Dispensaries bring life to vacant Big Rapids buildings
BIG RAPIDS — As several marijuana businesses look to set up in Big Rapids, many of them will be bringing to life to buildings which have sat vacant for some time.
“I think, driving around the community, it’s encouraging to see new construction or renovations taking place,” said Paula Priebe, the city’s Community Development Director. “There’s a number of properties that have been vacant for some time that are seeing new life brought into them, which is encouraging and beneficial to the city in terms of construction jobs and new employment coming in and renovated properties.”
According to Priebe, there are currently about 15 applications of marijuana businesses interested in coming to Big Rapids. Of the 15 applications, she said one of them will be building new where there is not an existing building.
Priebe referred to RAIR Systems — a medical marijuana provisioning center — which plans to build in front of Dunham’s Sports on Perry Avenue.
“There’s only one other, and this one we’ve received recently, I believe they intend to tear down an existing building and build new on that site,” Priebe said. “The other 13 are renovating and occupying existing buildings.”
Businesses which have already set up in existing buildings include Lume Cannabis Co., Premiere Provisions, and KKind.
“Professionally, I think it is a good thing for the city to have previously vacant buildings occupied,” Priebe said. “Occupied buildings tend to have fewer issues when people are maintaining their facility because they’re in it every day. There are fewer light issues, (and) we get fewer complaints about the property.”
Priebe said that when the ordinances to allow marijuana establishments in the city first passed, a number of companies expressed interest in renovating existing, vacant properties.
“That attitude surprised me,” she said. “But I find it very encouraging that the angle they take and the role they have is, one: to be a good neighbor in the community, but two: saying, ‘How can we take a property that may have been an eyesore or a problem and turn it into a positive part of the neighborhood?'”
John Gregory, Chief Marketing Officer for Lume, said there were a number of reasons Lume opted to utilize a vacant building instead of constructing new.
“It was more cost efficient for us to rehab the existing space, plus it allowed us to help revitalize Big Rapids’ historic downtown area that we are so proud to be part of,” he said.
As well as saving money, Ken Bryant, purchasing manager at Premiere Provision, said opening in a vacant building enabled them to enter into the market faster, providing them with future opportunities to expand.
“We chose to occupy a vacant building versus building a new establishment in order to enter the Big Rapids market the quickest,” Bryant said. “We also want to expand as fast as we could, and having more occupying a vacant building allows us to free up capital to expand our brand throughout the state much faster.”
KKind could not be reached for comment before time of publication.
Other marijuana centers which haven’t opened but are hoping to occupy buildings in the area include Freddie’s, Mother Nutures LLC, High Society and an unknown applicant looking to open in the building beside Little Caesars Pizza.