Vacant storefront in downtown Big Rapids set to become year-round farmers market, retail pop-up shop

What’s happening: A vacant building in downtown Big Rapids is set to receive a new lease on serving the community. Connect Church of Big Rapids has announced plans to redevelop the storefront as a year-round farmers market and entrepreneurial incubator space.

What it is: Most recently the site of a former auto parts store that closed and left the storefront vacant for several years, the building is expected to re-open as the Community Connect Center. Planned for the revitalized downtown space is a year-round farmers market; pop-up retail space for the region’s burgeoning entrepreneurs; workshop areas for free nutrition, cooking, and financial education programs; and more.

Why it’s important: “The Community Connect Center will not only breathe new life into a building that was vacant, but also create a lasting, positive impact in the Big Rapids area,” says Dan Gilmartin, CEO and Executive Director of the Michigan Municipal League.

How they’re doing it: The Community Connect Center project has been accepted into the state’s placemaking initiative Public Spaces Community Places, a joint effort from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity. As part of the initiative, the church has launched a $5,000 crowdfunding campaign on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform. Should they successfully reach their goal by Thursday, Aug. 15, the MEDC will contribute a $5,000 matching grant to the project.

Learn more about the Community Connect Center plans on Patronicity.

What they’re saying: “The Public Spaces Community Places Matching Grant Program has been instrumental in bringing our new community center, Community Connect to life. This funding not only supports the construction of a new wheelchair accessible restroom but also fosters a sense of unity among residents,” says Pastor Mark Robb of Connect Church and Community Connect.

“We're excited to see the positive impact this center will have on our community's well-being and growth. The construction of the new restroom will allow us to offer more activities to the community such as Celebrate Recovery, Senior and Kids activities, and spaces for pop-up shops. We are very blessed to be a recipient of the MEDC’s PSCP Grant.” 

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