Posted by Chuck Chase on Jul 07, 2017
Our own Mark & Mary Murray spoke to members today about the Adrian Armory which they purchased some time ago. Some members were quick to recall times they’d used or visited the facility in the past. It was built in 1924 and was originally used for military preparations and training.
The building, Mark said, is 22,000 square feet, consists of 3 floors on the front of the building and two on the back and a full theater that seats 600 people. Some 300 people could also dine comfortably in that space. It has meeting and training rooms, large gymnasium and a full cafeteria. It has a concrete and steel bunker. The auditorium feature was unique, Mark said, as no other armories had this kind of a theater and stage setup. All over the Midwest, these facilities were originally a partnership between the states and the Federal Government to train their local militias in the event of war, Mark said.
From 1940 to 2010 the building was used as a public venue and was rented out. One weekend a month and twice in the summer for two weeks it was used for those serving in the National Guard.  From the 50’s on, this was the only armory in Michigan that made any money by engaging with the community and renting it out to interested parties. “It was the premier event center in the greater Lenawee County area for many decades.”
The armory underwent many upgrades over the years yet still needs a very significant overhaul, Mark said. One of the main issues will be handicap accessibility and air conditioning. The Murray’s have hosted four open houses and welcome any input and ideas from the community as to what they would like to see it used for. White boards, he said, were scattered throughout the building sin the event anyone might have an idea to offer. Much due diligence has already been done, Mark said. The next open house is July 7 from 5-7pm. A chorale group has also been invited to perform that evening.
The Murray’s have visited every armory within a hundred mile radius and interviewed all individuals who have remodeled and upgraded those armories looking for info about what they should be doing with this one. They found that some have been turned into housing units and breweries among other uses. People who live near them and do business out of their homes would be prime candidates for renting space in these buildings. Mark and Mary have contacted the Lenawee Visitors Bureau for info about possible needs in the community and found that the area was really short on event venue space. Mark said that the Adrian Armory is actually a multi-purpose event center from the day it was built and he and Mary envision it coming back and serving this purpose once again. Some office space is already up and running and ready to rent out, he said.
Mark mentioned the local Adrian Area Investment Accelerator group who would make it possible to obtain aggregate local capital from this area to undertake projects of this kind as opposed to having to attract outsiders to invest in the work needed to be done. One of the focuses of this group, Mark said, will be to return capital to the investors at a rate of 3% per year. Thus far $350,000 has been set aside for the renovations planned in Phase 1 of the project which will include refinishing the wood floors and glazing of all the windows. All original woodwork will be kept, Mark said.   
Mark concluded by saying that he needs people to start talking this up in the community. Consider holding your event there if you’re planning one no matter the requirements. They will make it work for you. Mark asked anyone who might have old pictures to share them with him. Any artifacts you may have associated with the Armory would be appreciated. Maybe you know someone who has these items – please ask. Imagine having a Rotary logo somewhere on the building, Mark said! Give this some thought, members! Thanks folks for a great presentation!