Local residents will have a say in the use of a vacant lot on 23 Broad St., thanks to a citywide survey that was sent to Hillsdale residents, including Hillsdale College faculty and students.
The City of Hillsdale is a member of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Communities Program, which gives communities funding for various development projects, including the project on 23 Broad St.
Jill Bahm, a partner of Giffels-Webster civil engineering and community planning firm, said the purpose of the survey is to find out what city residents need to keep them spending their time and money in Hillsdale.
“It’s all about things that people want in their everyday lives to make their communities more livable,” Bahm said.
The Michigan Municipal League, a non-profit contracting firm that has worked on redevelopment projects in about 20 cities around the state, hired Bahm’s firm to work in Hillsdale “on the ground,” like performing research studies, MML Program Director Richard Murphy said.
The MEDC allocates $25,000 to each redevelopment project, Murphy said. The only cost to the city is the time it requires city staff to coordinate projects with the MML and Giffels-Webster.
Hillsdale Zoning Administrator Alan Beeker said this was the first time he recalls the city sending out a survey to residents for input on their preferences for land use. He sent the survey to Hillsdale business owners and Hillsdale College faculty and students.
Based in Detroit, Giffels-Webster is a community consulting firm that works with both private businesses as well as with local governments and municipalities, Bahm said. With offices in Birmingham and Macomb, the firm has worked with cities like Hillsdale, including Meridian Charter township, in the past. Bahm said that, in these smaller communities, many residents want these businesses to be easily accessible by foot.
“People really want things that they can walk to. They want to be able to get some of their local groceries, and speak to neighbors at coffee shops,” Bahm said. “They want places to get fresh produce and specialty foods and engage with other friends and neighbors in. They want places they can take families.”
The MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program allocates government funding to redevelop buildings in land, particularly in downtown areas and urban communities.
“MEDC’s RRC is a program that the state has set forward to help communities with the redevelopment process of sites,” Bahm said. “But it solves a bigger problem. It lays out the broad framework for long-range planning and zoning.”
The City of Hillsdale acquired the Broad Street property after the previous owner disregarded city efforts to bring the building up to code, Beeker said. Due to the state of the building, Beeker said, it needed to be demolished.
Beeker said the survey closed at the end of January, and Giffels-Webster will put together a proposal for the use of the property and present it at a Hillsdale City Council meeting most likely by the end of February or early March.