JACKSON, Mich. — The Albert Kahn building in downtown Jackson was home to the Jackon Citizen Patriot for 85 years. It opened in March as the Albert Kahn Apartments, though the renovations pay homage to the newspaper that once operated there as well as to Kahn, the architect who designed it.
The Citizen Patriot operated out of the building at 214 S. Jackson Street from 1927 until 2012. At one point it held more than 250 staff members according to its former publisher Sandy Petykiewicz.
“It’s kind of bittersweet to see my office kind of gone. I’m glad they preserved the beautiful walnut in this building. Those walls are six inches thick. You just don’t see walls like that anymore in modern construction. I’m glad they preserved the building. That’s the sweet part. But it’s sad not having the activity, the hustle and bustle and all of the people putting out the newspaper,” Petykiewicz said.
The Wisconsin-based group General Capital spent $16 million to add apartments to the upper floors of the building and retail spaces on the ground floor.
The developers have said they wanted to keep the legacy of Albert Kahn intact, though they did add two additional buildings.
Community Manager Amy Jo Tisdel says the 73 apartments are just over half full.
As the industry shifted during the digital age, newspapers struggled to adapt. Petykiewicz, who worked in the building from 1983 to 2011, said many hard decisions had to be made before she retired and the newspaper could no longer be in that building.
“It was a sad time those last few years because I was publisher,” Petykiewicz said. “I’m trying to save a struggling business. I’m trying to preserve reporting and journalism for the community of Jackson and in order to do that I had to downsize the business significantly. It was sad. A lot of employees had to leave.”
Former Citizen Patriot reporter Ken Wyatt said the building was like a second home.
“It was a place where my children would come visit sometimes after school and I would introduce them to people I worked with. I remember every Halloween the staffers would do an open house for kids and we’d all bring our kids through and some of the staffers would have cookies to distribute, so it was really a family atmosphere,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt was hired in 1974 and worked there until 2007. When he found out their former building was being repurposed, he worked to get former staffers together to reminisce.
“I was a little worried about how it might actually happen. We had 37 show up and it must have been like herding cats to go through the building and show everybody what the new project is like. It was really wonderful. Very gratifying,” Wyatt said.
Especially, he said, after years of passing by the vacant building and watching its deterioration.
“It started to look run down. A bit shabby. The grass wasn’t always cut outside. Papers would fly up against the building. All of the evidence of it being an abandoned building that wasn’t being carefully watched over. When we heard that someone was actually purchasing and had some plans to repurpose it, that was great news,” Wyatt said.
Petykiewicz said she's glad the building was repurposed.
"I would have been sad if it were an empty building that I had to drive by through the rest of my time here. It would be sad. I'm really glad they’ve done something with it and it kind of preserves the newspaper's history," she said.
The apartments themselves are representative of a second wind in the city of Jackson. The downtown area has seen more housing options, among them The 200 and Francis Senior Lofts, and more restaurants.
The first floor, which once housed the newspaper's advertising and publishing area, still sits vacant as the developer waits for potential retail to move in but the former employees have a different idea.
In order to qualify to live at the Albert Kahn Apartments, all applicants must have an income limit of $37,200 or less annually for one-person households and $42,560 for two-person households.
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