Battle Creek leaders look to fill abandoned storefronts on Michigan Avenue

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Leaders in Battle Creek are working to entice new entrepreneurs to fill the abandoned storefronts on Michigan Avenue.

City leaders say people treat those empty stores as a barometer for the health of the entire city and now there is a new plan to restore confidence in the Cereal City.

Leaders have purchased a half-dozen vacant properties and are offering incentives to bring new business back downtown.

"We need movie theatres, we need shopping, we need something to get more people down here," said Schlotzsky's Deli manager Becky Kitchen.

"Think of your own home you know, do you want to have a bunch of empty houses or do you want to have a vibrant neighborhood?" said Mike Wood, Team Active Cycling and Fitness. "It's the same thing in a business district."

Now a new program to accelerate downtown business would allow owners to rent at a cheaper rate for the first year and a half.

Rob Peterson of Battle Creek Unlimited showed Newschannel 3 the space below their property that is about to be taken over by the Battle Creek Community Foundation. Extra retail space will be available, and those using it will be required to share a solid business plan and go through a mentoring program.

"They have to sit down with an existing downtown business owner who has been successful so they can learn the ins and outs," said Peterson.

Nearly $90 million has been poured into the downtown revitalization efforts. Leaders are also working hard to bring the Heritage Tower back to life. With 616 Development purchasing the building they're helping them gain financing to remodel the building, a project that could cost about $25 million.

"I see opportunity, I see a chance to create something, so that's what we do," said Peterson.