Downtown short-term rental lofts are almost ready for debut

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Four new short-term rental “Golden Lofts” above Golden Shoes on Front Street are nearing completion. The empty second floor of the historic building in the heart of downtown Traverse City has been under construction for months as part of a $1.6 million renovation.

“I was approached by Golden Swan Management (no relation) and we got together and talked about it,” says Bill Golden.

Katy Bertodatto, founder and managing partner of Golden Swan, and her partner Mark Keely approached Bill Golden. Initially impressed with the possibilities, Golden did some research and contacted his family. He and his brother Craig own the business, while the building itself is owned by the six Golden siblings. “We talked and started running some numbers. The six of us decided to do this.

The $1.6 million renovation began late last fall with the removal of the scratched facade. Since then, the maze of rooms has been opened up, with bedrooms and bathrooms in the rear part of the units and the living areas and kitchens of the two two-bedroom units facing Front Street. The same configuration exists for the two one-bedroom lofts, except they will face the back alley and beyond.

Two-bedroom units will have two bathrooms, one-bedroom apartments will have only one bathroom. All units will also have washers and dryers as well as full living and kitchen areas. Two-bedroom apartments will be approximately 1,150 square feet and one-bedroom apartments 750 square feet. There will be a private entrance to the units in the lane, separate from the back door of Golden Shoes, with an opening to an upstairs common area for each apartment.

The location has been a shoe store since 1883 when it was Friedrich Shoes. When Golden’s father, Bill, and grandfather Nathaniel bought the store in 1954, they changed the name to Golden-Friedrich Shoe. It became Golden Shoes, Inc. in 1968.

The second-floor space had previously been used by the National Cherry Festival, the Chamber of Commerce, and even the Editorial Board of Vietnam. When the facade was installed, the floor was closed. “The space was just used for storage. Everything was cut,” says Golden. When it says all, it means all utilities. Renovating it meant installing the plumbing and electrics, as well as creating the apartments themselves.

Features include the original curved windows and original brick walls to the front, back and sides of the building. The front windows were covered by the facade, while the walls had been plastered over. They have since been restored and sealed. “It was pretty cool,” Golden says of the find, though the beige bricks meant going back to the drawing board to select colors in the rest of the apartments.

Golden says it was clear the cost of the renovation meant the apartments would only pay for themselves if they were let. ” It’s a company. We do not give rooms to friends. If that’s what it is, I’m leaving,” he told his family. “It’s an investment.” Not only does he mean that in terms of the family investing money and receiving rental income, it’s clear that he also sees it as an investment in and for the community.

“It’s exciting for downtown Traverse City,” says Golden. Maybe beyond too: He says he has been approached by others with similar circumstances in their buildings, locally as well as other communities such as Petoskey.

Golden says the renovations should be done on August 16. Rental rates are still under review. The lofts will be available on the Golden Swan website.

Bertodatto and Keely say cost dictated how the apartments would be used. “This project is brand new. It’s (short-term rental) a tool to get things built that otherwise wouldn’t be built,” says Keely. He says it would take more than 30 years at above-market rates for long-term rentals to recoup the investment.

“Mark and I are passionate about the long term, but a space like this, the short term makes it work. It puts it back on the tax rolls. It’s an investment in the city center,” says Bertodatto .

“The offseason is what’s exciting about this project,” adds Keely. “In the summer, it can be families. In winter you can have small groups, a couple or two, downtown. He says the challenges of restoring a historic building are outweighed by the ability to reuse them in a way that honors their past while providing modern conveniences.

Now everything is back. “I could sell it. I’ve had people approach me,” Golden says. But the plan has been and continues to be to keep it all in the family. “That makes it durable.”

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