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civitas

Belding

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I visited Belding yesterday and wondered if anyone knew what was going on with this great old building on the river.

Someone appears to be spending money cleaning the brick and installing new windows.

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I was over there two weeks ago for lunch with the future in laws. They seem to think that it is Condos or Offices.

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I called up some of my friends (I used to live there) and they said that it is supposed to be condos...

Good luck to getting those sold as far as I'm concerned...Belding's condo market has not been so great. Down the road from there a developer was building condos along the river where another one of those mills used to be before it burned to the ground...and they foreclosed just after constructing the first phase because there were no interested buyers.

Their downtown is getting a little facelift right now though, basically taking the parking lot and putting in new islands...it's their first phase of revitalizing their downtown...soon they will be demolishing a couple buildings next to city hall and will be getting some input from residents on what they want there...

Also, if anyone does get a chance to get into town...there is a new restaurant right by that mill in those pictures...it's called cory's food and spirits...old sports bar....very very nice and very delicious food.

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Nice building! I thought Belding had it's downtown urban renewaled (word?) back in the sixties.

Joe

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This building has alot fo charm. It will look real good if restored.

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Nice building! I thought Belding had it's downtown urban renewaled (word?) back in the sixties.

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Belding actually had a lot of nice buildings, and was surprisingly a booming town back in the early 1900's...The big GR sized buildings you are referring to were old lumber mills and silk factories (Belding at one point was the number 1 silk producer in the world) that the Belding Brothers started...with interesting architecture. One of the buildings (Richardson Mill) is a 4 story mill that was converted into apartments...unfortunately with the booming town that they had...the revitalization basically tore down a lot of the older buildings and turned a huge slab of downtown (thanks to a local grocery store owner who won't allow new business to come in and ruin his competition) into a mall which failed miserably after a few months...but for some reason still stands (but not for long)

here's some pictures I dug up on some websites:

Belding Hotel (yes they had one) circa late 1800's

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Downtown main street circa 1920's

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Downtown main street circa 1940's

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And this is the proposed sketch of the library expansion that they are currently fundraising for

Current Photo of library:

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Expansion Sketch:

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One of the mills that is on the main street of downtown (owned by Robert Tol) is supposed to be turned into condo/apartments with a market/entertainment venue to sort of give a town center feeling. This is a very large building that has a lot of potential. He has a website for this at http://www.silkmillarts.com

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I think it's nice for Belding they are really trying hard these past few years to turn things around and get this town back on the path it walked away from some 50-60 odd years ago. I actually got to see a sneak peak at a longterm rendering of what they want downtown to look like and I will say it would make Belding look like a brand new town. But they still have a long way to go.

And for anyone that is interested...the library and the museum in town have all sorts of pictures and books about their history and it is quite fascinating...it makes you wonder what went wrong with the town? lol Perhaps I should go to the library and read up on some of the books

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Also to add to the reasoning why Belding isn't growing as fast as they really want to...Greenville is stealing most of their limelight (obviously). Greenville's retail has probably more than doubled in the past 5 years with the expansion of the west side of town with more to come. I think Belding will definitely feed off from this...they currently have some other strip mall type projects built along their main highway right now...just waiting for the tenants.

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Even though Belding has some beautiful old factories, I just don't see "urban loft living" catching on in Belding, or any other exurb towns around GR any time soon. Loft living is just starting to become popular in Grand Rapids (yes we're 20 years behind), so for it to heat up in a bedroom community such as Belding is a stretch IMO. I think another issue facing Belding is its distance from a major interstate. People and businesses love their highways for quick and convenient commuting and commerce.

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Even though Belding has some beautiful old factories, I just don't see "urban loft living" catching on in Belding, or any other exurb towns around GR any time soon. Loft living is just starting to become popular in Grand Rapids (yes we're 20 years behind), so for it to heat up in a bedroom community such as Belding is a stretch IMO. I think another issue facing Belding is its distance from a major interstate. People and businesses love their highways for quick and convenient commuting and commerce.

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I actually made my visit to look at the old silk mill. I heard that Bob Tol is trying to sell it. It is a very complex old building that I suspect will sit like it is for a long time.

