Source: Sherman Publications

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Downtown scores perfect 10 for national accreditation

by CJ Carnacchio

February 29, 2012

Once again, downtown Oxford earned enough points to retain its status as a Nationally Accredited Main Street community.

"Being a nationally accredited community could mean the difference between a developer choosing us over a community that's very similar, but not nationally accredited," said Madonna Van Fossen, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). "It doesn't bring you any more money or anything like that, but more often than not (developers) go with the accredited Main Street community."

Oxford scored a perfect 10 out of 10 during its annual year-end assessment conducted Feb. 21 by representatives from the Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) program.

"It shows a strong sense of community," Van Fossen said. "It demonstrates that all entities of the government are working together along with the business owners and the residents."

MSOC is an economic development program specifically targeted to provide technical assistance to traditional downtowns throughout the county.

The county's recommendation that Oxford be reaccredited won't become official until it's approved by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), which created the Main Street program/concept in 1980.

Evaluation points are awarded for criteria such as the level of community support; vision/mission statement; DDA committee work plans; historic preservation efforts; activity level of board and committee members; adequate budget; having a paid DDA director; on-going training program for the DDA board and volunteers; accurate reporting of key statistics; and membership in the NTHP Main Street program.

"It shows you're familiar with and take advantage of the resources that are available," Van Fossen said. "You're a step above (the rest) as far as trying to keep everything organized, spending your (Tax Increment Financing) dollars wisely and representing your community."

Being an accredited Main Street community gives Oxford's downtown businesses access to a variety of valuable resources through the county. "Businesses can have marketing studies done for little or no cost," Van Fossen said. "They can get maps printed out. They can get demographic information. There's a lot of things at their disposal."

For example, Van Fossen noted five businesses in downtown Oxford took advantage of these available services to redesign their facades. "There was no charge to them whereas if they had to go out and hire someone to actually to do a drawing, it would be a big fee," she said.

Oxford's been an official Main Street Community since 2004. Currently, there are 11 Main Street communities in Oakland County.