"Place matters, and it's about more than just economic activity," says Congressman Dan Kildee, speaking to a crowd gathered for the ribbon-cutting of the Legacy building in downtown Bay City. "Economic activity is what drives a community and makes it attractive, but what makes a development like this is special is it's connection between the past and the future."
Formerly known as the Crapo building, the structure built in 1891 faced years of vacancy and ultimately demolition before redevelopment efforts by Jenifer Acosta of Jenifer Acosta Development
began in 2016. Previously occupied by Chemical Bank, the building now contains apartments with a soon-to-open restaurant on the first floor. Of the 26 units available to rent, only one is vacant.
Congressman Dan Kildee
Kildee believes that many cities feel they have to discard the past in order to pursue the future, but he says that isn't the case.
"What this development proves is that you can honor and celebrate the past in a way that is all about our future," he says. "What's happening here in Bay City is nothing short of phenomenal. You have become a real destination.”
The redevelopment of the building attracted the investment of Michigan Economic Development Corporation
(MEDC) in the form of a $2.4 million award from their Community Revitalization Program that provided a $1 million grant and a $1.4 million low-interest loan to the project.
"These projects are so hard to put together, " says Greg Tedder, the MEDC's Chief Community Development and Marketing Officer. "They take so much tenacity and so much vision...and this project is obviously going to have an impact that goes beyond these four walls."
Greg Tedder, the MEDC's Chief Community Development and Marketing Officer
is a commercial construction firm based in Saginaw, and served as Construction Manager for the Legacy redevelopment.
Wayne Hofman, the Project Development Lead at Spence Brothers, says that redeveloping vacant, historical buildings gives both energy and value to the surrounding area.
"Transformational projects like this have a value that you can't put into a new building," Hofman says. "Now all the other buildings in the area become even more viable...and people gravitate to these types of developments. It's a game changer."
Also speaking at the ribbon-cutting were three new businesses opening in the Davidson building, across the street from the Legacy. Regent Floral and Mercantile, owned by Brandon Strong, will offer freshly cut flowers, houseplants, gifts, and original art. Baysics, a general retail store owned by Margie Brown, will offer items like snacks, greetings cards, cleaning supplies, standard-needs medications, and kitchen items.
Amberlyn Hales, owner of MI Table
The restaurant opening on the first floor is called MI Table
, a farm-to-table restaurant highlighting Michigan fish, produce, and game.
"MI Table will showcase dishes that are rooted in our state’s history and the menu will change based on what is available agriculturally throughout the state," says owner Amberlyn Hales.
Different sections of the restaurant will recognize different parts of the state. For example, the bar area will recognize Detroit, the upstairs lounge will give a nod to the Upper Peninsula, in the general seating area will be a "transition zone" featuring a table made from a piece of the Mackinac Bridge.
With the redevelopment of the building creating a space for her restaurant, Hales believes that it's imperative that local businesses work together.
"When you have Michigan produce that was picked from a farm less than 24 hours ago on a restaurant's table, not only does that taste better, but it helps keep those two businesses alive," she says.
“There’s a demand for living in downtown, in walkable spaces," says Jenifer Acosta, who initiated the process of redeveloping the building back in January of 2016. "If we don’t have those options for people, we lose them. We lose them to other cities that do...capital flight is a major problem for small towns."
Acosta is quick to point out the various people, businesses, and organizations who were also involved in the project: the State Historic Preservation Office
, Quinn Evans Architects
, Spence Brothers
, various teams of subcontractors, and tenants currently renting the apartments.
Rod Hildebrant, a partner in the project
She also thanks her father, Rod Hildebrant, who was also her business partner throughout the project.
"I could not have had a better business partner in this redevelopment than my father," says Jenifer Acosta, "He's always known how to be impactful. He knows that it's the little things and the partners that truly make an impact.”
Acosta believes it takes a city to build a city.
“For catalytic forces in community development," she says,"it takes incredible teams of people, entrepreneurs, and a supportive community."