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The vacant lot at 23 Broad St. next to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in downtown Hillsdale. Alex Nester | Col­legian

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.