Big changes coming to Mt. Pleasant in 2020: Broadway Lofts progress, summer murals, and more

The new year is bringing plenty of changes to Mt. Pleasant.

As 2020 kicks off with snow and ice, the community can look ahead to a spring that promises new growth in more ways than one. Developers are expecting to break ground in March on the Broadway Lofts, a four-story mixed-use project at 410 W. Broadway that will be home to an expanded GreenTree Cooperative Grocery and three floors of apartments.

“Having a grocery downtown is kind of a big deal for communities in terms of a vibrant downtown,” says Bill Mrdeza, community services and economic development director for the city of Mt. Pleasant. “It should be a win-win for everybody.”

The Broadway Lofts will provide four times more space than GreenTree Cooperative Grocery's current location on Franklin Street.

Community works to meet housing, shopping needs

Located at the vacant parcel between City Hall and Mountain Town Station, the development also helps fill a need for more professional housing – the “missing middle,” as it’s sometimes called.

“While there’s a lot of rental housing in town, a lot of that rental housing is geared toward the undergraduate student market,” Mrdeza says. “What we’ve heard is the folks that are looking for professional housing rental units are having a hard time finding that in town.”
 

“Having a grocery downtown is kind of a big deal for communities in terms of a vibrant downtown. It should be a win-win for everybody."

- Bill Mrdeza, community services and economic development director for the city of Mt. Pleasant

For GreenTree, the project will mean four times more space than the co-op’s current location on Franklin Street, an expanded deli with indoor and outdoor seating, and the addition of a parking lot for customers. Though the store isn’t anticipated to open until summer 2021, fundraising efforts are well underway as owners invest through GreenTree’s Preferred Share Program. So far, about $390,000 has been raised toward a $1 million goal.

“We are very excited,” says general manager Sarah Christensen. “This year we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary too, so it’s kind of fun to be planning the next phase of our evolution in our 50th year.”

The store’s current space sees about 218 customers per day, and owners expect that to increase with the new location’s visibility and people living above the commercial space.

“We think we have the potential to bring at least twice that number downtown every day and just the effect that'll have on other businesses – I feel like it’ll create some excitement,” she says. “We’re just excited about the vibrancy it’ll bring to downtown.”

Community awaits developments in local marijuana industry

This year, residents can also expect news on marijuana businesses in town. City officials are accepting license applications for recreational marijuana businesses now through Feb. 28, including retailers, growers and micro-businesses.

Interest in the application process has been steady, says city planner Jacob Kain. If the city receives more applications than it has available licenses – which city officials anticipate will be the case – supplemental information will be sought and applicants will be scored through a competitive process.

 

“For retailing and microbusinesses, there have been fairly steady levels of inquiry. We're expecting to have a competitive process for both of those establishment types based on that level of interest so far,” says Kain, adding that a business could open within 2020, depending on the state licensing process and how much work is needed on the property. “I think it's possible that someone could be open in this calendar year; it just depends on the nature of the applicant.”

This summer, interactive murals will be placed throughout downtown.


New murals, new entrepreneurs downtown

This summer, the community will get to enjoy new interactive murals placed downtown. The project is just getting underway with the selection of properties and creating guidelines, says Michelle Sponseller, director of Mt. Pleasant’s Downtown Development Authority.

“The mural locations are being worked on but they’ll be located throughout downtown,” she says. “Public art is a powerful tool for meeting the city of Mt. Pleasant’s goal of providing varied recreational and cultural opportunities. Memorable public places strengthen our community and attract us to downtown by informing us about the history and peoples of our place, and celebrate our ethnic and cultural diversity.”
 

“Memorable public places strengthen our community and attract us to downtown by informing us about the history and peoples of our place, and celebrate our ethnic and cultural diversity.”

- Michelle Sponseller, director of Mt. Pleasant’s Downtown Development Authority

Investments will also be made downtown through large construction projects this year, Sponseller says, including reconstruction and new streetscape on Michigan Street between Oak and Washington starting after July 4, reconstruction of parking lot #7 starting in mid-June, and the replacement of 22 built-in planters throughout downtown that will be rebuilt higher to save mature trees and provide additional seating.

Additionally, those visiting downtown may expect to see a few new entrepreneurs or new offerings from current ones due to a recently-developed program, Make It Mt. Pleasant. The program will make it easier for entrepreneurs to launch a business downtown by providing a rent subsidy to up to two businesses per year. The program aims to support new retail, dining, and arts and entertainment businesses, focusing on first-floor commercial spaces downtown.



Other potential projects

On the health care front, Isabella Citizens for Health recently expanded into a new 24,000-square-foot clinic and plans to add a pharmacy and additional providers in 2020. The possibility of an aquatic center in Mt. Pleasant is also being discussed, finally reaching an important early step with the launch of a multi-governmental committee late last year.

Residents can keep an eye on at least two other locations for possible changes this year. Mrdeza says a redevelopment is being considered at the former SBX property on Bellows Street, across from Central Michigan University, where a developer is interested in a mixed-use project.

“It looks like some limited commercial on the first floor and several upper floors of residential,” he says.
 

“I’d like to position downtown as the place where entrepreneurs choose to launch their new business and bring even more development into downtown by way of new construction or the redevelopment of some of our historic properties.”

- Michelle Sponseller, director of Mt. Pleasant’s Downtown Development Authority

The city is also hoping to see redevelopment at 200 E. Broadway, which is currently owned by Isabella Bank and previously part of its offices. In conjunction with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Municipal League, a marketing package is being worked up for the 23,550-square-foot building in an attempt to generate interest.

“The space is very underutilized,” Mrdeza notes.

Should a developer decide to pursue it, he says there’s room for a lot to happen and even potential for the building to qualify for federal historic tax credits.

“Underneath the current 1970s facade is the turn-of-the-century historic facade, which is in pretty decent shape,” he says.

As for other future projects, city officials are ultimately working to create an environment that attracts businesses of all types – for both Mission Street, downtown, and beyond.

“The more folks you have downtown, for instance, the more reason folks will look at that to start a business because there are more feet on the street,” he says. “We are just trying to create the environment that makes it attractive for folks that want to get into business of some sort to want to locate in town here. The more we can (do that), the better it is for the community as a whole.”

Sponseller shares that sentiment as she works to further enhance downtown Mt. Pleasant in 2020.

“I’d like to position downtown as the place where entrepreneurs choose to launch their new business and bring even more development into downtown by way of new construction or the redevelopment of some of our historic properties.”

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