City accepted into downtown enhancement program

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — The city is one of seven communities this year to be chosen for a state program to further develop its downtown.

Keith Molin, executive director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, announced June 30 that the communities had been selected to take part in the Michigan Main Street Associate Level program.

Officials of those communities will receive training over the next one to two years in the basics of the Main Street four-point approach, including organization, promotion, economic restructuring and design. Training will be provided by staff from the Michigan Main Street Center at MSHDA.

Administered through a partnership between the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, staff members will begin their four-point approach to revitalizing downtown. The four points are combined to address all of the commercial district’s needs.

“Michgan’s economy cannot thrive without vibrant downtowns,” Molin said. “This program is creating opportunities for new development and economic growth in downtowns across our state.”

The city applied for the program on April 20 after the City Council gave its approval.

“The main street approach is incremental,” said Downtown Development Authority Director Brandon Wescott. “It is not designed to produce immediate change.

“In order to succeed, a long-term revitalization effort requires careful attention to every aspect downtown.”

Wescott believes the main street staff has assets and resources available to them that he could use toward the betterment of downtown.

“There are five things that successful communities in this program have done,” he said. “They have capitalized on their history, engaged the community, improved their reputation, sustained momentum and they continually plan for the future.”

The 13 communities brought into the program in 2008 are Boyne City, Calumet, Clare, Grand Haven, Howell, Iron Mountain, Manistee, Marshall, Muskegon, Niles, Old Town Lansing, Portland and Scottville.

Wescott added that the only cost of the program to the city would be staff hours and a fee for membership in the national association.

“The Main Street program will be the mechanism for bringing together diverse people to accomplish the task of revitalizing our downtown,” said Mayor Joseph Peterson. “The professional and technical resources we now have available to us are phenomenal.”

Wescott believes the program will not only help the DDA, but everyone in the community.

“By utilizing the Main Street four-point approach to tackle the complex issues of revitalization, capitalizing on a downtown’s history and identifying the unique assets of the community,” he said, “we have given ourselves an opportunity to systematically improve our community in a manner that is sustainable and responsive to the market.”

The Michigan Main Street Associate program is part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s initiative to create vibrant communities in the state.

The Michigan program is a local affiliation of a nationwide main street organization.

Other communities designated this year are Buchanan, Hamtramck, Hart, Lansing’s west side, Pentwater and Wayland.