The Business Center of Southwestern Michigan, located on Prairie Ronde Street, had its recent rezoning request approved by the city planning commission. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)
The Business Center of Southwestern Michigan, located on Prairie Ronde Street, had its recent rezoning request approved by the city planning commission. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Dowagiac business center expanding

Published 8:00am Wednesday, July 9, 2014

After nearly three years of operation, Dowagiac’s unique business incubator is looking to make a few adjustments to better suit the needs of the community.

On Monday, the Dowagiac Planning Commission approved a request from Brian DeLong, manager of The Business Center of Southwestern Michigan, to rezone the 34.5-acre property from heavy industrial to a planned unit development district. The new zoning permission will give the business center a broader range of the types of companies that will be able to utilize the space inside the former
manufacturing plant.

“We have encouraged the business center to look at a rezoning request into a planned unit development for a couple of reasons,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson. “One is that we think that it gives more clarity to the neighborhood and the property owner to be able to say what the uses will be.”

As it stands, the city must interpret each request for new businesses opening up inside the property, to establish whether or not they fell within the prior zoning guidelines.

“This can help give some assurances in the neighborhood that much of the building will be marketed for uses that may not have the same level of truck traffic and those types of uses, although it still is eligible for those,” Anderson said. “What we see is starting to happen there is a nice transition from very heavy industrial uses to less intense uses, and we’re starting to see jobs that are being created in there.”

DeLong opened the business center in 2011 to provide space for local businesses. At the moment, the center has 28 business partners utilizing facilities inside the structure, DeLong said.

“Several of them are local businesses we provide warehousing to, some seasonal and some regular,” DeLong said. “It allows them to use their floor space for manufacturing or the business they do, and we can provide the warehousing since we have the docks, we have the location near to them to be able to do that.”

The space the business center currently occupies once belonged to a number of local manufacturers, including Rudy’s Sundstrand, Modine and National Copper Products. The facility still houses a number of remnants of its factory days, including functioning tool rooms and a diesel mechanic shop, which current occupants can take advantage of, DeLong said.

“That’s what we think allows us to have the opportunity to keep filling the building is to have that flexibility,” he said.

The rezoning recommendation will move on for approval before the Dowagiac City Council, who will decide on whether to pass it at a later date.

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