Hancock, Calumet look to downtown expansion

HANCOCK – There are some empty buildings in downtown Hancock and Calumet, but city and village officials see that as an opportunity for new businesses to move into those spaces.

Dave Geisler, Calumet village president, said several new businesses have recently opened in Calumet, most of them on Fifth Street, including a coffee roaster, a yarn and fabric shop, a computer-related business, a graphic-design business, a chiropractor, and a consignment store.

Geisler said in downtown Calumet there are eight to 10 open store fronts, including the former Louie’s Supermarket building on Fourth Street.

“We are working with someone on that,” he said of Louie’s Supermarket.

The former Morrison Elementary School building has been remodeled into apartments, and Geisler said there will also be retail and office space available on the ground floor of the building.

Geisler said the Michigan Economic Development Commission offers loans and grants for facade improvement and job growth, and village officials will put current business owners or potential business owners in touch with the proper MEDC officials who can explain about the grants and loans.

Downtowns are still viable, Geisler said, and if a downtown area has things to offer not found elsewhere, people will travel to get to those places.

“If you have a unique, quality service or product, you can make a go of it,” he said. “You (have to) have something nobody else has got.”

Geisler said despite the unoccupied storefronts in downtown Calumet, the area is doing well.

“We’re holding our own, and maybe even a little better.”

Lisa McKenzie, who is mayor of Hancock, said the city council and Downtown Development Authority members are constantly thinking about downtown and how to make it more appealing.

“We’re looking at how to make business better,” she said.

McKenzie said some of the available buildings on the 100 and 200 blocks of Quincy Street include Gartner’s Department Store, Kathy’s Country Flowers, Fiber Whims and the Department of Human Services location in the former D&N Bank building on the corner of Quincy and Tezcuco streets.

“We have room for businesses to grow here,” she said. “We’re working on great places to work and shop.”

McKenzie said there is a variety of office and retail space available in downtown Hancock.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said.

In 2016, McKenzie said the Michigan Department of Transportation will begin the reconstruction of Quincy Street, which will be disruptive, but planning is being done to minimize the disruption.

In 2009, Shelden Avenue in downtown Houghton was closed for several months during reconstruction, but McKenzie said the businesses there survived because of good pre-planning.

“We’re planning to learn from their experience,” she said.

Planning for the work on Quincy Street in 2016 has begun, and McKenzie said all businesses will be consulted as part of that process.

A streetscape project will take place on Quincy Street after the reconstruction, which McKenzie said will improve the look of downtown, making it more appealing to shoppers and business owners.

Parking in downtown Hancock is just as convenient as at the Copper Country Mall in Portage Township, McKenzie said.

Over the last few years, McKenzie said building owners have taken advantage of loans and grants to renovate apartment spaces above the ground floor retail spaces on Quincy Street, and that has proved popular to renters who enjoy having businesses on the street where they live.

“People are into that kind of concept,” she said.