Change Everything: Leveraging Built Assets to Save Money, Time & Hassle

Master Builder

By Kate Klemp March 30, 2023

Adaptive reuse has been Wolverine Building Group’s wheelhouse for decades. As our clients look for unrivaled locations to reimagine as new places, we deliver on their vision. Often, adapting an existing building can win the real estate game while simultaneously conquering supply chain hiccups and rising material costs. As the economy continues rebounding from the pandemic, our team proves our value to our clients through our expertise, flexibility and financial management for this project category.

We shouldn’t be surprised that a sea change is rising for construction. Conversions of existing real estate are no longer rare, as end-use needs have dramatically shifted over the past five years. The cost of materials and property continues to climb, so starting with something rather than nothing is money in the bank. As downtowns assess vacant offices and the need for housing does not slow, adaptive reuse makes more sense than ever.

“Overall, such conversions appear to be financially feasible in a broad range of markets…as well as across a spectrum of original uses,” according to a National Multi-Family Housing Council report. Innovative clients are seeing possibilities where challenges used to exist, and getting the right construction experience on your team will revolutionize your project.

SINCE 1939

The wide experience of Wolverine Building Group transforms the process for clients seeking to adapt existing structures. With over 80 years of commercial construction in every category, the cross-pollination of our specialized teams creates a refreshing, innovative approach.

Our teams build restaurants, office, retail, healthcare, industrial, multi-unit residential with self-perform teams in steel erection, carpentry, design build and historic preservation. This one stop shop can accelerate projects as we offer solutions as the challenges arise (or before!).

Our North America Restaurants & Retail team has begun transitioning brands from past decades to rising stars. Culver’s Butter Burgers, one of the fastest growing quick-serve restaurants in America, is adapting a former Elias’ Big Boy Restaurant for its next location in Southwest Michigan. This team’s intimate knowledge of the Culver’s brand (building over 22 locations ground up in the past several years) expedites the adaptive reuse of the existing building. Our teams can see the new building in the old structure, especially in pre-construction.


The key is adding Wolverine into the equation early. “It’s not great to watch an owner’s dreams dissipate because we weren’t there to help evaluate the original structure,” said Mike Houseman, Vice President. “Use our team’s experience to ensure you’re starting ahead of the curve.”


Culver’s Charlevoix

Wolverine can examine the project from the ground up and innovate with the client to offer value engineering. The savings can come in phasing, materials and approach. Is your project’s highest value in re-tuckpointing the masonry in the entire structure for highest visual appeal? Or will protecting the unique architectural features create the difference? Decades of experience gives you options for saving money without compromising your vision.

As the challenges pop up on the horizon, it is the knowledge of these teams that flex to solve. Wolverine’s wisdom comes from the multitude of projects that came before. We build by adding applied experience to a client’s project. That is why when we’re opening up an existing structure, this team is able to pivot what we see to aim for what the client values most on the project.


Our award-winning historic restoration team has tackled a number of challenging projects, each providing their own unique opportunity to connect with a client’s vision. At Emerald Flats in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the project team transformed the historic Eastern Elementary into affordable housing while simultaneously achieving award winning historic preservation. Repeat client, ICCF Community Homes, needed a Construction Management team they could trust to keep every entity in the loop. Closely tracking data for LIHTC and MSHDA housing tax-credits and compliance, the experience of a team that guides your project from sketch to success, allows the client to focus on running their business.


Armory Arts

Cottage 36

Gateway Senior Housing

The Durant

This same determination made a long-term vision for clients Bridgeway Community Church a reality. They sought out Wolverine to transform an abandoned mill, considered to be blight in a rapidly growing suburb, to become their new church.

This complex adaptation focused on the vision of the congregation and made decades of work come together. “Wolverine listened, acted, and transformed our hope into a growing center of worship,” said Pastor Tom Chronkright. “They offered solutions, not obstacles. Their follow-through brought all of us together to improve our community.”


When adapting an existing structure, there are multiple values at play. Wolverine lives in the middle of the field, connecting with architects, owners, developers, designers, and regulators. “Our unique ability to bring balance to the project allows each partner to play their part. It’s our talent,” shared Troy Redman, Director of Construction. “Our decades of work on these adapted reuse projects, even back to our early days in materials, has created an incredible resource for clients. We anticipate each players needs and work ahead of the plan. It makes the project load lighter on the client.”

This balance appears differently in each category.

Our Industrial team transformed a chicken farm into a top-line medical manufacturing facility. InnerSpace creates specialty cabinets for use in healthcare environments. Our Design Build team adapted this building from dirty poultry coop to vibrant manufacturing, testing and office space.

“The difference here was balancing each of our construction partners, the subcontractors, that we needed to make the project work. It is not easy taking the dust, dirt, and decades of one trade out while radically planning for something completely different,” stated Michael VanSchelven, Design Build Manager. “Our role is to encounter each trade needed and balance the schedule to hit the target. And we do.”

Wolverine’s Design Build team converted a former chicken coop to top-of-the-line medical manufacturing.

Our recent adaptive reuse project at the former South Christian High School for our client Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC), created a unique use of former classroom space within a shared construction environment. The collaborative campus of the Unified Sports & Inclusion Center houses several advocacy organizations that were transforming the space at the same time.

The space was essential to success of their mission. The location was chosen as it fit several criteria: access to public transportation, existing necessary facilities and room to expand. Wolverine created harmony within the construction environment, working with the architect (who had designed several spaces within the center) and organizational leadership to ensure positive outcomes for multiple concurring construction projects.

Choosing the right contractor made a difference in the success of this project, as the values of Wolverine make balance possible. “Wolverine’s connection to community made this a harmonious project,” offered Dave Bukowski, Executive Director of DAKC. “Our schedules, permits and plans all were meticulously communicated to all parties – keeping our project on pace.”


Lighthouse Group Offices

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge

This balance is a tightrope walk where our project teams thrive. “We don’t look at what can’t be done, we use our role to change the conversation to ‘What CAN we do?’,” said Houseman. Enlisting Wolverine in Construction Management for a project that is designed around change will create parity for all partners and ultimate success for the client.


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