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 The county is rolling out a web portal to allow both investors and community residents the ability to check on progress along M-97, including photos and various forms of business information.

The county is rolling out a web portal to allow both investors and community residents the ability to check on progress along M-97, including photos and various forms of business information.

Photo by Jon Malavolti


Clinton Township, county officials look into options for Groesbeck

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 17, 2017

 Groesbeck Highway is the focus of a Macomb County revitalization plan, with vacancies on the corridor being targeted for future investment opportunities.

Groesbeck Highway is the focus of a Macomb County revitalization plan, with vacancies on the corridor being targeted for future investment opportunities.

Photo by Jon Malavolti

 Officials are hoping to revitalize areas on the Groesbeck corridor that runs through the heart of Macomb County, like this vacant lot that used to host a Kmart.

Officials are hoping to revitalize areas on the Groesbeck corridor that runs through the heart of Macomb County, like this vacant lot that used to host a Kmart.

Photo by Jon Malavolti

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Whether you live in Clinton Township or elsewhere in Macomb County, it’s difficult to argue against the economic importance of Groesbeck Highway.

During the Nov. 13 Clinton Township Board of Trustees meeting, Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon reminisced, recalling how in the 1980s, a group of investors wanted to replicate the strip club success of 8 Mile Road and bring them to the M-97 corridor — all the way from 8 Mile to Hall Road.

That obviously never occurred, but in the years since, that same corridor has been a relatively easy punching bag for critics near and far. Large, open spaces coupled with a lack of aesthetics has led to local and county officials looking in a new direction.

On Nov. 13, John Paul Rea, director of planning and economic development in Macomb County, said his department and Cannon, Clinton Township Deputy Supervisor Liz Vogel and Clinton Township Planning Director Carlo Santia have teamed up to look into how to improve the Groesbeck corridor — a roadway currently with 1 percent industrial vacancy.

“Strategic redevelopment is the key to the economic development and future of our county,” Rea said. “And corridors like Groesbeck have the functional and structural bones — not only to focus on adaptive reuse, but more importantly, challenge our economic development partners at the regional and state level to provide incentives, programs and resources to do that.”

Rea said it starts not only with infrastructure and capacity, but also with zoning and showcasing assets that entice potential investors to take a look at the speculative market and develop viable redevelopment strategies.

For at least the past eight months, prime properties have been identified on the corridor — which stretches not only through Clinton Township, but also through Warren, Roseville, Fraser and Mount Clemens. The process has also included reaching out to local utility companies, such as DTE Energy and Consumer’s Energy, to better understand the different needs of industries.

Thus, a web portal has been created to showcase public opportunities available along the corridor, including identifying successes, keying in to sites as they go on the market, making success stories known as they occur, and noting investment in infrastructure or aesthetics. Public maps allow quick access for real estate investors, economic development partners and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to become aware of opportunities.

The map is simple: Users — be it government officials, investors or residents throughout the county — can click on a series of markers and find out more about a business, including addresses, exterior photos and more. The county is looking at market research, too, as a means to highlight employment in a specific area, showcase economic opportunities available, facilitate investment and predict sustainability.

Rea used the example of the closed Kmart on Groesbeck, south of 15 Mile Road.

“It’s the realization — there’s an ability to cobble together upwards of 30 acres of land at that corner,” he said. “And as we look at from the standpoint of packaging viable economic development deals, that’s an important thing to sell, saying that working with the township, you can structure a deal for 30-plus acres of land along a corridor on Groesbeck that meets every single standard metric you would need as far as infrastructure capabilities, workforce, concentration of businesses and residential notes to service those businesses — whether you’re looking at things from a retail office or an industrial flex perspective.”

Trustee Ken Pearl inquired about the viability of big box stores, notably since another Kmart location is scheduled to close this upcoming January in Clinton Township.

Rea said that slogan-driven ideologies behind economic development — such as saying, “It’s a great place to work and play” — have been replaced by data-driven and research-based analysis. That includes having a balance between commercial and service uses, perhaps by mixing research and development, commercial spaces and office spaces. Green infrastructure is also part of the model.

“The macro analysis on retail is, they are not only changing their footprint as far as structure, but they’re also changing the parameters in which they cite stores as far as distance from each other,” Rea said, citing how household income and online retail have changed the economic landscape over the years. “It’s not just about a building pad and saying, ‘I can put 80k square feet somewhere.’”

Rea said the data also lets local residents know not only about vacancies, but also successes — such as Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, which was a coordinated project that included incentive packages.

Rea acknowledges the portal is not a “silver bullet” solution, but it’s a step in the right direction for the third-largest county in population in Michigan, yet the ninth smallest in size.

“I think the county has embraced the fact that Groesbeck is a sleeping giant waiting to be redeveloped,” Cannon said. “Even though we need work — and we know we need a lot of work — we want to make sure, in the end, it’s done properly.”

The web portal is expected to be embedded on the Clinton Township website soon, allowing residents to access it at their convenience.