Cherry Republic teams up with Leelanau School on workforce housing solution


From staff reports

A shortage of low-cost housing led Cherry Republic and The Leelanau School to enter into a beneficial partnership in recent days. The Cochran Dormitory on Leelanau School’s campus is being renovated through a $30,000 donation from Cherry Republic which will turn it into a desirable and affordable summer lodging option for employees who work for Cherry Republic and other area businesses.

[Read about Cherry Republic’s plans to build more workforce housing on its campus in downtown Glen Arbor.]

Built in the 1980s and named for longtime Leelanau School trustees Philip and Grace Cochran, the Cochran House is the smallest residential house on Leelanau School’s campus and has primarily been used for 9th and 10th grade boys. With room for 16 residents, the planned renovation will greatly increase the common room space, add a kitchenette and additional laundry machines, as well as bathroom upgrades.

The planned addition will be 25 feet x 25 feet and will be located in place of the current walkway (see photo).

“Cherry Republic employees will have the option to rent newly refurbished rooms as a benefit for their generous gift,” said Ginny Deisler, chief financial officer of The Leelanau School. “They will be paying rent as tenants of The Leelanau School.”

Those employees will have use of the campus facilities like any other summer residents, such as the Lake Michigan waterfront, tennis courts, bonfire pit, observatory, sports fields and track. According to Kelli Stepka, director of human resources for Cherry Republic, by mid-May any rooms which are not used by Cherry Republic employees will be made available for other area business summer employees.

The Leelanau School has been offering the campus for rentals from early June through end of August, while their boarding school students are gone for the summer for the past several years. The campus has become popular with sports teams and other groups and organizations who are training in the area.

“When fall comes, the underclassmen boys of The Leelanau School will be moving back into a much-improved space thanks to the generosity of Cherry Republic and Bob Sutherland’s vision,” said JD Friley, current head of school for Leelanau School.

“Cherry Republic is excited to partner with the Leelanau School,” Sutherland said. “The lack of affordable housing for employees has been a real challenge in Leelanau County. I hope this project will alleviate that issue a bit and help attract those wanting to work in our beautiful area this summer.”