United Apartments founder Jim McGuirk leaves behind a legacy of philanthropy in Mount Pleasant


Jim McGuirk, founder of United Apartments and a champion of philanthropy in Mount Pleasant, died on March 28. He was 84 years old.

As a prominent Mount Pleasant real estate developer, McGuirk was known for his contributions to off-campus housing for Central Michigan University students. 

Jim McGuirk

The developer founded United Apartments in 1963 and continued to operate the company with his nephew, Rick McGuirk, until his death.

To Rick McGuirk, his family and the community members he leaves behind, Jim McGuirk was more than a builder of student housing.

“We all have an expiration date, and Jim’s was too early for us to see what this community meant to him,” said Rick McGuirk, the current operations manager and broker for United Apartments.

Rick McGuirk worked closely with his uncle, and eventually took over a large role in the company as Jim McGuirk focused his energy on giving back to Mount Pleasant.

He helped start two charitable funds, including a scholarship through the Mount Pleasant Community Fund. The scholarship helps pay for college tuition for two high school seniors who attended Ganiard Elementary School while growing up in Mount Pleasant.

He was also a major donor to CMU, which remodeled Rose Arena and renamed it McGuirk Arena in 2010. McGuirk’s nephew said his uncle viewed philanthropy as one small way to support the community he worked and lived in since he was born on Sept. 21, 1932.

“He was not a man who wanted nor needed recognition for his accomplishments,” he said. “He just knew it was good for the community that treated him so well over the years.”

McGuirk was a graduate of Mount Pleasant High School in 1951, and later served in the U.S. Army from 1953-1954. He worked at Dow Chemical Co. in the photography department during the 1960s.

In the middle 60s, McGuirk purchased his first few homes that were eventually converted into apartment dwellings. By the 1970s, McGuirk was working full-time at Dow and expanding United Apartments.

During the 1980s, McGuirk purchased several multi-unit apartments near the campus of CMU. The rest is history.

Other properties in McGuirk’s real estate portfolio included Mount Pleasant’s Super 8 Motel, the Baymont Inn, Microtel Inn and a Holiday Inn Express. Each of the hotels except Baymont were sold during the 2000s to help jumpstart new student housing projects including Jamestown and Deerfield Apartments.

An avid boater and dedicated “car guy,” Rick McGuirk remembers spending time with his uncle out on the water or traversing the outdoors riding recreational vehicles. Still, McGuirk’s business acumen left the largest impact.

“He taught me that you can accomplish many things with hard work, honest transactions and trust,” he said. “He helped shape my view of society that your word is sacred and you lead by example.”

McGuirk was preceded in death by his parents, James and Mamie (Vujtech) McGuirk, and brothers Pat and Leroy McGuirk. He is survived by two sisters, Sonja Albaugh and Jan Nehrt, their husbands and many nieces and nephews.

A public visitation is scheduled from 3-7 p.m. on April 13 at the Charles R. Lux Family Funeral Home, located at 2300 S. Lincoln Road.

A celebration of McGuirk’s life is scheduled from 3-4 p.m. on April 14 at Buck’s Run Golf Club, 1559 S. Chippewa Road. Family members are asking for contributions to the McGuirk/Ganiard West Side School Scholarship Fund or the McGuirk Family Fund in lieu of flowers.


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