Caring for the community
Dowagiac, Mich., officials began an economic development project three years ago to create a vibrant downtown and help businesses grow in the rural community. The city’s primary challenge was to determine how to best serve its year-round population of approximately 11,500 working-class people with low to modest incomes as well as seasonal residents from the Chicago area who flock to nearby lakes in the summer.
In a market study, conducted by Troy, N.Y.-based Pitney Bowes MapInfo, city officials determined that the area lacked modern office space — a primary reason why Dowagiac struggled to attract new businesses. In fact, many of the medical practices in the city were in old houses that had been converted into offices, making it difficult to attract doctors to the area. The lack of modern office space, along with retiring physicians, hindered the city’s long-term economic growth. So, city officials began working with the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department and Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital, located four blocks from Dowagiac’s downtown, to develop a state-of-the-art building to house the community’s medical practices.
The former Main Street site of the city’s 1920s-era middle school building was chosen for the new medical facility. Dowagiac’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority classified the land as a brownfield — an obsolete and non-functional facility — and the Dowagiac Union School District donated the land and building to the city for the project. The building was demolished, and construction began on the new two-story, 18,900-square-foot Donald Lyons Health Center in June 2006. Less than one year later, four doctors and their support staff moved in, and the building has room for as many as four more doctors with specialty practices.
Dowagiac sold bonds that included a state and local tax capture valued at $1.6 million to finance the project. When the bonds are paid off, the city will generate revenue from leasing office space.
Sandy Gower, economic development director for Dowagiac, Mich.
Medical office building
Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Van Buren/Cass District Health Department
Troy, N.Y.-based Pitney Bowes MapInfo; Traverse City, Mich.-based Pegasus Holdings and Land Development; Traverse City, Mich.-based DKL Construction