OWOSSO — North Washington Street, between Main and Exchange streets, is usually bustling with activity — but Wednesday there were no cars and only a handful of pedestrians.
The block is closed to vehicle traffic all week as a result of water and sewer line work at the Wesener Building, 104, 106 and 108 Washington, which is being renovated into retail spaces and apartments.
Arvid Warstler, owner of Funny Pages Hobbies & Comics on Washington across from the Wesener Building, said the short closure is no problem.
“The work has to be done. I support anybody renovating their building,” Warstler said. Besides, he added, “my customers will run through mud, swim the rivers and climb over mountains to get here.”
In the current phase of the $2.5-million Wesener rehabilitation project, new water and sewer lines are being installed and connected to the city’s mains.
Getting the water flow right is important to Dave and Dianne Acton, who own the Wesener Building.
In July 2007, the structure was badly burned in a fire that killed one man, and has since remained vacant. This time around, it will have a state-of-the-art fire suppression system featuring sprinkler heads in every room.
“This building is an historic asset, and we’re making sure the whole building can never burn again,” Dave Acton said.
On Monday, the sidewalk out front was dug up to reveal five or six ancient 1-inch taps attached to the main water line. On Tuesday and Wednesday, workers began to replace the lines with a single 6-inch tap. Two-inch lines connected to the tap will provide filtered water to the housing units.
“The volume of water is going to be four times what it was,” Acton said.
At the same time, crews found an old sewer pipe inside the building that was damaged beyond repair. A new one will run to the main sewer workers found underneath the sidewalk.
“It’s going as expected,” Owosso City Manager Don Crawford said. “When you get into these old buildings, you don’t know what you’re going to find.”
The Actons’ general contractor, Bazzani Associates based in Grand Rapids, is overseeing the sewer and water work. Owosso Department of Public Works employees are handling the part of the job that involves the city’s main lines.
Replacing utilities is just one aspect of the Actons’ rehabilitaton of the three-story, 18,000-square-foot Wesener Building. The couple’s goal is to preserve the original look of the exterior from 1887 while offering modern amenities inside.
The first floor will include retail spaces, while the upper floors will consist of six apartments, plus the Actons’ own loft and office. Each 1,400-square-foot apartment will boast two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with laundry and storage rooms, pantries and granite countertops.
The entire building will be LEED-certified, verifying it as an environmentally responsible and healthy place to live and work. The project is expected to be completed by late November.
Joe O’Connor, the on-site construction superintendent from Bazzani, cautiously predicted the sewer and water line work will wrap up Friday, with Washington reopening by Saturday.
“If we have a few things fall in line, (finishing by Saturday) is a really good prospect,” O’Connor said.