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Houghton certified as a Redevelopment Ready Community

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Friday that Houghton has been certified as a Redevelopment Ready Community. To gain the recognition the city had to complete an update to its Master Plan and make changes to the zoning code, review its internal processes, adopt new council and commission procedures, enhance the functionality of its website, among other steps.

“We’re excited to complete the certification process,” said Mayor Robert Backon. The best practices learned will help us move forward in growing as a community.”

The announcement coincided with the awarding of $4 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund for a new pier and is the culmination in over a decade’s worth of work to revitalize the downtown area, including facade improvements. Houghton’s business district is nearly 100 percent occupied.

The full press release is below.

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For its efforts in establishing a solid foundation to attract private investment and further build on municipality assets, the city of Houghton has been awarded the Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) certification, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today.

MEDC formally recognizes the city of Houghton as a Certified Redevelopment Ready Community in Michigan. Houghton joins an elite group of 58 Michigan communities that have qualified as “thoroughly prepared” when it comes to planning and zoning to remove traditional barriers and promote opportunities for prospective investors. To see the entire list of Redevelopment Ready Communities, visit here.

“Our mission at MEDC is to support Michigan’s strong economic momentum and empower communities to establish a strong planning, zoning and economic development foundation,” said MEDC Senior Vice President Michele Wildman. “The city of Houghton is well-positioned to continue to implement their vision for the future and further improve the quality of life for its residents. We look forward to building upon our relationship with the city and supporting local economic development efforts.”

As an RRC participant, the city of Houghton received a comprehensive assessment that measured current community and economic development practices compared to RRC best practice standards. The program evaluates and certifies communities that integrate transparency, predictability, and efficiency into economic development practices. Certification status is a compelling indicator that a community has removed development barriers and streamlined processes to be more competitive and attractive to investors.

To reach certification, the city undertook numerous updates, including the master plan, zoning code changes, internal process reviews and updates, new board and commission procedures, and a stronger focus on marketing the community. The city also fully updated its website.

“We’re excited to complete the certification process,” said Mayor Robert Backon. The best practices learned will help us move forward in growing as a community.”

As a certified community, Houghton will have access to new tools to implement its community development goals as well as ongoing support and technical assistance from the Redevelopment Ready Communities team. Annual check-ins and updates will help ensure the city continues implementing the best practices over time. Certification is good for five years before needing to be renewed.

“RRC was a lot of upfront investment on the city’s part, but all we’ve learned along the way is going to be put to good use and we’re better positioned than ever before for the kind of smart growth that will sustain is into the future,” said City Manager Eric Waara.

The city’s certification was awarded the same week as the Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved $4 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for a visionary redevelopment of publicly-owned waterfront recreation area in downtown Houghton. The Pier Placemaking Project will boast placemaking amenities including various landscape features, built-in utilities for events and future build-out. The space will also serve as a venue for a variety of community events, live music and the farmer’s market. Additionally, with Houghton’s recent designation as a port of call for Great Lakes cruising lines, this pier will allow visitors to disembark the cruise line in the heart of downtown. CDBG funds were leveraged by local funding of over $1 million.

The project was a major goal of the city’s master plan and a testament to the city’s ability to turn vision into reality. It is the latest in a series of community-driven economic development successes in downtown Houghton. For more information on the project, visit here. To read the MEDC announcement on the pier project, visit here.

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