Building 50 springing to life

TRAVERSE CITY – The Grand Old Lady of Traverse City architecture, Building 50, is slowly regaining her youthful appearance. The fountain of youth comes courtesy of nearly two years of hard work by The Minervini Group. Those efforts were held up for a while awaiting the funding from the Brownfield grant that was finally received last fall, allowing much of the work to proceed.

The face of Ray Minervini Sr., who took on this challenge, shows the obvious excitement and pride as the first part of his dream becomes reality.

“It is especially gratifying to see the effects the building has had on the tradesmen who work on her,” Ray said. “They first see it as an ominous building and a daunting task. But soon that changes to excitement that grows daily as they see themselves as creators of history. There is a real appreciation for the construction crews of 120 years ago. They had few of our modern tools and equipment, yet they crafted a building that has proudly withstood the ravages of time.”

Ray says everyone who works on her comes away with “a real sense of bonding.”

The fruits of those labors are beginning to ripen. The Southview section of the 120-year-old building will soon have the first occupants; Trattoria Stella, an Italian restaurant, is scheduled to open on the Garden level by July. The restaurant’s new owners are Paul and Amanda Danielson who bring their restaurant experience downstate to the Northern Michigan area.

Ray Minervini II is working on the project alongside his father. “The lower level, which we call the Garden Level and the second floor will be commercial space. Residential units will be on the third and fourth levels. In some areas there will be a loft area, as well.”

Ray II pointed out that “of the 65,000 square feet in the sections we refer to as Southview and Hall 20, about 95% of the business and residential space has been sold.”

The residential sections, in fact, have a long waiting list. The first units should be ready for occupancy by the fall.

“There seems to be a real need for smaller condo units in a prime location,” Ray II pointed out.

The fact that the area has been designated a tax-free Renaissance Zone, along with the low interest rates, has provided even more incentives to both the commercial and the residential buyers. There is even a possibility that the area may qualify for Historic Tax Credit, which would provide even more benefits to the new occupants.

“We have a title company, an engineering firm, a construction and development firm, various medical services, counseling services and a nationally based web hosting Internet Company all committed to moving in this year,” Ray II pointed out.

Work has taken a long time due to several factors. Ray Sr. takes great pride and care to restore with the kind of detail and quality that the finer buildings of the late 1800s had. He is also working with a structure designed to last for the past 120 years. Walls are 18 to 22 inches thick. The plaster is real, not mere drywall with tape and a little mud. Woods are finely detailed. Wiring and plumbing and heating must be brought up to current codes while maintaining the historic structure of the original architecture.

“There’s a real bond with this building,” Ray Sr. said. “I have it and so does virtually everyone on the project crew.”

For more information on the project, go to or call 941-1900. BN