After four years of improvements, the state of Michigan recognized the City of Hillsdale for its efforts to make the community a better place to live and work. Last month, Hillsdale received a certification as being a Redevelopment Ready Community by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Since it began working with MEDC, Hillsdale’s commitment to economic improvement has come to fruition as it joins 33 other communities in the state to receive this honor. The formal presentation of the award took place on Aug. 23 at Rough Draft.
Hillsdale City Zoning Administrator Alan Beeker said he felt “relief” during the event. “It was just thrilling to know that all of the time and all of the resources that had been dedicated to it had come to meet the goal.”
When the city first began working with MEDC in 2015, its baseline report revealed that Hillsdale only met 30% of the state’s standards for a community to be considered “ready for redevelopment.”
From website updates to planning commission reviews, the initial steps took careful planning. One of the more significant early improvements included updating the zoning ordinances, which had not been fully reviewed since the mid-’70s.
“MEDC’s assistance gave the city the expertise and the manpower to look at it and determined what needed to be addressed,” Beeker noted. “That pointed me in the direction I needed to move to make the amendments to get it approved by a council.”
Since then, Hillsdale has continued making progress through the financial assistance of MEDC. The majority of renovations on the Dawn Theater is being funded by MEDC through a $1.415 million grant. The Keefer Hotel, the 19th-century historic landmark which hopes to open its doors by the end of next year, has also been aided by MEDC. This streamlining of development has greatly increased the attractiveness of the city to outside businesses and families.
“We are investing in the future by preserving the past,” Mayor Adam Stockford said. “That’s why we’re a part of this program.”
Director of Redevelopment Ready Communities at MEDC Michelle Parkkonen said Hillsdale’s diligent work over the past four and a half years helped it meet MEDC’s “Redevelopment Ready Community’s Best Practice Criteria.”
“Hillsdale basically selected themselves,” Parkkonen said.
Despite improvements made by the redevelopment initiatives, the city has more work in its future.
“The certification continues to give us sources through MEDC to help with the development of vacant and blighted property within the city,” Beeker said.
The restoration of the 23 and 25 N. Broad St., the dilapidated corner block next to St. Anthony Catholic Church downtown, will be the city’s first project that MEDC will aid after the certification.
As for the future of the community, Beeker’s outlook is certainly positive.
“I see a lot more activity downtown and more evening activity,” Beeker said. “I see a revived city as a whole, but focusing on the historic downtown, which is what the RRC program is all about — bringing the people back into these cities.”