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Another former Belding resident here. You are correct in that downtown Belding was razed in the 60's and replaced with Covered Village Mall. A piece of one of the old buildings fell and killed someone ( that atleast being the story I remember hearing.) So they tore it all down and yes the Leppinks family built the mall. Which in turn killed the retail portion of the city. Belding was founded on an industrial theme. Even now there are working factories in the city. The building conversion shown in that picture is on mainstreet and is the old Gibsons plant that closed in the 80's. By the 80's almost all of the towns major employers had left and Belding became nothing more than a bedroom community for places like Greenville, GR of course, and Ionia with the prisons. Most people don't realize that Belding has 6000 people in it and if you expand it to the surrounding townships you'll have closer to 12,000 people in and around it. Which isn't impressive, it just shows what happened to the retail potential of the city. Greenville has cemented itself as the center of commerce for that area in the last 6 years or so. But realistically It has been the place people in northwest Ionia county and really all of Montcalm county have gone for decades. Belding didn't even have a Burger King until 1994 and Mcdonalds fought to build in the city in 1995. ( yes it's political).

I'm sure small minded leadership has played a part inhibiting the cities progression. I think Jeff called it though when he talked about how isolated the city is. It takes about 20minutes driving before you really start feeling the GR metro area. They would really need to turn M-44 into a divided state highway from M-91 to Northland drive to really see any kind of immediate growth in the surrounding areas. But with reality talking, Belding will continue to see a little growth with it's proximity to GR, and it's convience in nature. There is a small suburbanite feel in the area mixed in with more poor jobless country feel that also exists there.

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You are correct in that downtown Belding was razed in the 60's and replaced with Covered Village Mall. A piece of one of the old buildings fell and killed someone ( that atleast being the story I remember hearing.) So they tore it all down and yes the Leppinks family built the mall. Which in turn killed the retail portion of the city.

Interesting thread on Belding. My husband and I are from there and actually had a part in the urban "renewal" that resulted in the Covered Village Mall. What a sad, sad mistake it was to build it.

Here's the scoop: MJLO is correct that a brick fell off the front of one of the buildings and killed a woman. The buildings were old and in need of repair (but so very, very awesome). The merchants association and city gov got a grant to either renovate the buildings or tear them down and build. The renovation was going to be too costly, so the merchants (who were each raising families on a smalltown business's income) opted for the teardown.

For nearly 40 years, my husband's family had owned a men's clothing store in one of the buildings, and we stood and cried as we watched the wrecking ball swing into the back door of the place.

That was in '72 or '73. The mall was built with grant money and the money of the merchants who purchased and developed their retail spaces. Every space was filled, and the mall had a downtown's-worth of merchants, including my father-in-law's store.

My husband, who was to be a third-generation merchant (but couldn't be because the mall was the demise of the family business), was selected by city leaders to make a presentation to the state, to show them how "successfully" their money had been spent. Slide show, quotes from leaders, a trophy and plaque at a formal banquet in Lansing, blah, blah, blah. Little did we know... :(

Now we look back on that time and are horrified that we didn't fight to keep the old town and its character. Better to have empty storefronts than a mall corridor that echoes because no one's there...

I don't think the condos will work. There are no young professionals sticking around to live there. I don't blame them; we got out, too.

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And the mall literally does echo...anytime I go in there you see about 2 or 3 people passing by, if none at all.

My mother works with a friend who is on the Belding City Council and basically they have long term plans to say bye bye to that mall...they want to tear it out and bring downtown back to the city. But that's pretty much all I'm allowed to say about it.

And actually, Independent Bank's corporate operations center is located within the mall building, and in the next 1-2 years they are building a new 4 story headquarters in South Ionia (across from Meijer)...so Belding will actually be losing some business from their employees. I believe there is about 100 or so that work there total. No jobs lost really, they're just restructuring their costs and bringing the deposit and loan operations (loan ops works in ionia) together in one building. I used to work there though, and the building is such a dump.

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And the mall literally does echo...anytime I go in there you see about 2 or 3 people passing by, if none at all.

And actually, Independent Bank's corporate operations center is located within the mall building, and in the next 1-2 years they are building a new 4 story headquarters in South Ionia (across from Meijer)...so Belding will actually be losing some business from their employees. I believe there is about 100 or so that work there total. No jobs lost really, they're just restructuring their costs and bringing the deposit and loan operations (loan ops works in ionia) together in one building. I used to work there though, and the building is such a dump.

