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'Wagon Wheel open to serve'

Downtown Authority sets goals for next decade

September 15, 2010 - "Whiskey's and Wagon Wheel open to serve," "Ehman Center lofts full," "Skateboard park expansion coming soon," and "Parking problems solved."

During meetings this past spring, community members and business owners gathered to create a gigantic Lake Orion Review front page with DDA goals for headlines. Photo by Megan Collier (click for larger version)
Those were the headlines splashed across a giangantic edition of The Lake Orion Review, dated Feb. 12, 2020.

Lake Orion business owners and community members spent weeks gathering goals and ideas like those, eventually assembling the Downtown Development Authority's (DDA) strategic plan for the next ten years.

The agenda includes connecting downtown to the Paint Creek Trail, working out parking management strategies, creating events and new entertainment venues, reinforcing current businesses and creating more retail space downtown, protecting historic buildings and finding new uses for vacant or underutilized historic resources and continue to foster new partnerships and new revenue sources.

"These are long-term goals which will take upwards of ten years or more to accomplish," says the strategic plan. "…The plan acknowledges that strategies are needed to begin work on all of these ambitious goals."

Parking downtown has been a hot topic, according to officials, though both DDA Executive Director Suzanne Perreault and DDA Board Chair Gene Carlson say there isn't a big lack of parking availability.

"We have a perceived parking problem downtown," said Carlson. "People don't know where to park."

In the near future, he and Perreault say better signage for parking lots could be up, and they'll continue to look for other locations where surface parking is available.

But, Perreault says they want to continue looking for an idea "that would be really bold and ease the situation."

The director says, above all, the budget will play a large role in deciding which projects to pursue since much of the DDA's funds will go toward paying back the loan for the streetscape and Children's Park renovations.

Any project that the DDA can start, work on and finish without costing an arm and a leg will be right up her alley, like connecting Paint Creek Trail with downtown.

"The first part of that is a trail extension project through Lake Orion Lumber property," she said. "That will be done in a couple of months – we're ready to go."

According to Perrault, the DDA has money budgeted for it, the design concept will be presented to the board, and the owners of Lake Orion Lumber are donating the property.

"So we started it, worked on it, and now we're going to finish it, and then we're going to do something else. I like that a lot," Perreault said.

Carlson says he puts weight on protecting historic buildings.

"I like historic properties myself and I want to protect all the historic buildings we have here and get people to keep their building looking good and in that historical character," he said, noting the DDA wants to help owners with grant money and get Lake Orion "looking like it did in its heyday."

"The last thing we want to do is have somebody bulldoze an old building," said Carlson.

Both Carlson and Perreault agree that a safe pedestrian crossing from downtown across M-24 is a weighty and important goal.

"The pedestrian underpass that we've talked about is still on the table. The biggest thing is going to be to try find funding for it," Perreault said, adding, "Dragon on the Lake is such a great event. What can the DDA do with infrastructure to make it better? What if there was a great way to get to Green's Park without having to go all the way down to Flint Street?"

Any safe walk would be better than playing Frogger on M-24, joked Carlson.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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