A Look at the Progress in Battle Creek’s Latest Makeover
40 years ago, the Stouffer Battle Creek Hotel opened, and was the centerpiece of a spurt of downtown development that hasn’t been seen, until recently. Back then, Bob Miller, Sr., publisher of the Battle Creek Enquirer had just retired and set his sights on working, through the Miller Foundation and the community to update Battle Creek’s downtown. Voters approved a merger of the city and Battle Creek Township, Kellogg built a world headquarters, and soon the W.K. Kellogg Foundation would build a new downtown headquarters. Many old buildings were sacrificed, as the downtown took on a very different look. Since then, there have been a few projects, but momentum toward another makeover has been steadily building. One of the chief players in that effort has been Battle Creek Unlimited. (BCU).
Joe Sobieralski, CEO of BCU gave a presentation to recap the year at the Chamber of Commerce “State of the Community” breakfast this week, and also talked about economic development and progress on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins.
McCamly Plaza Hotel
On November 3rd, 2019, BCU took ownership of the 15-story McCamly Plaza hotel (the former Stouffer Hotel), 11 months after the previous owner shut it down. “Since then, we’ve been working with a multitude of professional services to get in there and basically stabilize the facility,” said Sobieralski. “And we're also working to understand the hotel industry and what it takes to get this property up to a Doubletree.” Sobieralski says one part of the plan has changed. There won’t be any apartments in the hotel. “It’ll be a 239 room Hilton Doubletree hotel. It’s a unique property because of its size, meeting rooms, and that it’s attached to Kellogg Arena.” Still, Sobieralski notes that it’s a 40-year hotel and will take upwards of $20 million to transform it.
The Milton (former Heritage Tower/Security National Bank)
The cathedral ceiling on the second level has been completely repaired and renovated and the building has hit 90 percent occupancy of its 85 residential apartments. Two businesses are ready to move into the street level, and the space is ready for three other possible tenants.
New Holland Brewery, 64 West Michigan Avenue
Contractors have installed new windows and will be adding an elevator shaft in the rear. Sobieralski says the plan is to get the outside of the building “shelled-up”, they may look at a slight redesign on the inside to allow for greater spacing. He says the pandemic has made it a challenge, but that New Holland is very excited about the project and still hopes to open this year.
Former Shrank’s Cafeteria Site
BCU has been working with Hollander Development on two housing projects. One is the location at the site of the former Shrank’s Cafeteria. New construction is planned for “Sophia Square”, a downtown housing project. Sobieralski says they will have to go through the MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) Process and will be submitting that on February 1st.
Hamlin’s Opera House/Robinson’s Annex
There had been discussion with Hollander Development on a renovation of the former Hamlin’s Opera House/Robinson’s Annex building. “It appears that we’re going to peel off the Hamblin Opera and come at that later and just focus on the new construction, which would be a multi-story, 50 unit development.” Sobieralski says the old Hamlin building is solid, and the roof is in a little rough shape but is ok for now.
Watkins Road Industrial Space Spec Building at exit 92
About 60-70% of the steel is up. The sides of the building are starting to go on and Sobieralski says the developer, Industrial Partners USA, is getting a lot of interest in the $11 million investment. He says the plan is to get this spec building occupied, and then build another. It should be finished in March or April.
WMU College of Aviation
This $24,000,000 investment should bring 35 jobs to Battle Creek. The 60,000 square foot project is slated to be ready this spring and will add significant capabilities at the WMU College of Aviation.
This $18 million, 80,000 square foot building should lead to at least 30 jobs, and not only build classic aircraft but have a restaurant that overlooks the airfield and inside of the factory. The WACO Kitchen is now open for takeout.
The Record Box
One of the first of recent developments, the Record Box is available as a wedding venue and houses Handmap Brewing and other businesses.
99 West Michigan
The building next door to the Rafaynee Southern Cusine restaurant is getting a new roof right now and will also be getting a new elevator shaft and new façade.
Arcadia Brewery/Chevrolet Dealership Building, 103 West Michigan
A new roof is in progress, and a new façade is planned. It could end up with apartments on the upper floor.
119/121 West Michigan, the former Anson Hotel
BCU has hired a contractor to put a new roof and façade on the building and they have a developer interested once the work is done.
This unique restaurant is due to open soon at its new location, at 215 West Michigan Avenue, across from the Kool Family Center.
A Southwest Kitchen Accelerator project was awarded a $2.1 million EDA grant.
Battle Creek Makeover 2021