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Blighted gas station in Hillman to be demolished, replaced with bakery

The blighted gas station that currently sits at 300 State St. in Hillman is seen in this undated courtesy photo. The building is expected to be torn down in the next six months and replaced with The Black Squirrel Bakery.
Courtesy Photo
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The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
The blighted gas station that currently sits at 300 State St. in Hillman is seen in this undated courtesy photo. The building is expected to be torn down in the next six months and replaced with The Black Squirrel Bakery.

When a contaminated property is being sought out for city redevelopment efforts, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will step in and help. The department will also provide grants to those purchasing the land to help with cleanups and assessments.

In a press release on July 1, EGLE announced it was awarding two Brownfield Redevelopment Grants to two commercial projects in Michigan. One of these projects is Jamie MacArthur’s bakery, which is being built on North State Street where a blighted gas station sits now.

The property experienced massive contamination from petroleum, which wasn’t discovered until the 1990s.

Julie Lowe is the EGLE Brownfield coordinator in the Gaylord district office and has been supporting the owner throughout the process. She said that state funds were used to pump over 100,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater between 2006 and 2013.

“From that point on, the building was kind of in the way of accessing contamination underneath it,” she said. “When Jamie (McArthur) was interested in purchasing it, we were interested in demolishing the building to get at that contamination underneath, and that’s what triggered the Brownfield grants.”

While the Brownfield Development Grant is providing $400,000 for the project, Lowe said the project has received an additional $5 million in funding since it qualifies for the Refined Petroleum Grant as well. She said these funds could not be accessed unless redevelopment was taking place, and that’s where MacArthur came in.

Lowe said the Brownfield funds will be used for environmental sampling, building demolition, contaminated soil removal, and due diligence so the new owner can purchase the property.

MacArthur has always had her eyes on the property since May of 2023 and said she’s always wanted to do something with it.

“I saw this dilapidated, old gas station in the dead center of my town all my life, and it irked me,” she said.

Once the building went for sale, MacArthur made an offer on it, but when she learned about the contamination and the work that had to be put into it, she said she withdrew it. She looked around at other properties, but eventually returned to the gas station and made another offer for it.

“I thought ‘someone’s gotta do it,’ and I guess it’ll be me,” she said.

MacArthur said she’s always wanted to open her own bakery, but when working full-time for corporate America that dream wasn’t possible. Now that she’s retired, she’s decided to go for it. She plans to name it the Black Squirrel Bakery due to the town having so many of them.

“If you live around here it’s very obvious, but they’re sort of indigenous to the area,” she said. “There’s one living in my yard with a white tail, we call him Stinky. He’s lived here and had generations of babies here for the last 20 years.”

MacArthur said once the bakery opens, it will be within walking distance from many other shops downtown. She plans to primarily bake bread products like bagels, English muffins, and sticky buns, but said she’ll also be doing cupcakes and cookies as well.

MacArthur has yet to close on the property because she’s waiting on a baseline environmental assessment that will assess any damages and make sure she isn’t liable for any found. She said she expects to finalize the purchase in July.

Demolition and cleanup are expected by August or September, and Lowe said the demolition process will likely take a week, and cleanup time is undetermined. MacArthur plans to have the bakery up and running by spring 2025.

Lowe said the Village of Hillman collaborated with EGLE to provide brownfield grant funds. Both Lowe and MacArthur said they thank the village manager, David Post, for his interest and support.

Post said the town has been looking to remove the blighted building and expand business in Hillman for a while. This project gave the village an opportunity to do that, so he’s been providing support.

“Basically we’re gonna have the best of both worlds,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Courtney Boyd is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at The Alpena News
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