OKEMOS, MI — Downtown Okemos has been getting a lot of action over the last few days.
That's because construction on the $100 million Village of Okemos development is back on track.
It was paused for almost a year because of COVID-19.
“The hope is to replace the old downtown Okemos with a new Village of Okemos,” said Will Randle, the co-founder of True North Development.
Plans for the project changed because of the pandemic.
The developer has reduced the amount of planned office space and will increase the number of residential units to nearly 300. The construction will replace six buildings: an Ace Hardware, Bottoms Up, a Rite Aid, the Marc Building and the old Travelers Club International Restaurant & Tuba Museum.
Meridian Township Neighborhoods and Economic Development Director Amber Clark says the construction was much needed.
“Those were blighted buildings. They were obsolete. They were not functioning,” she said. “The very first working business day of the year we started demolition. Close to the end of the week that site looks completely different.”
While some local business in the area say they’re excited to see what the finished product will be, others have concerns.
“We’re a little bit…discouraged that it's mostly going to be apartments,” said Rachel Sestak, a hairstylist at Salon 7 & Spa. “I’m afraid that it's not going to be bringing the kind of walkability to the downtown area that they have hoped for.”
Sestak also says she’s worried how the development might obstruct the surrounding roads.
The township says it’s partnering with the Ingham County Road Commission to improve parking and traffic flow in the area.
“We need to establish long-standing people to be in the area to walk,” said Clark. She believes providing housing will allow money spent in new Village of Okemos to remain in the community.
Construction is expected to conclude by 2023.
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