Resource team discusses improvements for downtown

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published September 25, 2013

CLAWSON — After three days spent conducting 83 interviews, and nearly four months putting together a report, the national Main Street Resource Team held a presentation Sept. 18 highlighting what the city has done right in its downtown and the steps it could take to improve the area.

The experts, from the National Main Street Center, looked at four points: the organization of the Downtown Development Authority, the downtown’s design, its promotions and economic restructuring.

Kathy La Plante, a member of the National Main Street Center who spoke at the presentation, said Clawson had a head start in improving its downtown well before joining the Main Street program two years ago.

“You’ve already had some significant re-investments happen in your downtown, and I know you want to see even more,” La Plante said. “That’s what’s going to happen in the future.”

She, along with Bob Donohue and Alex Hritcu, both planners from Main Street Oakland County, lauded the work of DDA Director Joan Horton, the DDA’s website and the organization’s use of social media as a means to communicate with the public. Hritcu said despite the initial naysayers, the city’s streetscape project along Main and 14 Mile Road has paid off.

“I think it has started to really build some business and investment confidence,” Hritcu said.

La Plante also said the annual events like Downtown Block Party and the Down on Main Car Show are a great way for people to see the improvements downtown.

At the same time, she said despite the influx of people they bring to downtown, the events haven’t meant more customers for the businesses in the DDA.

“Sometimes businesses downtown don’t like those events,” she said. “Traffic is blocked off, and they might suffer losses.”

La Plante suggested Clawson consider hosting a restaurant week or a restaurant crawl.

“It really is about raising the awareness of the district and the individual businesses,” she said.

Another factor that could bring more money to DDA businesses is moving the farmers market from the City Park to downtown.

“Most farmers markets are in downtowns,” La Plante said. “It is part of having community activities in the center to get people going to shops downtown.”

Donohue concluded the meeting by saying Clawson has a bright future and encouraged the city to embrace its historical structures, from buildings constructed in the 1920s to ones built in the middle of the century, like the structure along Main Street housing PNC Bank.

“Your community expanded significantly in the 1950s,” Donohue said. “Embrace the 1950 modernism in downtown Clawson.”