BERRIEN SPRINGS — Berrien Springs is friendly small town that’s like “an international Mayberry.” That was just one of the responses received in a community survey conducted recently by Andrews University marketing professor Kimberly Pichot and her students.
Pichot presented the results of the marketing study at Monday night’s Berrien Springs Village Council meeting. She said the impetus for the market study is the branding effort Berrien Springs village and Berrien Township and Oronoko Township leaders began in 2017.
She said she and her students want to build on that and get a broader picture of what residents want to see happen in the Berrien Springs area. They distributed the survey online and through local businesses, schools and universities and service organizations. A total of 369 responses were received.
Pichot reported that people were asked what they see as the community’s best features, services they currently use and areas where they’d like to see growth and improvement. Features people liked most included the beauty of the area, the small, friendly nature of the community and the diversity found here.
People would like to see the downtown become a tourist destination with more retail businesses and foot traffic, more foot options and restaurants, a walk-in clinic, hotels and motels, housing improvements, more weekend activities and more recreational opportunities.
People reported that local banks and grocery stores are the businesses they most often use in the community. They said they’d like to have more businesses and attractions to visit locally such as a book store or a coffee shop.
“This study describes what we want to do in attracting new business and bring people downtown,” Village President Milt Richter said. “This will certainly help us with our planning. It’s going to be very useful for us.”
He noted that the community has an untapped market it is currently not reaching. “We’re missing a big market that we aren’t tapping into. We don’t have the businesses to attract the Andrews students who are here,” he said.
Also Monday, council members learned of progress in another downtown effort. Trustee Jesse Hibler said the village’s historic district study committee has applied to the state to get assessment assistance from the Michigan Historic Preservation Community Assessment Program.
Hibler said the program provides communities with resources they need to identify buildings and districts they want to have a historic designation. He said the committee has done a walking tour of the downtown and is now ready to start developing a list of buildings including businesses and homes they think should be designated.
“This is our heritage, we want to preserve our heritage,” Richter said. “With a historic district designation, business owners would have to ask permission to make changes to the exteriors of their buildings … This dovetails in what we want to do with making workshops, funding and grants available.”
Hibler and Richter said the new effort will expand on the history already recognized in the village with the 1839 Historic Courthouse Square.