Downtown Ferndale sees more than $7M in investments in 2014

DDA counts 262 new jobs last year

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 5, 2015


FERNDALE — In 2013, the west side of Nine Mile Road in Ferndale saw numerous streetscape projects that helped extend the feel of the downtown district and contributed to the nearly $5 million in private- and public-sector investments in the district.

Last year, however, the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority and city officials concentrated away from West Nine Mile and saw the district register more than $7.6 million in investments, which includes restoration projects on East Nine Mile and new business space on Woodward Avenue, as well as 262 new jobs.

“This shows that the downtown is obviously still growing and there is still a lot of opportunity,” DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said. “Reinvestment into your own downtown from the private sector is always really a benchmark of where you stand in terms of downtown sustainability.”

While a majority of the 2013 downtown investments came from the streetscape project, in 2014, the investments were spread over several areas.

After years of saving, the city was able to complete a roughly $2 million restoration project on the 43rd District Court and the Ferndale Police Department building. The improvements included outside restoration to the courthouse as well as infrastructure and security improvements in both buildings along East Nine Mile.

The city also completed water main work along East Nine Mile in the fall that helped lay the groundwork for an even bigger investment in 2015, when improvements will be made to the road to make it safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Nearly all of the district’s 16,000 square feet of new commercial space came on Woodward, where two buildings were built on the west side of the avenue and now house businesses such as Jimmy Johns, Pizza Hut and Dickey’s BBQ.

“This is a true testament to why you do public investment for private reinvestment, as we saw years ago with Nine Mile as we started moving westward from Woodward,” Sheppard-Decius said. “The private investment is spurred by the growth in our downtown, and people want the opportunity to get in when the getting is good.”

The district also saw renovations from several businesses and the repurposing of old spaces. M-Brew opened in 2014 on Vester Avenue after transforming 6,500 square feet of space in an old Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, while Biggby Coffee moved into a vacant space on West Nine Mile Road.

With much of the focus in 2014 being away from the area that received investments in 2013, Sheppard-Decius said it provides a continuity that expands the district in every way.

“That continuity creates linkages for the rest of our community and our neighbors to the businesses that are part of the district that have maybe felt like not a part in the past,” she said. “They may have been on the outer edge and felt there was not enough in between to connect them to the action. By building that continuity, it builds a customer base to learn to utilize the whole district and experience new businesses they didn’t realize were there before.”

Mayor Dave Coulter said continuing to develop East Nine Mile and Woodward, along with West Nine Mile, was always the goal of the city and the DDA as they looked to attract more residents and businesses.

“East Nine Mile is an important part of our strategy in developing our downtown, and in the future we will see an increasing amount of activity there,” Coulter said. “I think the investments speak to Ferndale’s strength in continuing to be able to attract businesses, and we have been very fortunate to have a vacancy rate downtown that is very low.”

While 18 new businesses opened in 2014 and helped create the 262 new jobs, businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings, which was located on West Nine Mile Road, relocated to Royal Oak after closing its doors Feb. 22. Sheppard-Decius said the DDA has worked with the property owner of the now open space, and an announcement is expected soon on how it will be filled.

As the city and DDA look to the rest of 2015, officials hope to continue to grow and invest in the downtown district, which could include the possibility of adding parking structures. Either way, Sheppard-Decius said she wants to focus on filling any vacant space and making the area more accessible for everyone.

“The work that will be done on East Nine Mile will prepare the roads for all forms of transportation, and that is a great way to connect our businesses with the entire district,” she said. “There is some great stuff happening this next year with more of our businesses expanding and growing, and that just shows why it is good to do business in downtown Ferndale.”