City, MEDC unveil plan to revive vacant Lovegrove building

SWARTZ CREEK — Roughly six months after becoming the first city in Genesee County to achieve Redevelopment Ready Communities certification, the City of Swartz Creek, along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, is rolling out a major revitalization plan.

In July, the MEDC will invite potential investors and developers to tour the vacant Lovegrove building and review a proposal for rejuvenating the 5,000-square-foot commercial property in downtown Swartz Creek.

“The MEDC provided architects, engineers and market specialists to work with the owner and a steering committee of other business owners and elected and appointed officials, to come up with a use that will benefit the community,” said City Manager Adam Zettel.

The state and city expect to offer incentives such as temporary tax relief and façade grants to help move the project forward.

The proposed project is a two-story, mixed use development with an anchor tenant and space for office or retail at the street level. The upper level could accommodate offices or residential apartments.

The preferred anchor tenant would be some sort of retail, restaurant, entertainment or hospitality business, Zettel said.

“That’s what works in downtowns,” he said.

The tried and true businesses – coffee shop, café, restaurant, brewery, distillery, specialty retail – draws customers in from a larger geographic area and promotes the economic vitality of the entire community, he said.

The project also involves the city purchasing the house at the southeast corner of Miller Road and Hayes Street. Planners recommend installing a 20-foot wide alley to provide access from Holland Drive to Hayes Street.

In a serendipitous twist, the owners of that house recently relocated out of state and agreed to sell the property to the city for market value minus the city’s projected costs for completing upgrades.

The city will pay $140,300 for the property, with the funds coming from the general fund savings.

The city could resell the house, although carving the easement out of the already-diminutive yard will reduce the value, or maintain it for a public purpose such as a museum. The dwelling also could catch the eye of potential developers and become part of the overall Lovegrove redevelopment.

“If we expect extraordinary outcomes, we can’t keep taking ordinary actions,” Zettel said.

“All of the planners we worked with indicated easement access from Holland to Hayes is very, very important. The whole premise is the Lovegrove property is to be the transformational project to add some function and value to our downtown community.”

Planners hope any new developer will retain at least part of the existing Lovegrove building, recognizing its historical roots in the community.

“The idea is it can be added onto, it can be built up, without being demolished,” Zettel said.

Or, it could just get a face lift and interior redesign.

“If someone came in and wanted to buy it as is and fix it up, we wouldn’t say ‘no’ if that’s the best offer,” Zettel said. “It could just be renovation in place, keeping the general form and function of the property

“But it would have a greater impact to invest in more heavily to sustain an anchor use in downtown, as well as some quality, upper floor residential space. It would add a bit more vitality. It’s about quality of life, making your community a place that is continuously desirable for folks to live in.”