TUSCOLA — Next on the drawing board for Tuscola's economic development efforts is a planned revitalization of the downtown area.
"I want to see downtown become a destination place where you can spend an afternoon, shop, grab something to eat and find a number of things to do in a casual atmosphere," said Brian Moody, executive director of Tuscola Economic Development Inc.
Moody said four downtown buildings were sold in recent months, a fifth was renovated, and two substandard buildings were recently demolished.
Plans call for developing a downtown site into a theater for the Actors Rural Theatre Company as well as developing the former Sav-Mor pharmacy building into a new retail site.
Water main work is under way downtown, and improvements to many of the streets are already under way.
"We are really close to being able to flip downtown Tuscola," Moody said. "We are working to drive more traffic to the downtown district and develop the vacant properties. We're going to take downtown from being 50 percent vacant to 5 percent vacant."
Five years ago the city approved a redevelopment agreement with Tanger, which operates an outlet mall on Tuscola's east side, which involved the construction of a new road surrounding the mall. Moody said the city has received inquiries about retail property around the mall area, and it is proceeding with the cleanup of the former Dixie Truck Stop site.
Discussions continue at two sites for the development of the Tuscola Business Centre, a proposed business park including light-industrial businesses, agriculture-related businesses, light distribution, auto parts distribution, maybe light manufacturing, offices and possibly retail stores.
Moody said he believes the whole FutureGen experience has unified Douglas County as a viable locale for economic development.
"For the first time in my recollection, we focused on one thing and saw the good in that, and worked toward that goal. In the time following, it has made it easier for us to go to surrounding communities and partner on things."