New Life for Monroe Outlet Center with Cannabis Operations

May 1st, 2024 Business & Industry
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In Monroe Charter Township, Michigan, a transformation is taking place at the long-neglected Monroe Factory Shops on LaPlaisance Road. Once bustling with retailers and eateries, the area had succumbed to vacancy and disrepair. However, thanks to a change in direction led by local entrepreneur Chris Harter, the site is set to become a new hub for cannabis cultivation and retail.

Originally known as the Manufacturers Market Place, and later as the Horizon Outlet Center, the 22-acre site had seen better days with its primary retail space mostly abandoned since 2015. As nearby fast-food outlets closed one by one, the area seemed destined for continued decline. However, Harter, a Monroe native with business ties in both Michigan and Atlanta, saw potential for revival not through traditional retail, but through Michigan's burgeoning cannabis industry.

Harter's vision emerged following unsuccessful attempts to revitalize the outlet center with traditional retail formats. After Michigan legalized medicinal cannabis in 2008 and moved towards legalizing recreational cannabis in 2019, Harter pivoted towards transforming the site into a location suitable for growing and dispensing cannabis. His plan includes the establishment of at least two cultivation facilities and three dispensaries.

One of these dispensaries is set to occupy the former Burger King building, with substantial renovations already underway to repurpose the internal spaces for their new role. Harter's former business associates, now operating under Terra Lusso LLC, have committed to developing 15,000 square feet of the center for similar purposes. Additional groups involved include a collaboration between a Toledo real estate investor and a Detroit celebrity, as well as another led by a Detroit businessman.

While nearly 70 percent of the site's space has been pre-leased, all tenants are currently in a holding pattern as they await the passing of local ordinances crucial for operational guidelines and community safety standards. The legislative process faced delays after initial attempts to pass the necessary ordinances were met with local resistance and procedural setbacks.

Monroe Charter Township Supervisor Alan Barron is optimistic about the project's impact, suggesting that the presence of dispensaries might catalyze further commercial activity, drawing in additional businesses and potentially replicating the multi-attraction draw seen in tourist locations like Frankenmuth, Michigan.

As the township works towards finalizing the marijuana ordinances, with key meetings and hearings scheduled across the coming months, the project's progress reflects a broader trend of repurposing underutilized retail spaces to accommodate new industries. This development not only promises a revival of the once-thriving outlet center but also represents a significant shift in local business dynamics, potentially setting a precedent for similar transformations elsewhere.

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