For the stores and restaurants along Grand River Ave. in Downtown Williamston, it can be tough to attract out-of-town business.
It's a problem faced by small communities across the Lansing region and just one issue the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is hoping to address, this week.
"We wanted to try out a new planning approach called a 'charrette'," said Susan Pigg, Executive Director of the Commission.
A 'Vision Charrette' is a week-long series of meetings, where community members come up with ideas and future visions for a specific corridor. In this case, it's the stretch of Michigan Ave. and Grand River Ave. starting at the Capitol building and ending in Webberville, roughly 19 miles.
The first brainstorming session was held, Wednesday, at the Lansing Center.
"We go up and down and people that have been here a while recognize that about the corridor," said Pigg. "We believe that with a good plan for sustaining a healthy, viable community across the entire corridor, we can be more successful."
The idea is to maximize the area's potential by looking at the roadway as a whole, rather than a community-by-community basis. That includes the developed stretches through Lansing, East Lansing and Meridian Township.
"As you drive through this area, you'll see buildings that are vacant, you'll see parking lots that are overrun," said Lansing City Council President Carol Wood, who also serves as Chair of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.
East Lansing Councilman Kevin Beard adds, "Unless you have a historic structure of some kind, the rest should be considered for redevelopment. Is it being used at its highest and best use?"
Now, organizers are hoping a new, fresh vision will emerge for the region.
The ideas from the first session will be on display at the former Barnes and Noble in East Lansing, on Sunday, from 3 to 5 p.m.