Alma College

Wright Opera House + Bruske Hall

Alma, Michigan // 50,680 sq. ft.

Back in 2010, a fire extensively damaged and closed two buildings in downtown Alma. After a failed redevelopment in 2013 by a private owner, Alma College purchased the buildings in 2017 to strengthen its connection within the community and downtown core. The College engaged TowerPinkster to transform and restore the historic three-story Wright Opera House building, connected to the two-story Lancashire building, into a vibrant mixed-use residential and retail mixed-use development. In order to receive tax incentives, the design solution preserved and restored the buildings as part of State and Federal Historic Preservation guidelines. TowerPinkster led the approval process with the National Park Service and the State MEDC which assisted the College in securing funding for the project.

The project consisted of creating ground-level retail spaces for restaurants, clothiers, and other specialty tenants. The College maintained one of the retail suites as access to the upper-level apartments and the restored Opera House Ballroom for weddings, gatherings, and other public events. Given the extensive fire damage in the Ballroom, the design team used historic photos to reimagine an updated space that was fitting for the College and its vision for this program element. Another element was upgrading the building to barrier-free standards with the introduction of an elevator and additional ramping to circumnavigate the level changes in the two structures. Historic elements such as tin ceilings, a staircase, and other elements were preserved to meet historic requirements

Overall, there is a mixture of two-bedroom and one-bedroom apartments. These units provide the students with a unique living environment in the urban core of downtown with proximity to stores, restaurants, and businesses while being just a few blocks away from the main campus. The completed project truly brings the College and City together in a collaborative way.

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