Governor, MEDC fund approval gives boost to “Big Albion Plan”

March 30, 2023

By Ward Mullens

Students at Albion College just expanded their opportunities for hands-on learning, while faculty, staff and community members gained more living, retail and investment options in their backyard, thanks to a new downtown revitalization project that received support and funding from the state.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced March 28 that Albion will receive Michigan Strategic Fund approval for business development in the area.

“Our goal is to build an economy of the future and compete with everyone to bring advanced manufacturing home to Michigan,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Today’s approvals show that our work is paying off. Let’s keep working together to invest in every region of the state, create good-paying jobs and build thriving towns offering strong opportunities for families and businesses.”

“Albion College is pleased to be a part of this visionary downtown revitalization project that will strengthen relationships with the City, the downtown community and our neighbors,” said Joe Calvaruso, interim president. “This overarching project will attract quality talent who will contribute to both the College and our community. And as Ford Motor Co.’s BlueOval Battery Park Michigan opens in nearby Marshall, I consider it a win-win-win for the College, city and region.”

Calvaruso, also a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, praises the work of his colleague, Trustee Sam Shaheen, one of the developers on the project. “Sam has been a driving force on the Big Albion Plan for years,” Calvaruso said. “We are so appreciative of Sam and his efforts to bring this 10-year project to fruition. His vision, drive and passion for the revitalization of downtown Albion have never waivered. The City and the College owe a great deal to Sam and to former Albion College Trustee Jeffrey C. Petherick, who was also involved in the project.”

“This is a chance for those of us who grew up here and those that live here to experience a welcoming, inviting and prosperous downtown where everyone is respected,” said Virgie Ammerman, president and CEO of the Albion Economic Development Corporation. “We want to create inclusive and welcoming spaces for everyone.”

Ammerman said the influx of new business will not only help the local economy but she said it cannot help but create opportunities for Albion College students and business owners to participate in the College’s hallmark experiential learning opportunities.

“We want to create opportunities for internships and apprenticeships so that students and business owners can engage in learning that benefits both sides,” Ammerman said.

Referred to as the Albion Big Plan, the project is expected to generate a total capital investment of $9.4 million and create eight full-time jobs, supported by a $1.5 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program (MCRP) performance-based grant and a $2.38 million MCRP performance-based loan.

The Albion Redevelopment Corporation and Opportunity Zone B Phase I, LLC plan to redevelop nine properties to create 20 residential units and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space in downtown Albion.

When completed, the project will transform almost an entire block of downtown Albion into vibrant, mixed-use spaces for new residents and small businesses.

“This project will provide our students and the community with more opportunities to support small businesses in downtown Albion and generate even more investment in our great city,” said Calvaruso. “Albion College has enjoyed a strong relationship with the community. This revitalization will help us both grow — economically and socially.”

“Albion College is the largest employer and we want everyone to experience downtown in a big way and have a comfortable experience where they live, whether they were born here, have moved here to teach or work or call it home because they go to college here,” said Ammerman. “Albion is home to us all. And having a thriving, bustling downtown is integral to our community life and economic growth.”