As contractors worked through preliminary construction projects less than 100 yards away last Monday, Cass County Board Chair Jeremiah Jones signed an agreement accepting a $1.5 million grant to help fund the project.
In October 2022, Cass County commissioners voted to obligate funding for the renovation of Cass County’s Historic Courthouse, that, upon completion, will reestablish the iconic building as the central hub for the County’s administrative offices. On Dec. 4, County leaders met with a United States Department of Agriculture representative to finalize a grant agreement that will cover more than 15 percent of the project’s total budget.
The $1.5 million contribution was awarded via a Congressionally Directed Spending appropriation through Senator Gary Peters’ office.
"We are truly grateful to have been able to work with Sen. Peters to help secure the CDS funding needed to make this project a reality,” said Cass County Administrator Matthew Newton.
Since the construction of the Cass County Law & Courts Building on M-62 in 2003 left the courthouse at 120 N. Broadway in Cassopolis vacant, County leaders reviewed several proposals for the building’s next chapter, but had not found a solution that filled the community’s needs while also staying true to the building’s history. In 2022, proposed plans to relocate administrative offices — currently located in the annex connected to the courthouse — were met with excitement by elected officials and community members alike.
“The Historic Courthouse Renovation Project provides Cass County with an amazing opportunity to breathe new life into a treasured landmark of the County, pay homage to the history of the building and the County at-large, and provide new operational efficiencies that will improve service to the community,” the administration office wrote in its application for the grant. “A primary driver behind the renovation effort is the restoration of the building with consideration of the original construction and materials. So, as we proceed forward, the overall process will involve removing equipment and coverings that obscure the original finishes and allowing that restored beauty to shine through.”
Cass County contracted the services of owner’s representative PlazaCorp, architectural design company Intersect, and construction firm Elite Companies — all southwest Michigan-based businesses — to carry out the project. Commissioners approved the $9.6 million proposal, obligating funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to pay for the renovation. The $1.5 million grant will allow Cass County to reallocate a portion of the ARPA funds originally dedicated to the courthouse project.
With funding secured, work will begin in earnest on the building’s interior, with a goal of opening to the public in time for its 125th birthday in 2024.
County offices will remain open throughout construction with minimal interruption. Any impacts to parking or building access will be communicated at casscountymi.org, on the Cass County, Michigan - Government Facebook page, and to the local media. Regular updates regarding timeline, project cost and contingency usage, as well as progress photos and necessary updates, will be posted to Cass County’s Facebook page and website, at https://casscountymi.org/1385/Historic-Courthouse-Project.