Anyone walking in Downtown Albion, would notice the 2008 financial crisis took a real toll on the town. The few occupied buildings there don’t provide a plethora of options for community members, college students and faculty and tourists to enjoy.
But Albion is on the upswing.
In 2015, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved the plans of building a hotel right in downtown to further revitalize the liveliness of Albion.
Dr. Samuel Shaheen (‘88), Albion alumnus and CEO of Shaheen Development, the driving force of the hotel production, gave insight to members of the Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity on why the hotel was a crucial aspect for enhancing Albion and what other developments can be expected in the near future.
Why a hotel? “Most parents have to stay in Marshall or Jackson or just go home,” said Shaheen. “In the four years I went to school here, my father and mother never stayed over once. There was no place for them to stay. They figured if they had to stay in Marshall or Jackson they might as well drive home.”
There are plenty of events in and around Albion for people to attend. The community swells for a short period of time for events like Parents Weekend, Homecoming and Festival of the Forks. Providing a place to stay overnight would bring in people who don’t want to travel just for the day.
Shaheen explained that the new hotel, a Courtyard by Marriott, is a strong brand in the industry. The brand itself will be attractive to parents and passerby who may need an overnight stay while traveling; I-94 and I-69 are catalysts for bringing more activity into the community.
Shaheen discussed that the hotel was not just for bringing in outside crowds and improving the economy. “It will be a resource for students, parents, faculty and the community” said Shaheen, “Many people in the community have said that they have not been able to have corporate events, weddings or even family reunions because there was never any place to do them.”
The hotel is just a facet of the metamorphosis happening in downtown Albion.
Albion College started 2017 off with the opening of the Ludington Center on Superior Street, which provides a place where members of the community can come together with the college and establish relationships that will only further the growth of Albion.
Shaheen envisions Albion returning to the former glory it once had by bringing back local businesses. Albion Reinvestment Corporation, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, has acquired many of the buildings downtown for renovations. The New Albion Investment Group provides capital in order to administer “near zero” renting costs for these spaces, which is an incentive for business owners to open a storefront downtown and be successful.
“We’ll have a business contest that challenges Jackson, Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, anywhere in Michigan and do a social media campaign where we give away free space for [a certain] type of business,” he said. “Then we can incentivize a business to come down and set up another shop.”
One challenge business owners face is reduced activity when the college closes for the summer. Shaheen noted there are many other things such as festivals, camps and the newly renovated equestrian center that take place during the off season that need the services storefronts provide.
While students have a significant impact on the town already, they have the opportunity to increase the influence through this time of redevelopment by creating ideas of desired stores and other opportunities wanted in Albion, as well as use personal relationships with others who may want to establish their business in Albion.
“It will take some time but we’re getting closer,” said Shaheen. “We’re going to have a community that lives together well and is successful.”
Photo by Andrea Schmitz