A Battle Creek Downtown Development Update
A lot of economic development "Irons are in the fire" in downtown Battle Creek, and while many citizens are long on optimism, some are getting short on patience. Assistant City Manager Ted Dearing and Downtown Development Director John Hart were recent guests on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins to give an update on downtown progress.
Dearing says the workers are just about ready to start hanging drywall in some of the units in the building. He says they have a contraption in the first level of the historic building to get some heat to multiple stories. He says workers are doing major renovations inside, as they work to finalize the financing for the project. He says they'll eventually have about 85 housing units as well as commercial space on the first couple of levels. Dearing said the building has two escalators that will remain, but will not be restored to a functioning capacity. Dearing says the developers are hoping to get a couple of units finished so they can start marketing them and possibly have some leases signed this spring. He says workers are starting from the top and working their way down, so the big question will be when the lower floors can be made ready.
McCamly Plaza Hotel
Dearing say there has been slow but steady progress on the project with will have the hotel changing ownership and having residential units. He says they'll ave a lot of lobby renovations to make to get it up to "Hilton standards", and that may not happen until after their busy spring season. Hart says the addition of a Bigby Coffee in McCamly Plaza is a work in progress. He says there is a lot of work to be done by the plaza owner and by the owner of Bigby. He says something should be signed in the next couple of weeks, and then we could see an opening sometime within 90 days after that. WBCK recently observed some maintenance issues in McCamly Place which included:
- Wooden Pallets strewn around the common area.
- Unmopped floors
- Dirty carpets and carpet runners in random places.
- Empty vending machines.
- Handles to exit doors falling off.
- Entry hall very cold.
- No businesses.
McCamly Place, Jan 2019
Dearing says that they hope the current management team will stay on top of things, but acknowledged that, "It has been a bit of a challenge to get from point A to point B here. We stay in their ear as much as we possibly can. We have a limited amount of control over the project but locally, we're invested in it so we're just trying to do everything we can to help move the project forward and make sure folks (visitors) have a good experience in the mean time."
Hart added that they'll be adding a new storefront bordering Festival Market Square, Bigby coming in soon, and that should help get things going.
Hart says they've had a lot of discussions with the owners of Horrocks in the past couple of months. He says they hope Horrocks will stay downtown, because it's part of their downtown development plan. Hart says they've said they're looking at options such as moving to the mall, but that it doesn't mean they'r moving. He said they've had some discussion about a smaller "convience" grocery coming to downtown. For now, they'll keep an open mind and hope for the best.
The Latest Addition
Hart says a new coffee shop is going in at 80 West Michigan, next to Pastrami Joes. "Cafe Rica" a BC Cargo business and "Simply Sensational Berries" These will open up in what they call "The Kitchen." It's a "retail service kitchen incubator" where they will cycle through tenants. They can start outside at BC Cargo, businesses can stay for a year. with two shared tenants. The plan is to then move businesses into other "brick and mortar" spaces.
Shranks and Code Issues
BCU will tear down the old building and redevelop the property. The building at 85 and 87 West Michigan fell into disrepair after the last operators closed their doors. about 10 years ago. Re-opening became unlikely, as many of the grandfathered code compliance regulations were no longer in place. Dearing and Hart acknowledged that that can be a factor and says that they are working through some of those code issues. He said they have a business briefing meeting that they bring folks to. He and his staff are looking at restaurants and buildings that would be good for certain type of development that would lower the barrier to entry. He said there are three or four restaurants in the pipeline right now, and they're just trying to find the right fit.