Downtown Mount Clemens improvements discussed

Commission extends state of emergency

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 19, 2020


MOUNT CLEMENS — The extension of a local state of emergency, and some ideas about downtown improvements, highlighted a recent Mount Clemens City Commission meeting.

On June 15, the commission approved the extension of the local state of emergency declaration for 90 days. Commissioner Denise Mentzer cast the lone no vote.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, a state of emergency was declared in Mount Clemens March 16. That order was extended by the City Commission March 23 and would’ve expired June 21.

“While the outbreak has stabilized in Michigan and we are in the process of reopening closed facilities, the emergency is by no means over,” City Manager Don Johnson said. “If the outbreak should spike, we might want to close up again.”

The emergency is extended for 90 days, until Sept. 19, or until a declaration of the commission or mayor that the state of emergency has ended.

Mayor Laura Kropp said if the governor ends the emergency order for the state, Mount Clemens will also end the local declaration.

On May 22, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, declared a renewed state of emergency, with immediate effect, regarding the coronavirus. This state of emergency authorized maximum efforts and assistance to local governments and officials to attempt to contain and slow the virus spread.

Michigan’s state of emergency regarding COVID-19 was set to expire June 19, after press time.

Mount Clemens opened City Hall June 15 after it had been closed for several months.

Johnson believes Mount Clemens continues to be impacted by — and the public health, safety and welfare of its residents and visitors is still threatened by — the coronavirus.

June 15 statistics from the Macomb County Health Department show 165 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Mount Clemens.

Also at the meeting, information regarding downtown improvements was relayed to the commission.

The meeting agenda packet states that the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority and city staff are proposing several small improvements for downtown, aimed at promoting outdoor dining and creating parklike spaces downtown.

“Outdoor dining is not just a benefit for the restaurants,” Mount Clemens Community Development Director Brian Tingley wrote in a letter to the commission. “It creates an ambiance which draws people downtown.”

He said people like to shop, but they are often looking for something more than just another store.

“They want to be entertained,” Tingley said. “They want to find unusual items they can’t buy on Amazon.”

He highlighted the Cherry Street Mall, located west of Main Street, with street-side patios, bistro tables, shade sails, sidewalk cafes, and public pianos.

The city is proposing to remove old benches and rotting wooden tables from the mall, removing two treeless tree rings, replacing some of the concrete and filling the area with brightly colored portable bistro tables and chairs.

For streets-side patios, the thought is for the city to allow the DDA to construct two street-side patios in four parallel parking spaces on Walnut Street in front of Gumbo’s and Your Mothers.

The commission approved four parking spaces on Walnut Street to be designated to the DDA for use of patios for outdoor dining.

When it comes to sidewalk cafes, Tingley indicated the department wants to actively encourage them. He said there are three in the city now.

Additionally, city administrators are monitoring state legislation that would give municipalities the ability to designate “social drinking districts” and provide a common area where approved liquor license holders could sell to patrons. Currently, Class A license holders are not allowed to share outdoor space.

Many of the proposed developments must be approved by the DDA for funding. The proposed funding source is the budget for events cancelled due to COVID-19.