In an effort to help shape the future of communities by building strong foundations of planning, zoning and economic development practices, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has provided a toolkit.
Developed by experts, the kit encourages communities to proactively plan, engage stakeholders, and become more attractive to developers. With the goal of becoming a place where people want to live, work, and invest, these Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC)
are popping up all over the state. Their streamlined approach helps welcome private and public sector support, showcasing a clear vision for the future through collaborative planning.
Two communities are in the works to add hotels, with the goal of creating destination towns, and boosting further economic development regionally.
Brady Street Hotel - Allegan
The Michigan Municipal League (the League)
partnered with the MEDC to provide pre-development assistance in Allegan for the public sale of The Brady Lot.
Melissa Milton-Pung, League Policy Research Labs program manager, says the lot is the eastern gateway to downtown Allegan. It is adjacent to the historic 2nd Street (State Street) Bridge.
“At just under one-half of an acre, this parcel’s greatest feature is 150 feet of frontage on the Kalamazoo River Boardwalk. Along that boardwalk, it is just steps away from downtown shops and directly connected to amenities like the amphitheater, public plaza, and zipline course.”
Milton-Pung says the lot is very charming and a good example of how long projects can take to come to fruition. Collaborative efforts date back to 2017, but initial plans began even before then.
“The city had been working on this project long before we came into support,” she says. “It’s a credit to Allegan’s leaders that they persisted in pursuing this journey, transforming the site from a defunct gas station to brownfield remediation to marketing the vacant lot. They’re now seeing that vision become a reality with the new hotel – one which will bring many benefits to the downtown while still maintaining public access to the waterfront.”
For the City of Allegan
manager, Joel Dye, who has been with the city since 2017, the hotel development project can help make Allegan a place where one wants to be. Being an RRC helps expedite that process, he says.
“Being a Redevelopment Ready Community means that the City of Allegan has done the heavy lifting to place itself in a position to be open to development,” he says. “We have a proactive mindset when it comes to development and have taken the necessary steps to remove any unnecessary roadblocks to development in our community.”
Since his time there, this particular project has had a series of starts and stops, according to Dye. In 2019, the City entered into a due diligence agreement with a potential buyer to explore ways to transform the parcel. A year later, after an initial design review, the Illinois developer requested to purchase nearby parkland from the City. Allegan voters voted against that in March 2020.
During the COVID-19 pandemic 2020–2021 and the huge hit on the hospitality industry, the project was unproductive. At the end of 2021, the original developer sold their development rights to a Michigan developer out of Holland.
“Essentially, the project restarted in 2022 with a new developer having to determine their concept for a hotel at this site, working on securing funding for this site, which is still ongoing,” Dye says. “Local approvals, such as site plan approval and historic district commission approval have been secured; however, due to ongoing changes in the building by the developer, new approvals will be needed.”
While Dye says “nothing is set in stone yet,” the developer, 102 Brady, LLC, is securing final financing, and plans for groundbreaking are in place for late fall/early winter in 2023, with an estimated completion date of December 2024.
Local business owners in downtown Allegan have shown their excitement for the plans of the historic four-story, 55-room hotel with modern amenities, coming to the area. Concept plans include a warm, modern design element with local history woven throughout the hotel, including a fitness room, meeting room, laundry room, and pool.
Dye hopes this new addition to the area can help usher in tourists and business travelers and create more local jobs.
“Allegan is quickly becoming a destination town as well as being home to Perrigo, one of the world’s largest generic drug manufacturers. Through this project we will see increased opportunities for people to extend their visit to Allegan as well as a place for business people to stay when in town for meetings with Perrigo,” he says. “This hotel will make Allegan more attractive to visitors and businesses alike. Through this development, we will be filling another void in our offerings, which will result in jobs at the hotel, more people staying a longer time in our town (spending money at local shops) as well as growing our tax base.”
Hotel Project - Harrison
City of Harrison
manager/clerk, Justin Cavanaugh, actively collaborates with many different entities within the city to bring economic development to the area. Plans for the hotel development date back before he began his position.
“Around 2001, the prior city manager, Tracey Connelly, was meeting with the Middle Michigan Development Corporation, and talking about things they’d like to see come to Harrison,” Cavanaugh says. “It was brought up that a hotel has always been on the wish list, and how it would definitely spur economic growth. The Michigan Municipal League brought in a hotel market expert, who conducted a feasibility study with funds from MEDC Predevelopment Assistance. This market study received overwhelming responses to the local survey and culminated with nearly 50 city residents at the public forum.”
Harrison is a city of more than 2,000 residents in Clare County.
The Hotel Feasibility Study, completed in July 2022, showed that Harrison could support at least a 49-room hotel. Cavanaugh says the recent struggle has been trying to find an investor to make this plan a reality.
Through the hotel study consultant, Harrison was connected to a warm lead with a regional hotel chain. “We met with Janice from Cobblestone Hotels, based out of Wisconsin. They’re looking to expand their franchise and are a hotel that focuses on rural communities and bringing a luxury hotel to a community that generally would only have a 10-room mom-and-pop option.”
After a few investor meetings, Cavanaugh says the city has about half of the $2 million needed for the project to begin.
“Right now, we’re essentially just looking for investors to try to get this project going,” he says. “If we can get a group of investors and get everything going, we’re hoping to start building by Spring of 2025. The hotel project could be built over the course of the summer, and potentially be open by 2026.”
In working with Cobblestone Hotels, Cavanaugh appreciates the ‘hotel in a box’ method, which uses their in-house management and building companies. He also appreciates that the company can personalize specific touches according to feedback and community needs unique to the area.
“When they’re building a hotel, you know exactly what it’s going to look like,” he says. “I like that because it creates that brand, but I also like that they listen to their franchisees. They’ve changed some of their models after getting feedback after some of the franchisees. For example, the franchisees wanted to have a fireplace in the lobby, and now that’s a standard because it was very well received.”
Cavanaugh hopes the hotel can provide lodging for the city’s busy event calendar, which brings visitors for the Old 27 Car Tour and motorcycle runs. Typically, visitors have to stay in nearby towns like Clare and Houghton Lake.
“If people were staying here, it would help spur the local economy. Instead, they’re going to the next town, eating at their restaurants, shopping at their stores and getting their gasoline there instead of in our town,” Cavanaugh says. “If we were able to keep people here, they’d be spending their money here.”
Ultimately, Cavanaugh hopes this hotel development can really exemplify the City’s motto, and enable growth while keeping true to its roots.
“Harrison has this saying, ‘Come for the day, we think you’ll stay,’ which is great when we actually have places for you to stay,” he says. “In our economy now, we barely even have enough housing. Being able to keep people here, and giving people a reason to come here and spend time and money here, would have an overall significant boost to our local economy and town. It would allow us to grow a little bit, but at the same time, still keep those hometown values that everyone comes here for.”
Sarah Spohn is a Lansing resident, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at email@example.com.