In Bay City, a historic and newly-rehabbed downtown including condos is setting the scene for a renewed, vital downtown life with new residents moving into the area.
After decades of decline, many downtown districts are making a comeback. The driving force behind this comeback is a city's ability to transform the downtown district into a great place to live, work and play. Nowhere is this more evident than in Bay City, where people are literally waiting in line to get a place downtown.
"In a lot of communities the lights are going on and they're realizing the downtown areas need to be taken care of, there won't be a mall but it doesn't mean they can't be a place where people want to be--it's a good story," says Candace Bales, executive director of Bay City's Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Management Board.
Bay City has a great story to tell. To start with, it has an enviable waterfront on the Saginaw River that attracts people downtown. There they find luxury condos, specialty retail shops, over 23 unique restaurants, events like River Roar, Tall Ships, and arts festivals, along with microbreweries and farmers markets. They're also able to take a stroll or bike ride along a 17-mile pathway that weaves along the riverfront and beyond.
It's attractions like these that add excitement to a city and entices people to live downtown. Bales says there is a very diverse crowd of folks living in downtown Bay City these days-- from the millennial crowd to retired boomers--and an 86 year-old man who dines downtown most nights.
"He just loves being where the action is," says Bales of the senior hipster.
People are also attracted to the downtown because they can be close to where they work. There are several businesses and companies located in the downtown area of Bay City, including Dow Corning, which recently opened up offices for 300 employees in Bay City's new Uptown District development. Employees of this and other downtown businesses can not only walk to work, but do so on heated sidewalks!
While some cities went ahead with plans to demolish old buildings as retail stores left the downtown districts back in the 70's, Bay City, fortunately, retained many of their old structures. Today, that smart decision is paying off.
Jennison Condominiums on the waterfront is a prime example of a rehabbed historic gem along the waterfront in Bay City. The former Jennison Brothers Hardware and Company, which was converted to seven stories of condominiums in the 90's, had humble beginnings, which perhaps reflects the uphill battle this city initially faced convincing folks to move downtown. Bales says the condos stood empty for nine years. And then it took off. Once one condo unit was sold, people scampered to buy the remaining 27 living spaces. Today, a person is hard pressed to buy a condo in the former hardware store. The ground floor is home to Studio 23/The Arts Center. Other condominiums along the waterfront, albeit with fewer living units, include Boathouse, Brownstones and Antrim Place.
The old will meet the new as Uptown Bay City continues to develop. This latest development, SSP Associates, will offer plenty of excitement for residents of Bay City and visitors as they convert 43 acres of undeveloped, mostly waterfront property into sustainable businesses, including Dow Corning, and upscale restaurants like The Real Seafood Company. McLaren Bay Region, Chemical Bank and a Courtyard by Marriott is also moving into the new district; luxury condominiums will be situated in the heart of it all.
In addition to contemporary condo living units being built near the water, a boatload of old homes and buildings are being restored within walking distance of where the excitement is downtown. Bales says a lot of young people are buying some of the stately older homes on the cheap and remodeling them, attracted to the city's history.
Bay City is steeped in Native American history and also has a long history as a viable port of commerce and in 1844 was dubbed the "Lumber Capital of the World." More than 50 lumber mills were processing lumber for the stately homes that still stand in the city, and to be shipped to other ports.
To learn more about what Bay City has to offer and upcoming events visit DowntownBayCity.com
. More information on Uptown Bay City can be found at Uptown Bay City
Neil Moran is a freelance writer and owner of Haylake Business Communications.