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As for the condos, there needs to be something else in town before it can support the condos. Those old buildings are so awesome.

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Bringing a topic back from the dead - with some news

Robert Tol is up to something - again...

Belding: Developer reveals plans for old silk mill

BELDING -- A plan to transform an old silk mill into a cultural attraction was met with a cautious response from the City Council on Tuesday.

Bob Tol, a partner with NAI West Michigan of Grand Rapids, said he wants to transform the mill complex at 100 E. Main St. into a "permanent street fair" where artists could lease space for selling their wares.

"Together, we can make this happen," he said. "We simply have to think big."

Link to Article

All I gotta say to that is....GOOD LUCK!

He's been promoting this idea already - and the city manager is right - the building just sucks - Robert Tol would be better off bulldozing the land and either developing it - or selling off parcels.

There's tons of additions to this particular piece of property - which make it look weird. The city already tore down 2 other buildings that were really old and out of shape and not utilized.

Here's one of the somewhat of a rendering Tol had awhile back - showing what he would make it look like:

GibsonBuildingAerialViewBusinessCard.jpg

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Alright - time to bump up this thread because the Library Expansion Project is finished and I found some photos of the new look :thumbsup:

Alvah%20N.%20Belding%20Library.jpg

Children

Children

Children

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Some of the pictures showed some of the older stuff as well just to show you what it looked like inside there anyways.

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This expansion project was a great job! It preserved the historical and added much needed space in a modern setting that did not detract from the beautiful architecture of the original building, but rather compliments it. It truly is worth a little summer side trip!

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Bumping again. I'm curious about the Belding Village Mall. I know the one "anchor" was originally Spurgeon's, then Ben Franklin Crafts and now Family Dollar, but were any of the larger stores originally something else? In other words, were the Rite Aid or ACE Hardware spaces formerly other stores? Were there any other chains like Regis or Merle Norman in it? Et cetera.

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haha no, belding was never a big enough market for such a thing, as it sits is how it always was, local merchants, Rite aid and the hardware store have pretty much been all that were ever there. It is an enclosed mall, but it resembles nothing of a traditional one. Spurgeons closed in 91 or 92. The residents of belding just don't have the mind set for the brands they carried there. The ones that do, drive into GR or Greenville anyway.

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Come to think of it I don't think there is one single clothing store anymore. There was one store that was there that was marketed for older women but I heard that business has recently folded - they retired or something.

Here's the most recent list of tenants at the mall:

The Belding Apothecary (Pharmacy/Gift Store)

Appleland Realty (formerly Westdale)

Artistic Attitudes Salon and Day Spa (probably the best thing in that mall)

Chamber of Commerce

Covered Village Chiropractic

Credit Bureau Central

D&B Sports

Encounter Community Church

Family Dollar

Independent Bank Corporation (corporate office)

Integrity Martial Arts

Kimberlee J. O'Donald P.T., P.C.

Listening Ear Crisis Center

McG Technologies

Rayborn Ace Hardware

Rite Aid Pharmacy

Scizzor Shack (I think this is no longer there)

Shear Design Hair Studio

Silk City Sports

State Farm Insurance

Stigma Tattoo

Sun Isle Tanning Salon

Village Kut-N-Kurl

So that's really about it - I mean yeah the place isn't completely empty - it's just not a hot spot for retail - there's never people jam packed inside unless Santa is there for the kids or something. The only thing you hear inside is the 2 water fountains that are in there and half the time they're not even running.

But I do know that in the long run portions of the mall will be ripped out and new buildings will be placed alongside to make it more downtownish. But a lot of businesses come and go in Belding very quickly...mostly after their 1st year.

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Bump bump time :)

So for those who are out of the loop - Rayborn's Ace Hardware went into bankruptcy and folded their business. There was a LOT of drama in the Covered Village Mall in the past year with people not paying taxes and utilities and getting into some trouble. But I can't find the links to remember exactly what happened, and I don't want to give the wrong story.

Anywho - All that aside - I found this fantastic video that someone posted on their Facebook where the Mayor in the 1960's drove through town and filmed it. So you can all see for yourself what a big deal this town was back in the day with the old downtown and everything. The good part that shows the town and such is right after the 7 minute mark.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=102833749732470

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