Downtown rental units could double

Published 3:35 am Friday, January 2, 2009

By Staff
Throughout the country it has been well-documented that one of the key ingredients to a successful downtown is a strong residential base.
The City of Dowagiac has been actively promoting residential opportunities to downtown property owners and new investment in downtown residential property has been taking place.
Survey work is being done to determine the impact of this effort as well as assess the potential of further residential in our downtown.
City staff has begun to collect data, and over the past couple of months, Assistant City Manager Rose Scherr and Downtown Development Authority Program Director Vickie Phillipson have been working together to develop a list of downtown properties with apartment rentals on the second and third floors.
The data was collected by first developing a list of downtown properties and the owners.
A spreadsheet was then developed that identifies properties with apartments on the second or third floors, properties with potential for residential units, number of bedrooms, rents and whether or not the properties received MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) funding.
Although this is a "work in progress," initial review of the data indicates:
There are 43 residential rental units in the downtown; 41 of the units are currently available for lease and two additional units are under construction.
Information on rental amounts was received for 28 of the rental units. The highest rent is $1,200 and the lowest rent is $350 per month.
The average rent is a little over $500 per month. The range of rents is $350-449 for 12 units; $450-$549, eight; $550-$649, five; and $649 or more for three.
Twelve of the 43 rental units receive some level of MSHDA financing. This amounts to nearly 28 percent of all the developed rental units in the downtown receiving MSHDA assistance.
The rate of occupancy is not fully known at this time.
At least two more residential units are being planned for 2009.
When evaluating the balance of vacant space on the second and third floors of buildings in the downtown, it appears that there are more opportunities for property owners to participate with residential rental units.
The vacant square footage in current downtown buildings could support as much as double the current amount of downtown units.
Information received to date supports the success of MSHDA funding in Dowagiac's downtown. Property values have improved, retail income opportunities for property owners have increased and a significant amount of quality downtown residential living opportunities are available to the public.
"It is important to emphasize that we are at the starting point of analysis of this data that has been collected," says City Manager Kevin Anderson. "Like any data collection effort, new questions arise which will lead to further research."
But based on the information received, opportunities exist for property owners who want to build downtown residential rental space.