January 11, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Recruiting new businesses and finding places for their customers to park.
If Suzanne Perreault, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), has her way these will be the two overarching objectives that drive the budgeting process just getting started for the next fiscal year, July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013.
"The village council has to approve this, but I would like as many of our budgeted projects as possible tie into these goals," she said.
With limited resources, the DDA is taking a practical approach to the parking situation downtown.
"We'll be developing a few parking areas at a time, " Perreault explained. "We just don't have the money right now to demolish a building and add a parking lot right now."
One such space for new parking is located behind the Auto Zone on Lapeer Road, which also backs up to the Verwood Apartments downtown. The DDA plans to investigate the feasibility of turning this area into public parking spaces, looking at the drainage, utilities and existing trees that would have to be removed.
A possible location for additional on-street parking can be found near the former Whiskey's property on Front Street, Perreault said. She also wants to renew the lease for 18 downtown parking spots in a lot behind Broadway Records. It expires in April.
"This is a high priority with the new brewery opening up across the street," Perreault said.
The executive director also hopes to reintroduce the DDA's Facade Grant Program downtown. This includes a 50-50 match from the DDA, from $500 up to $20,000, to help businesses spruce up their storefronts, including facade rennovations and/or new signage primarily to downtown historic buildings.
Later this spring, the DDA will be hosting another property tour on May 1, Perreault said, noting last fall's event designed to help lure new businesses attracted significant interest.
"It basically will be another open house among property owners," she said. "We want to give new prospects an idea of what's available."
Other winter and spring DDA projects include moving forward on extending the Paint Creek Trail through the Lake Orion Lumber property. Perreault said she is working on an easement agreement with the business and securing construction bids.
"We secured a bid already, but it was high," she said. "We want the trail usuable, but it has to be affordable."
The plan is to have the trail extension completed by June. Perreault hopes it entices people using the trail to visit downtown.
Planning also is underway for the community's downtown Flower Fair, scheduled for June 2-3. The DDA hopes to attract more people this year. Last year's event was dampened by rain and the StreetScape construction.
Changes also are coming to the downtown hanging flower basket program. Perreault said she wants to put together a sponsorship package for businesses, which will include a flower basket, watering services and a welcome banner.
In addition, the DDA is busy planning this summer's gazeboo concert series and partnering with the U.S. Senior Open organizers to develop plans for attracting visitors downtown during the professional golf event in July.