July 23, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
When looking at photos from earlier times in downtown Lake Orion one thing is evident: people are out and about on foot.
That is the goal of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) design team: to bring more people back into the streets, sidewalks, alleyways and ultimately the businesses by creating a more cohesive community.
DDA Director Suzanne Perrault along with the design committee approved five place-making projects at their board meeting on July 9 to entice people to cover more ground while in Lake
Projects include building an on-street bike corral, improving the alleyway between Salon U and Vignettes, Painted Furniture and Eclectic Home Décor, sidewalk poetry, street art and new way-finding signage.
In order for any of these projects to take shape village council must approve them first. DDA officials are presenting their ideas for approval at the council meeting on July 28.
Place-making is creating a sense of place for community involvement.
"It takes years to do a streetscape project. It takes a couple weeks to put these projects in place," Perrault said. "These are visible things that are fun and get people excited about being downtown."
Perrault expects the projects to cost no more than a few thousand dollars, and is working on locating possible grants and/or businesses willing to donate to the cause.
The bike corral would be temporary installed between the months of April and November. The odd parking space by CJ's Lakeside Grill would be the home of the corral on the south side of W. Flint St. between the alley and the Sagebrush parking lot entrance. The 10-bike corral would take the place of one vehicle parking spot and would allow bikers from as far as Shelby Township to more conveniently lock up their rides.
Not many people utilize the alley parallel to Broadway St. behind The Lake Orion Review office, Hamsa Yoga, The Angel, the Witch and the Old Crow, Tattoo Noveau, Oakland Regional Ballet, and Prime Time Comics and Cards.
"You've got Lockharts BBQ coming in and the village hall moving so that opens up more parking behind there and you want to encourage people to get out to the street," Perrault said.
Improvement concepts include stringing lights between the alley walls, a possible public art project, and trees and planters to make the path more inviting and walkable.
Private property owners own most of the alley and the DDA needs to continue working with them for this project to be possible, Perrault noted.
Poetry in motion
As the village replaces sidewalk throughout the community the DDA would like to imprint snippets of poems into fresh laid concrete to create sidewalk poetry.
"Sidewalk poetry is a really weird, quirky thing but I love it," Perrault said.
The DDA will be working with the Orion Township Public Library to select the poems. One possible idea is to build a mold and stamp the lines into the cement.
An upcoming sidewalk reconstruction will be near Florence St., Perrault said, where a Dr. Seuss line such as "Oh the places you will go," would be appropriate for school children going to Blanche Sims Elementary.
The DDA will be repainting the wall around the newest parking lot built earlier this year at the site of the old Whiskey's Steakhouse and is reaching out to local artists for help.
If the DDA's projects are approved they will seek artists to paint a ten-by-five foot mural on a section of the wall encompassing the parking spaces.
Thoughts of also painting the village's dragon logo have also been tossed around.
This project will add to the DDA's goal to install more public art in the downtown.
Later this year the DDA will be developing a large-scale way-finding signage system, but in the mean time wants to promote downtown access.
For example, the Paint Creek Trail ends at Atwater Commons behind the CVS parking lot on M24 but little signage points to where downtown Lake Orion is.
"If that was your first time on the trail and you had never been to Lake Orion before you might think 'where do I go now', and probably just turn around," she said. "Even if there was just signage that said downtown is just a hop, skip, and a jump away then we're sending more people downtown."
It is estimated that nearly 100,000 people use the Paint Creek Trail every year, which extends from Rochester to the Village of Lake Orion, according to the Paint Creek Trailways Commission.
Helpful signage is also being considered for other popular downtown attractions such as Green's Park.
Perrault said these are just five little ideas that give way to bigger projects the DDA is undertaking, including the more extensive signage system and also the goal to connect the Paint Creek Trail to the Polly Ann Trail.
Several years ago the Aspen Group donated funds to extend the Paint Creek Trail to Atwater Commons, and now it is up to the local municipalities to finish the extension, according to Trail Manager Kristen Myers.
"There would have to be some purchase of property or easement acquirement," she said. "We would like to have an official access point for people on the trail to get to the shops or restaurants. Then as it goes through the village it could eventually go into Orion Township to the Polly Ann Trail. That's our ultimate goal."
Eventually, Myers said, a path could be extended all the way to Burdick St. in downtown Oxford on the east side of M24. Oxford Township has begun researching possible grants and would need to purchase easements along the old railroad right-of-way for their preferred route.
A public hearing has been scheduled August 6 at the Orion Art Center for anyone interested in voicing their opinions on possible connection routes. So far the commission has discussed four possible routes.