The Battle Creek building at 103 West Michigan is nearly 100 years old, and with recent work by owner J. Andrew Development Company, it could last another 100.   Developer Mike Gothberg was on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show on Wednesday to talk about recent progress in saving the building that most recently housed Arcadia Brewing Company.

Gothberg brought along some photos of the building, just after it was built around 1921.  At that time, it housed Cushman Motor Sales, and the address was 103-113 West Main.  (That part of Main street later was renamed Michigan Avenue.)   The company had established itself as a Ford dealer, at 235 W. Main Street, opposite McCamly Park, next to the building that currently sports the “Believe in Battle Creek” mural.   But the Cushman downtown location in 1921 was primarily a Chevrolet dealership.   They used the first floor as a showroom and the second floor as a shop.  The building still has a freight elevator, big enough to fit a 1920's car.

103 W. Michigan Chevrolet upstairs shop area, c1920's-J. Andrew Construction
103 W. Michigan Chevrolet Showroom, c1920's-J. Andrew Construction

The first floor has many concrete support pillars.  Gothberg says it’s like a forest in there, but that there is a large distance between each of them.  Gothberg says the construction of the building was very advanced for its day and is “one of the largest buildings by footprint left on that strip of road, other than the towers.  The building is 34,000 square feet over two stories.  That’s basically about the size of 20 regular, average-sized homes.”

Inside 103 W. Michigan-Feb2020-TSM Photo

Gothberg says it was a setback when a portion of the roof caved in a few months ago.  But he said there had been leaks for years and there was kind of a dispute over who was supposed to fix the roof.  “They were dealing with it with buckets.”  Last month, they received a $250,000 from Battle Creek Unlimited through the downtown Real Estate Improvement Fund.

Gothberg says the roof failure enabled them to see issues they may not have seen before, and he says it’s an opportunity to address everything in the building that may need to be done.  He says the concrete floors allowed the building to remain solid, in spite of the water leaks.

Andrew Development crews knocked out some big windows, and gutted the inside and took out half of the old roof. Gothberg says they filled up nearly 50 dumpsters with debris. He says he's meeting with a structural engineer to determine the best way to put a new roof on the building.

Before the building was constructed, it was known as Victory Garden.   A newspaper advertisement from 1919 read:

“Victory Garden, Battle Creek’s Play Ground.   Attractions and amusements for young and old.  Finest Penny Arcade and Shooting Gallery ever located in Battle Creek.  Riding Devices and Hobby’s for the Kiddies.  Plenty of seats in our large airy garden where refreshments of all kinds are served and where you can rest and enjoy an hour’s entertainment after the hustle of the daily grind.”

In 1920, the property was being operated by John T. Mannix & Son.  They advertised for used automobiles, lots of lumber, and also “Parking Accommodations for 100 Automobiles”.

But by the summer of 1921, Cushman Auto Sales was running newspaper ads for brand new Chevrolets at the location.

Sometime before 1940, the building had become Battle Creek’s Sears-Roebuck store.

103 W. Michigan Sears-Roebuck, c1940's-J. Andrew Construction

Arcadia Brewing occupied the building from 1996 to 2017.

Future plans include upstairs loft apartments and several retail spaces on the ground floor.   Gothberg acknowledges that its a huge project.  But he says it's like eating an elephant.  You have to do it one bite at a time.

103 W. Michigan-open roof-TSM Photo2