Rooms with a view

Published 9:11 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Downtown Niles is opening up its doors to some of the city’s untapped and unconventional pieces of real estate – down on Main Street.
On Sunday, July 19 from 1 to 3 p.m., several downtown property owners will open up their doors to their businesses and living spaces for a special walking tour. The event will showcase already inhabited and renovated spaces as well as property available for residences and businesses some already undergoing renovation, some ready for residents and some waiting for a little tender, loving care.
“Part of Main Street is to revitalize the downtown and in order to do that, you need to bring people,” said Carri Harrington, chair of Niles’ Main Street Economic Restructuring Committee.
Harrington and Main Street’s executive director Lisa Croteau are spearheading the tour and the effort to bring interested parties to downtown’s available spaces.
“You’d be amazed at some of the finished spaces,” Croteau said.
A total of 14 locations are part of the walking tour. Some are already being lived in by downtown business owners and residents. The idea, Croteau and Harrington said is inspiration.
Participants in the tour will see what some business and property owners have done to their own storefronts and living quarters.
“(We) wanted to highlight a few of the ones that are finished and show what can be done,” Harrington said.
With owners on hand during the tour, Croteau added it will also give interested parties a chance to “talk to some folks that have already” turned vacant downtown spaces into unique residences.
Croteau said Main Street, “with the cooperation of local photographers who donated time,” has photographs of each space.
Spaces available range from residences to spaces that would be conducive to business. Of the available spaces, Croteau said there are finished and unfinished, one and up to three bedroom apartments.
The space is ideal, Croteau said for an artist’s work and living space. And for potential business owners, moving to one of the available spaces downtown can be advantageous – providing a unique and accessible location.
Business is the main target, Harrington said. “Fill spaces, get people down here,” she said. “We’ve got to start targeting upper floors.”
Croteau and Harrington encourage those taking the tour to ask questions – and when it comes to cost it would seem they might like some of the answers. “I think that is one of our big selling points,” Croteau said. “Our affordability.”
For some of the available properties, Harrington said, “due to the size it’s going to take a unique person with means to utilize the space.”
Harrington and Croteau would like to see a tour, such as the one planned for Sunday, be something that happens annually – but for now they’re focusing on fueling interest in investing in downtown properties now.
“It’s time,” Croteau said.
With an economic climate that is practically begging for the creation of small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures, downtown Niles is a location with space – and now all that’s needed is people.
Croteau and Harrington said they have seen other communities such as Lansing, Marshall and Boyne City conduct similar tours.
The tour is free but reservations are required. To reserve a spot, contact Croteau at 687-4332

Walking Tour Route:

210 E. Main Street

202 E. Main Street
(Above The Nugget)

224 1/2 Front Street
(Above Studio 224)

127 E. Main Street
(The Gallery)

207 Main Street
(Doodles Closet)

201 E. Main Street
(Above Express Press)

207 Second Street
(Above Red Purl)

213 & 217 Main Street
(Above Majerek’s Newsstand & My Biography)

301 Main Street
(AA Comic)

307 E. Main Street
(Next to Baker’s Needle, above Sentiments)

306 E. Main Street
(Fisher Building)

228 East Main Street
(Above Veni’s)

220 E. Main Street
(Above Paris Soda Shop)

212 1/2 E. Main Street
(Above Sophia’s Closet)