By Brendan Wilner
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — This spring, the city of DeWitt could start seeing a new look in its downtown due to the process of repurposing two properties, one for a fitness facility and the other for a micro-brewery.
The fitness center is Human Performance Institute and it plans to move from 113 S. Bridge St. to a much larger space at 221 N. Bridge St. by mid-April. And the Looking Glass Brewery is planning to open in 115 N. Bridge St. sometime in 2017.
Citizens from the local area agree that having more local businesses in downtown would benefit the city.
Stephanie Haynie is the production leader of Sweetie-licious, which is a local bakery shop in downtown DeWitt. She said she is excited for new businesses to come to the city.
“We have always hoped for new businesses to come down here and get more people down here,” Haynie said. “We are excited that it will be changing.”
Sweetie-licious is a place that people from out of town come to DeWitt for, according to Haynie. She said she enjoys meeting new customers and welcoming them to their city.
According to Dan Coss, City Administrator for the city DeWitt, the city and Downtown Development Authority are in the process of creating a Wayfinding Plan.
“The plan will include different signage to guide people throughout the downtown to Parks, Public Parking areas, Farmer’s Market and our schools,” Coss said.
The success of local businesses attracting people from out of town has lead to the productivity of the plan. Also, the need for new businesses is added to the mix of downtown DeWitt that is a key to a successful city, according to Laura Ann Reese.
Reese is a professor of political science and director of Global Urban Studies Program at Michigan State University, who said that there are different kinds of downtowns for each city depending on many factors.
“The ideal situation for a city like DeWitt is to make sure you have a mix of entertainment and shopping,” Reese said. “You also want to make sure you can attract people that aren’t local to your city, then after that you blend in local businesses to benefit the citizens that live close to downtown.”
The city and DDA have also been involved in planning upcoming street resurfacing projects and installing additional street lighting in the downtown, Coss said.
Having a small town like DeWitt allows local businesses to not be pushed out by big corporations or chain restaurants. Haynie says that they love having local businesses instead of chain restaurants in the city.
“It’s what makes little small towns unique,” Haynie said. “We bring in people from out of town and they ask what else is there to do, and I would love to see some little shops cause people would like to shop when they come into town.”
Haynie isn’t the only one who enjoys having local businesses in the downtown, as John Coscarelli, owner of Relli’s Italian Restaurant, is fine with no chained corporations.
Coscarelli said, “We like the current set up it is right now. There isn’t too much competition and we enjoy the diversity of shops we have in the city.”
Currently there isn’t a push for the Wayfinding plan to happen; as the city can only do so much with its funding each year.
The feel of the city is that they are excited to make the city friendly and welcome people from outside with open arms. The citizens want to make their city one that people who don’t live around the area will come back too.
Coss thinks that having these renovations to the city and adding the two businesses will impact the city in a positive way.
“Hopefully our businesses are seeing a positive effect on all the improvements that have happened in the downtown,” Coss said.