Nirvana Center to Open as Port Huron's Fourth Cannabis Store in Former Pizza Hut Location

January 4th, 2024 Business & Industry
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Port Huron, a city known for its vibrant community and dynamic business landscape, is poised to welcome an exciting new addition to its retail sector. Plans are underway for the opening of a fourth adult-use marijuana shop, the Nirvana Center, located strategically at the intersection of 10th Street and Lapeer Avenue. This development represents not just an expansion of the city's cannabis industry but also a significant transformation of a familiar city landmark.

The Nirvana Center, earmarked for the site at 1007 Lapeer Ave, is slated to occupy a substantial 20,800-square-foot space, previously home to a Pizza Hut restaurant. The project, recently greenlit by the city's planning commissioners, involves the repurposing of the vacated storefront. The site is expected to don bright turquoise signage, a visual testament to its new role in the recreational cannabis market.

Morgan Mansour, the project manager overseeing the Nirvana Center's development, spoke about the strategic choice of location. He highlighted the advantages of the site, including its visibility and accessibility due to the existing traffic flow. Mansour emphasized the significance of the investment involved in transforming the site and shared plans to integrate the store into the local community. A key aspect of this integration is the creation of new jobs. The store is expected to employ at least 15 individuals, with the number potentially rising to 20, depending on the balance of full-time and part-time positions. In a nod to local economic development, the project is also looking to engage local contractors for the required construction and renovation work.

The journey of the Nirvana Center in Port Huron is part of a broader narrative involving Revolution Strains, Inc., which initially received local permitting for a retail operation under the city's cannabis ordinance. This ordinance, approved by voters, paved the way for various cannabis-related businesses, including consumption lounges and microbusinesses, to set up shop in the city. However, the implementation of these plans was delayed due to legal challenges. Applicants for local licensure found themselves entangled in litigation, primarily centered around the scoring system used in the ordinance. This legal impasse continued until early 2023, when the original provisional license recipients, including the Nirvana Center, were finally allowed to proceed with their plans.

The approval of the Nirvana Center's special use permit by the planning commission is a critical milestone. This permit, a requirement under local zoning laws, marks the Nirvana Center as the fourth cannabis outlet within the last year to navigate the city's regulatory landscape successfully. This follows the developments of other cannabis retailers in the city, including Exhibit Cannabis, which experienced a fire incident on site, JARS Cannabis located downtown, and Ox Tail Inc., operating under the name Moses Roses in the former Ernest Camera Shoppe. Each of these outlets had planned openings towards the end of the previous year, though as of this week, no official opening dates have been announced.

The choice of the former Pizza Hut location for the Nirvana Center was a strategic shift from the initially planned site at 2569 Lapeer Ave, which was a Peak Performance Oil and Lube establishment. Mansour elaborated on the decision to move locations, highlighting the suitability of the former Pizza Hut site. He noted that under the local licensure ordinance, transferring licenses or changing addresses is permissible, provided the city clerk's office is duly notified.

The Nirvana Center's development at 1007 Lapeer Ave is part of a larger picture, with multiple sites across the city being considered for cannabis retail operations by various operators. One such operator, Portage Acquisitions, Inc., has submitted applications for several sites and has been granted licenses for locations elsewhere in the city. However, unlike the Nirvana Center, Portage Acquisitions has not yet brought a special use request to the planning commission for any of these sites.

During the planning commission's discussion, the plans for the Nirvana Center were reviewed briefly, with Mansour affirming the thoroughness of their preparatory work. He expressed optimism about the timeline for the store's opening, anticipating readiness for operation within 90 days following structural upgrades, particularly to the building's roof. The selection of the former Pizza Hut site over other locations was attributed to its overall suitability for the intended purpose.

The Nirvana Center in Port Huron is poised to become the 14th outlet in the state of Michigan under this brand, with another location set to open soon in Royal Oak. Mansour spoke about the significance of revitalizing the long-vacant site at 10th and Lapeer, bringing a new lease of life to an area familiar to many in the community.

Addressing potential concerns from the community, Mansour assured planning commissioners of comprehensive security measures, including 24-hour surveillance. Additionally, the issue of odor, often a concern in cannabis retail operations, has been proactively addressed with plans to neutralize the air within the store. Mansour confidently stated that the experience of operating multiple outlets has equipped the Nirvana Center team with effective solutions to such challenges, ensuring that their retail operations will not adversely impact the surrounding area.

The introduction of the Nirvana Center to Port Huron's cannabis retail scene marks a significant development for the city. It reflects not only the growth of the cannabis industry but also the adaptive reuse of commercial spaces, contributing to the revitalization of the local economy. This project, with its emphasis on local employment, community integration, and sensitive operational practices, exemplifies a model of business development that aligns with the city's broader goals of sustainable growth and community enhancement.

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