Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — It has taken a couple decades, with a lot of the heavy lifting done in the past 10 years or so, but the village of Kingsley is ready to lure new businesses and jobs to the quiet bedroom community just 15 miles or so south of Traverse City.
The village has done a lot of infrastructure work and community leaders want to see it pay off. There's a new wastewater treatment plant, new water mains, a village hall and a nice library. There are decorative street lights and sidewalks. Brownson Memorial Park has a new band shell, community stage and splash pad for the kids. There are plans to create "art" or "pocket" parks on vacant lots at Elm and Main streets and on South Brownson. A farmer's market is scheduled to move to a high-profile stretch of M-113.
Perhaps best of all, from a marketer's perspective at least, median housing prices this year came in $77,000 less than Traverse City.
Not so long ago Kingsley was a quiet little village in a mostly rural area with ambitions to match. No more.
"We built all this infrastructure; it’s time to make ourselves available to private investment,” said Village Manager Adam Umbrasas. “We are going to let everyone know what we have here.” In February the village contracted with the Traverse City Area Economic Development Corporation to create an economic growth strategy.
Rob Richardson, an EDC project manager, said he sees the potential to market Kingsley as a "bedroom community with lifestyle businesses in the downtown core."
Examples are a good restaurant, a brew pub, a coffee shop, arts outlets - such as woodworking and crafts shops - and "value-added" agriculture businesses such as distilleries, wine and beer makers.
There's a price to progress, of course.
Jenny Hengesbach, who manages the Brightside Cafe, said it will close because the rent recently rose to nearly $900 a month. She tried to find a site for a restaurant of her own but said she can't find an appropriate location at the right price.
Trying to create an economic revival is one thing; doing that without losing what makes the village special in the first plece - a laid-back, family-oriented lifestyle - is another.
A University of North Carolina official said the village should look to homegrown entrepreneurs and could consider securing private and public financing for people who want to start businesses.
Economic growth could be a boon, but only if it's done on Kingsley's own terms.