Downtown Hancock taking on a new look

HANCOCK – During an update on the Reshape Downtown Hancock program this week, progress made in downtown Hancock and the areas needing improvement were discussed.

Bonnie Holland, executive director of the Finlandia University Jutila Center for Global Design and Business and a member of the Hancock Downtown Development Authority, said the Reshape Downtown Hancock program was created as a result of another effort in 2011 called It’s All Here.

As part of that effort, a survey was conducted that asked people what they liked, didn’t like and what they’d like to see in downtown Hancock.

Holland said what the survey showed was people didn’t think downtown was exciting and it needed sprucing up.

“That gave us the impetus to get started,” she said.

After several community meetings, a list of areas to improve on was created including: residential development and parking; waterfront development, streetscapes and facades; increasing business mix; attraction and marketing; and more arts and events.

The efforts to improve the look of downtown took place over the summer with 26 projects, said Holland, who is also coordinator of the volunteer projects.

Numerous individuals and organizations took on the projects. Volunteer groups included students from Hancock Central High School, Finlandia University, churches, individuals and businesses.

“People got behind the projects,” she said.

The improvement efforts included more collaboration with Finlandia, Holland said, and as part of that collaboration, the university offered its Quincy Green next to the Finnish American Heritage Center for community use.

“That’s a huge gift,” she said.

Throughout downtown, Holland said there are more flowers and plantings.

One of the things shown by the survey about downtown was the desire by residents for free parking, and last year members of the city council voted to eliminate the parking meters on Quincy Street.

“People really like that,” Holland said.

After the first of the year, Holland said another list of volunteer projects will be created.

Also speaking during the update program was Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson, who said there has been much success with increasing the number of apartments downtown. In the last eight years, 62 apartments have been added, due in large part to the interest of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to fund building rehabilitation projects.

Many building owners have also taken advantage of MSHDA facade grants to improve the look of their buildings.

“MSHDA loves to invest in core downtowns,” he said. There have been improvements made to several buildings in the 300 block of Quincy Street, Anderson said.

“The 300 block has become a hot block for us,” he said.

A boardwalk on Navy Street is under construction as part of improvements at the waterfront, Anderson said. Another boardwalk is planned in front of the Ramada Inn. “Hopefully, in a couple years we’re going to tackle that,” he said.