The New Downtown Okemos still in the works

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Since 2019, a project has been in the works to renovate downtown Okemos in Meridian Township. The renovations were put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the Township is back to constructing a plan to get the project in motion.

The vision for the renovations includes a mix of residential and commercial buildings on the intersection of Okemos and Hamilton Roads, and is looking to cost the city about $70 million, said Meridian Township’s Neighborhoods and Economic Development Director Amber Clark. 

The project is set to be centered around a 200,000 square foot mixed-use building with about 200 residential units, as well as about 30,000 square feet of commercial space that could be fit for many businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, or other similar services.

“This project is not just for ‘Okemos’,” said Clark, “this project is the only redevelopment project for the Meridian Charter Downtown Development Authority and means a great deal to the entire community.”

As far as specifics for the buildings being put in place in Downtown Okemos, Director of Community Planning and Development Tim Schmitt said that there will be primarily 4-story buildings put in place on Okemos and Hamilton Road.

“The buildings on Hamilton will have commercial space on the first floor,” said Schmitt, “while the buildings on Okemos will have primarily residential on the first floor, with commercial space on the corners.”

This design accommodates an issue with parking along Okemos Road. Parking is very limited along the first floor of the Okemos Road building, making it difficult for a commercial environment. To maximize value of the property, Meridian Township decided to make the primary commercial space of the downtown area on Hamilton Road. 

Parking has not been the only issue Meridian Township has faced within the plans for downtown Okemos. COVID-19 also put a strain on moving forward with development plans for the project. 

“Of all the projects we have going on in the Township, COVID really hit this one hard,” said Schmitt. “The costs alone and the costs of borrowing got out of whack for a year, essentially.”

The Township initially approved a special use permit in mid-2019 and the plan has been amended a couple times, most recently in July of 2021. The developers still have a lot of hoops to jump through because it is relatively early in the process, but Meridian Township is shooting to start construction around Memorial Day of 2022.

When the project is completed, Schmitt hopes that it becomes a gathering point in the community and creates a “main street” feel on Hamilton Road.

“It’s going to set up a Class-A standard for retail space which should be a catalyst for other landlords and property owners to create commercial space,” said Schmitt.

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