EastpointeJuly 5, 2012
‘Sense of community’ helps sell Eastpointe to businesses
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
While cities everywhere continue to struggle — in many places, home values haven’t stopped declining and revenues are still down — one eastside town has seen a positive shift in development.
Building projects, remodels and new businesses are popping up all around Eastpointe.
The numbers have come as a pleasant surprise to City Manager Steve Duchane.
“If you walked up to someone and asked what the level of business was, I don’t think anyone would give you that kind of feel with the numbers we are seeing,” he said after viewing a report Building and Development Director Mary Van Haaren filed last month.
In her report, Van Haaren lists multiple construction projects, development plans and new business licenses — naming several commercial projects in the planning phase for construction this year, four commercial projects currently under construction and 10 new business licenses.
Plans for renovations and construction have been submitted by Burger King, Michigan First Credit Union, Action Impact, Little Italy, A-1 Fabrication, Winters Sausage, a medical building and a gas station; and construction is already under way at Legends, All Seasons Restaurant, Friends Soul Food and Overstock Retail Store.
In addition to all that development are the 10 new businesses set to open in the city this month alone: Lifestyle Fitness, Simply Storage, Detroit Kustoms and Shannon Auto Clinic, Bread Basket Deli, Black and White Look Optical, Ventimiglia Enterprises, Nail and Spa Studio, Emporium of Hair, Cocoa’s Cutie Closet Hair and Nail Salon and Sweet Pieces candy shop.
Duchane believes redefining the relationship cities have with businesses is key to development and growth.
“My attitude is, we are here to help you do what you want to do, not just tell you what you can’t do — ‘can’t do’ comes along with it because communities have regulations,” he said. “We have a role and purpose. It’s an interesting balance you have to achieve.”
He explained that part of that balance is keeping the community looking nice but also working with businesses. He used the example of an auto shop parking customer cars on side streets.
“We can’t let them do that because we have to protect the residents’ interests, but we also have to ask them what we can do for them to help them succeed — what they need from us to continue business here — so we can create an arrangement that’s mutually beneficial for the community and the business.”
Along with new businesses and construction projects comes revenue. In her report, Van Haaren compared revenues from 2011 and 2012.
From January to the end of May 2012, the city has brought in $92,330 in permit fees, while in that same period last year the city brought in $78,346. In rental fees during that same period, revenues increased from $90,353 in 2011 to $102,544 in 2012.
The most striking increase comes under “miscellaneous fees.” Miscellaneous fees, which Van Haaren described as small non-building permits, charges for variances and building accessory permits, increased by more than $100,000, going from $10,126 from January to May 2011 to $120,722 from January to May 2012.
For a city with a $20.7 million annual budget, that’s not enough to offset financial difficulties that still linger, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
“I wouldn’t call it a boom, but it’s certainly positive,” Duchane said. “It was a very good report, and I was very pleased with it.”
He went on to say the he, and the city as a whole, welcomes new businesses and development, and both the elected officials and city employees work diligently to make it as easy as possible to start a business in the city.
And according to a least one new business owner, that’s just not a bunch of lip service.
Andrea Robinson, owner of Bourbon Street Gumbo Co. on Gratiot Avenue, said she initially chose to open her restaurant in Eastpointe because of the warm, friendly vibe she got from the town. She knew for certain it was the right decision when the local chamber and City Hall stepped up to show their support.
“There really is a warm sense of community and family here,” she said. “The city has been very helpful and so has the Chamber of Commerce — they both have been very supportive of the restaurant.”
Bourbon Street has done so well in Eastpointe since it opened last year, that Robinson is planning on opening a second location in Mount Clemens.
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