April 23, 2019

CM Life

A concise Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting was held April 22. Commissioners were shown a conceptual plan for the future of Mount Pleasant SmartZone. The future plans aim to attract high-tech companies with shared facility and resources, corporate satellite offices, specialty retail stores and high-end flats to serve as professional housing.

SmartZone is situated south of Kelly/Shorts Stadium and north of East Deerfield Road. The 300 acres of land is home to companies like Mitsuba Corporation, Isabella Bank and eTaxSolutions. It is also home to Central Michigan University Research Corporation, a nonprofit organization focused on economic development in Mount Pleasant and helping entrepreneurs with startup businesses and resources.

CMURC selected Gibbs Planning Group to conduct a series of studies and analyses on SmartZone to create a plan for the future use of the land. CMURC President Erin Strang said the group was chosen because of its expertise developing universities.

SmartZone was designed to attract and stimulate high-tech businesses while generating a high volume of jobs to the area. However, GPG’s studies found diversifying the use of the land and developing a more innovative community in collaboration with CMU could make the area more attractive to potential businesses. The study also found an opportunity for more retail and specialty restaurants.

The focus of GPG and CMURC’s conceptual plan is to rework the land for commercial and residential use rather than solely industrial, Strang said.

The plan will directly affect CMU students. Because of SmartZone’s proximity to CMU, Strang said it allows for student management, alumni housing and further internship and learning opportunities for students.

“The real opportunity we are looking for in this space is to recruit and retain students, to create a sense of space and increase the city’s tax base,” Strang said. “(CMURC) is also interested in recruiting and incubating high-tech companies within our space.”
Strang said the plan was also put in place to also create a more walkable area, as most companies require a “walk score” of at least 82. SmartZone is currently scored at 52.

CMURC will next present its plans to CMU’s Board of Trustees. Then, project proposals must be approved by city commissioners, CMU’s vice president of Finance, the Mount Pleasant city planner and CMU’s Board of Trustees.

Assistant Financial Director Christopher Saladine also presented the city’s 2020-2050 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The CIP includes 2020 projects collectively costing almost $6 million. Projects include local and major street reconstructs, sewer plant improvements and downtown improvement program.

The city and planning commissions continue to discuss the details of 2020-2050 projects. Saladine said the finalized plan will be adopted June 11.