2016-10-13 / Front Page

Largest home in northern Michigan has big impact

70 workers at the site
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

THE OWNERS of this home being built on north Lake Leelanau have long ties to Leelanau County. Meet them through an interview on the cover of Section Two. THE OWNERS of this home being built on north Lake Leelanau have long ties to Leelanau County. Meet them through an interview on the cover of Section Two. Just how big is the Stephenson home being built on north Lake Leelanau?

When completed it will be the largest home in northern Michigan, including mansions built in Traverse City, Petoskey and Bay Harbor, according to general contractor Marty Easling.

The residential building permit taken out by Easling Construction Company lists the “total square feet” of the structure, which occupies what is commonly known as Cemetery Point on north Lake Leelanau, as 37,699 square feet.

That’s the size of the building with outdoor decks, which are substantial, according to Easling.

But the living area alone will occupy 23,688 square feet.

Whatever the size the project, it’s having a positive impact on the economy of Leelanau County.

“What I’ve read is that when a project comes into an area, the ripple effect is five times the expenditure on the home or the project,” Easling said. “You’re employing a lot of people. My crews are mostly from Leelanau County, but I have people from Grand Traverse and Benzie County, too.”

When contacted by cell phone Tuesday, Easling counted 43 members of his construction crew working at the site, along with subcontractors for excavation, plumbing, heating and cooling, drywall and insulation — about 70 people in all.

“This is a major effort,” Easling said.

“We’ve seen a lot of 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 square foot homes, but nothing like this,” said Steven Haugen, county Building Official. “I highly doubt there is a bigger home.”

Richard J and Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, who own homes across the globe, have renamed their water frontage “Celebration Point.” They have five children, all of whom spent summers growing up in Leland and plan to visit often, say the Stephensons.

The construction project became the focal point of boaters and people who reside on the east side of the lake over the summer, causing some to call the Lake Leelanau Lake Association to pontificate.

“It’s the size of it; it’s an overwhelming home,” said Nick Fleezanis, president of the Lake Leelanau Lake Association. “There was a slight concern because they cleared so many trees. But that wasn’t a big deal.”

Indeed, many more trees are being saved than cut by the Stephensons through an extensive program to prevent the death of mature ash trees caused by an infestation of the emerald ash borer on their 10.5-acre parcel. The property was formerly owned by the Ball family, which also has long ties to Leelanau County. It includes 1,000 feet of lake frontage.

“I think he is environmentally conscience. He’s not there to create any problems. Leland is a close-knit community and (residents) are going to talk,” Fleezanis added.

The building permit calls for construction of a two-story wood frame residence with a finished basement of 9,114 square feet, main floor of 9,883 square feet and a second floor of 7,604 square feet. Covered porches, a four-door finished garage and a lower, finished garage make up the bulk of remaining construction.

The building permit lists a “construction value” of $2.1 million. Haugan put the finished value much higher, saying an insurance company may even look at coverage of about $20 million.

Jim Grogan, whose family ties to Leland go back several generations and who is project manager for the home, said local contractors were sought by the Stephensons for what they knew would be a major project. The Stephensons were impressed with the work and reputation of Easling Construction, and were somewhat surprised to learn that the company could handle the scope of their project and finish on time.

“They are using local people,” Grogan said, “partially because of their deep ties to the area — and partially because they’ve found a wealth of building trades talent in northwestern Michigan,” Grogan said. “I know he wanted to do something really special.”

Easling has been up to the task. Ground was broken in April on the home, which was designed by architect Nick White of Petoskey, and the completion date of Memorial Day 2017 hasn’t budged.

The Stephensons, who own a home on Lake Leelanau south of Celebration Point and west of the Leland Golf Course, are neighbors of the Grogan family.

And they’ve been good neighbors to others, providing donations to a number of local charities including the Fishtown Preservation Society and Leelanau Conservancy.

Their neighborly actions extend to workers at the site, Easling added.

“He had lunch catered, and we had a great lunch. He met a lot of the crew — he probably met everybody here,” Easling said.

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Very impressive! The shock of

Very impressive! The shock of it has drawn some critics but as it closes in on the finish, I personally find it something to show off to my visitors AND it is nice watching such immensity trickle down to local charities and benefits. One of these homes is enough though. (Unless someone wants to buy my family's property and try to replicate it on a 20-1 scale.)