Apartment complex reopens its doors as Suite Liv’n

After both extensive renovations and controversy, a Birch Street apartment complex is looking for tenants again

Photo by Deb Gau Jeff Huston and Gabe Olson, of Suite Liv’n, and Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Gruhot, stood outside the renovated Suite Liv’n apartment complex on Birch Street on Monday morning. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house was held for the apartments, which were vacated last fall for extensive repairs and updates.

MARSHALL — Rehabilitating the 103-unit apartment complex on Birch Street was a big undertaking, Gabe Olson said. As he showed a group of people including Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce members and city council member John DeCramer through one building, Olson listed off some of the changes.

“We gutted it, but not in the sense that you tear out walls,” said Olson of Suite Liv’n. While the structure was the same, the complex had new roofs, new boilers, new appliances, new carpet, fresh paint and plumbing repairs. Olson estimated that Suite Liv’n, the new owners of the apartment complex, put around $3 million into renovating the three apartment buildings making up the complex.

But after the extensive building work — and controversy last fall when former tenants were asked to leave due to “life-threatening safety issues” with the heating system — the Suite Liv’n apartments were now ready for residents.

Representatives of Suite Liv’n and the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday at the refurbished apartment complex on Birch Street. One building in the complex is open now, with the other two to follow in the next few weeks, Olson said.

Chamber President Brad Gruhot said it was exciting to have more options for housing in Marshall. And in coming to Marshall, Olson said Suite Liv’n was looking to be part of a strong community. The Willmar-based business rehabilitates distressed properties, he said.

“We’re grateful to be here,” Olson said.

Attendees of the ribbon-cutting walked through a few open apartments at Suite Liv’n, and Olson also showed them the boiler room, which was one big focus of renovations in the building. If the work across the whole apartment complex cost $3 million, “We spent a half-million dollars on just the boiler systems,” Olson said.

He said the new boiler and hot water systems would be more energy efficient, as well as safer.

Aside from the amount of work it took to renovate the apartments, Olson said it had been “horrible” going through the controversy and legal issues facing Suite Liv’n over the former Sunrise Court property. Suite Liv’n tries to give residents the best experience possible, he said. But the heating systems at the former Sunrise Court complex put residents at risk of being exposed to carbon monoxide gas.

“It was a hard spot to be in,” Olson said.

Petitions from tenants who had been asked to vacate took the matter into Lyon County District Court. A judge ruled that Suite Liv’n needed to fix the heating system, but didn’t mention upholding the tenants’ leases.

Olson said former tenants of the complex are invited to apply for a renovated apartment. Currently, he said, Suite Liv’n was seeing a quick turnaround for applicants to move in.

Olson said Suite Liv’n’s reputation was hurt by the legal action, and the news coverage that went with it. But aside from the media, he said Marshall has been welcoming. Local businesses, the Marshall EDA and the city have all been good to work with, he said.

Olson said the rent at the refurbished apartment complex was $650 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, $750 for a two-bedroom apartment, and $850 for a three-bedroom apartment.

“It matches everything else we have in Marshall,” Olson said. Suite Liv’n now has about 400 rental units in Marshall, he said. The rates were also meant to be on par for the rental market in town, he said.

“You see in Marshall a pretty big disparity in rents,” from some very low rates to higher rates, Olson said. Suite Liv’n wanted to set rent at an attainable rate, he said.

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