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Albion Interactive History

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Albion Community Foundation

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Albion Community Foundation Board of Trustees

Concern over the condition of Albion’s downtown business section has been a top of the Foundation from the very beginning. The founders recognized the importance of keeping downtown Albion vitalized with businesses and shoppers in a clean, attractive, and safe environment. The board saw the close relationship between the downtown business district and the adjoining river improvement projects.

In August 1974, the Board authorized the Town Center Project, a plan which was designed: 1) to keep the downtown buildings occupied, providing goods and services that meet the needs of the diverse Albion community; 2) to recognized the Kalamazoo River as one of the city’s most important natural assets and to make it a downtown focal point; and 3) to promote commercial activity, riverfront development, and other facilities and activities that will attract people to the downtown area, making the downtown district a true town center where Albionites would want to be and shop.

The plan involved several stages. A marketing survey was made during the fall of 1974 to assess the unmet needs of Albion College students in relationship to downtown Albion. Architectural students from Notre Dame University prepared a study of the downtown and Market Place areas. Several proposals were made concerning parking spaces, driving patterns, sidewalk locations, certain locations for restaurants, and a community center. The Architectural Consortium from Lansing was hired to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the central business district, and to make a variety of proposals. All of these groups were able to make several helpful recommendations concerning the downtown district.

From 1980 to 1983 there was a severe economic recession in the country which also affected Albion. Several national chain retail stores closed their doors in downtown Albion. This left unsightly empty store buildings, and in the case of G.C. Murphy Dime Store at 309 S. Superior St., particle board was placed over the windows to protect them. The Albion Civic Foundation recognized that the boarded up store was a major eyesore to the downtown rejuvenation program.

At the March 1981 board meeting, the Foundation commissioned the Albion College visual arts department to submit designs and costs for the painting of a mural on the boarded-up Murphy store. Volunteering for the task was newly graduated art student, Cathy Hesz, who designed and painted two artificial storefronts on the two adjoining 19th century buildings. Hesz painted a retail display and a café scene on the panels, creating a trome l’oeil (or, “fool the eye”) effect. There were photographs and news articles in several Michigan newspapers about this unique project.

With two study plans behind it, the Albion Civic Foundation in 1983 became actively involved in a cooperative effort with the City of Albion and the City Venture Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The goal of the organization was to create new jobs through the start up and growth of small businesses.

1993 Board of Trustees
Front row (L-R): Jean Taylor, Sue Marcos, Judy Borowitz, Tom Thayer.
Back row: John Sharp, Pat Worden, Henry Konkle, David Roush, Bob Frahm, Lois McClure.
Not Pictured: Rick Niedieck, Ben Hancock, Harry Bonner.

Source: Frank Passic. Presenting 25 Years of the Albion Civic Foundation. Albion, Michigan: Albion Civic Foundation. 1993.