An effort in placemaking: Garden Building breaks ground on $11-million, mixed-use building
21 Sep 23

A new mixed-use development is headed to downtown Grand Blanc. The Garden Building celebrated its groundbreaking ceremony near Physicians Park on Thursday, Sept. 20. And by the time it opens to the public in September 2024, it will be nine times larger than what the initial plans called for, according to developer Erik Perkins.

“We started with a 4,000-square-foot building, and over time, I just asked people, ‘What do you want?’” Perkins said. “We enrolled about 99 people in this project. I stopped counting at some point – there’s so many people who made a dent here.”

Today, plans now call for a 30,000-square-foot facility that will include space for three retailers, Grand Blanc Music being the first official tenant to sign on. There’s also room for entertainment (including two private theaters available for rent), events, office space, meeting rooms, and five residential units. And Perkins hopes there will be an opportunity to provide skate rental for the nearby ice rink during the winter.

The focal point of the building will be Irene’s Kitchen & Biergarten, operated by Roberta and Justin Dalenberg. The restaurant entrepreneurs have a robust portfolio and currently operate Grand River Brewing in Jackson, Mich.

According to Perkins, this project builds upon the community’s existing assets.

“People have put in years and money trying to build this (area),” said Perkins, noting the existing street parking, connected pathways, and historic businesses including Ziggy’s, the Hot Dog Stand, and Little Joe’s. That’s in addition to the pop-up shops at the end of the street, Italia Gardens, Colony Market, and more.

“We’re just one piece of this,” Perkins said. “We have designed this to attract more people than we could possibly serve in this location … We actually have a goal of increasing the revenues of all the restaurants in town by 25%, and we’re going to get there in five years.”

One of the project’s many supporters includes the Flint & Genesee Economic Alliance, which assisted Perkins in many ways, including making connections and navigating the incentive process. According to Tyler Rossmaessler, executive director of the Economic Alliance, it’s the perfect example of economic development being more than building bricks-and-mortar. In this case, it’s an effort in placemaking.

“Placemaking creates a community where people want to be,” Rossmaessler said. “An intentional development like this contributes to the fabric of this great community. It encourages people to live here, work here, raise their families here.

“Placemaking, in this sense, is an investment in our future prosperity.”

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