Ray Minervini, the local developer and visionary responsible for transforming an abandoned state hospital into a vibrant multi-use community known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, received the 2014 Milliken Distinguished Leadership Award at the inaugural Harvest@TheCommons event on October 11.
The award, created by the Michigan Land Use Institute, recognizes community leaders who embody the legacy of Governor William Milliken and the late Helen Milliken, and the belief that a clean, healthy environment is necessary for a prosperous economy.
“I knew Helen and greatly admired her work. To have my name associated with hers is a true honor,” he said.
Minervini grew up in Detroit, and witnessed firsthand what he calls “demolition by neglect” as his old neighborhood and parts of the surrounding city were left to crumble.
When he moved to northern Michigan in the late 1980s, it seemed Building 50 of the Traverse City State Hospital would suffer the same fate. Minervini joined a group of people dedicated to preserving the historic Building and was later appointed to serve as a board member of the Grand Traverse Commons Redevelopment Corporation. In 2001, after the group failed to attract a developer that would save the historic structure, many felt that demolition was the only option. That’s when Minervini jumped in.
“Many people questioned my decision and whether it was possible,” he said.
Fourteen years later, the efforts of the Minervini Group have transformed the old hospital into a dynamic, diverse community where people can live, work, play, shop and dine—surrounded by historic, beautiful architecture and nestled amid northern Michigan’s natural splendor. Businesses like Trattoria Stella, Higher Grounds Trading Company, Left Foot Charley and many more are thriving, and hundreds of residential condos and apartments have long-term tenants that call The Village home.
“A core goal of MLUI is to support thriving communities—vibrant, walkable, and resilient places to live,” said Hans Voss, MLUI executive director. “Whenever we need a perfect example of those ideas at work, all we have to do is look at what Ray’s accomplished.”
In addition to the award dedication, Harvest@theCommons featured an authentic farm-to-table feast, a “local libations” bar featuring drinks from northern Michigan, and bluegrass music from Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys. A celebrity pie auction, with pies baked by local celebrities Amy Smart and Carter Oosterhouse, Ross and Brenda Biederman, Denise and Mike Busley, and Carter Schmidt (of Carter’s Compost) also raised more than $7,000 for MLUI programs.
The second annual Harvest@theCommons is already set for Oct. 10, 2015, at the Historic Barns.
Written by: James Russell of The Michigan Land Use Institute