exteriors to echo such buildings as Rochester Mills and Lytle Pharmacy.
Dominick Tringali, Moceri Companies’ architect, said the Granary’s materials and design “will make it feel like it has been part of the community for years while simultaneously bringing economic vitality and a quality of life for residents.”
Rewold said this is the first project his company has done with Moceri Companies. Rewold & Sons specializes in commercial developments and Moceri specializes in residential, historic preservation, parks, military memorials and community gathering spaces.
Frank Rewold & Sons dates back generations in Rochester. Rewold’s grandfather, also named Frank, founded the company in 1918 when he went to work for Oakland University cofounder Matilda Dodge Wilson on her 1,400-acre estate, Meadow Brook Farms. He developed relationships that continue four generations later with Oakland University, where the company has completed countless projects.
Among the company’s projects: renovating Carhartt’s Dearborn headquarters; building student housing at Lawrence Technological University; Rochester’s Royal Park Hotel, which Rewold owned and operated for 18 years, selling to Georgia-based Davidson Hospitality Group last summer, and renovations at Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel. Government projects have included the Oakland County International Airport, the county’s animal shelter and pet adoption center, the senior recreational facility for the Older Persons’ Commission, Leader Dogs for the Blind and several school district projects.
Rewold said while the Granary is not a high-density residential development, it will play a key role in adding taxpayers to the city’s rolls and activity to downtown Rochester without adding a lot of car traffic.
“People often complain about traffic in the city and I understand that,” he said. “But if you have a city without traffic, you have a dying city.”
He said the Granary will take about 18 months to finish, if plans move efficiently, with demolition and site cleanup starting later this year and construction expected to start in the fall.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the accurate ownership of the Royal Park Hotel, which was sold last summer.
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