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Small Business Incubator Program

We are no longer taking applications for shipping container shops

       It is with bittersweet excitement that the Sparta Downtown Development Authority announces the closure of the Retail Incubator Program, more commonly known as the Sparta Town Square ShippingContainer Shops. The temporary structures were renovated shipping containers with heat, air, and electricity that were originally designed and installed as a phase of the master plan to rejuvenate the area and create density along Nash Creek.

       In 2019, the Retail IncubatorProgram concept garnered praise and recognition from Consumers Energy, winning 3rd place out of dozens of entries at the "Put Your Town On the Map" pitch. This acknowledgment highlighted Sparta’s innovative approach to fostering economic growth and putting Sparta on the radar as a community committed to supporting small businesses.

       Further solidifying its standing as a beacon of community investing and supporting economic development, the Sparta Retail Incubator Program was honored by the Michigan Downtown Association in 2021. The program received the award for the "Best Economic Development Project Under $1Million," and was a standout showpiece for local developers in the Grand Rapids area to visit during community tours, a destination for the Michigan Downtown Association to host a meeting and tour for other downtown professionals to see the transformation, and has been a note of interest by some large employers in the area such as tesa tape, a global pressure-sensitive adhesive manufacturer with a location in Sparta, who even praised the innovative Retail Incubator Program project during their a 36Million dollar expansion groundbreaking ceremony in 2021.

       Celebrating its successful conclusion, the Retail Incubator Program in the Shipping Containers in Sparta Town Square not only marks a turning point for downtown revitalization but also initiates the next phase of the master plan. While this most recent chapter in Sparta’s development has been a successful one, the Village of Sparta is excited to unveil the next phases of its long-term vision for downtown transformation, which was initiated in 2014 and has been revised and updated five times over the last ten years. “Downtown redevelopment is in a way its own living, breathing organism, and a master plan is only as good as the ability to flex as changes occur including the ability to acquire grant funding, the needs of the property owners and businesses, and most importantly, how people enjoy the space. Every amendment to the plan is critical to the result, and the plan continues to evolve with the changes, and I think our community and visitors will really like the end result of the plan”, said Elizabeth Morse, DDADirector for the Village of Sparta. The master plan is working through final engineering and will be moving through the formal approval process this spring. The next phase of the master plan will have the same goal of creating a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly environment utilizing our beautiful creek in downtown Sparta.

       Specifically, the next development phases include renovations to parking lots, emphasizing pedestrian-friendly design while maintaining parking availability as a top priority. This strategic approach aims to enhance the overall experience for visitors, residents, and businesses in downtown Sparta. Additionally, the phase will include the addition of permanent municipal restrooms, providing essential facilities for both residents and visitors. The inclusion of these amenities aligns with Sparta's commitment to creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for all.

       One of the highlights of the next phase is the creation of a vibrant pedestrian space along Nash Creek. This initiative aims to transform the creek area into a scenic and lively space, fostering community engagement and providing a picturesque backdrop for local businesses.

       "The master plan represents our collective vision for a downtown that not only supports businesses but also offers a welcoming and enjoyable experience for everyone. We envision a downtown that balances modern amenities with the charm of our community's rich history," added Jim Lower, Sparta Village Manager.

      The Village of Sparta extends its gratitude to all stakeholders, including program participants, partners, and the community, for contributing to the success and recognition of the Retail Incubator Program and looks forward to the exciting developments that lie ahead. For further information, please contact Elizabeth Morse at 616-887-2454

For more information contact:

Elizabeth Morse, DDA Director

P: (616) 887-2454

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