Experienced downtown professional chosen to lead Main Street Grosse Pointe

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 13, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — Main Street Grosse Pointe has selected a leader who will work with Village and Grosse Pointe City officials to improve and market the downtown shopping district.

On March 1, the Main Street Grosse Pointe Board — which also serves as the City’s Downtown Development Authority — selected Cindy Willcock as Main Street Grosse Pointe’s first executive director. The Village was chosen for the Michigan Main Street program last June. Willcock holds certification in Community Transformation and Leadership Development from the Main Street America Institute. While she was deputy director of the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority from August 2008 to October 2019, Ferndale was honored with the Great American Main Street award.

“The board is excited that Cindy will be filling the role of Main Street executive director in Grosse Pointe,” Main Street Grosse Pointe Board Chair Kasey Malley said in a press release. “As the deputy director for the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority, Cindy played an integral role in moving the needle on the revitalization of that district.”

Willcock lives in Pleasant Ridge but has ties to the area: Her great-grandmother lived in the Pointes, her sister lives in the portion of Harper Woods where students attend Grosse Pointe public schools and she has friends in the Pointes.

“I don’t have any desire to change things,” said Willcock, who added that she already loves the Village. “It’s just got such good history and good bones. I want to let (the broader community) know about this really vibrant, fun downtown with a really interesting mix of businesses. … There’s so much that’s happening right and that’s good in this town. We don’t want to change what makes the Village the Village. We just want to make it better and help it grow strategically.”

As an outsider, Willcock knows that too many non-eastsiders don’t know about the Village. They don’t even realize there are five separate Grosse Pointes.

“They think all of the Grosse Pointes are the same,” Willcock said.

Building greater awareness of the Village will increase revenue for businesses and make the district even more attractive than it already is for new businesses.

Willcock said it’s not just her vision they’re bringing to the table — it’s also the vision and ideas of the Main Street board, business and City leaders, and local residents. She said that good downtowns need to have strong grassroots support to attract the kind of businesses they want. Willcock said she plans to work with all of the stakeholders — including Village property owners, officials and residents — to help businesses “not only survive, but hopefully thrive.” Creating programs and events to draw visitors to the district is also on Willcock’s radar.

Experts from Michigan Main Street and the National Main Street Center will be working in the coming weeks with Main Street Grosse Pointe on a community transformation identification strategy that will provide a framework for efforts to improve the Village. As part of this process, Village officials said there will be meetings with stakeholders in March and a virtual community visioning meeting in April. Dates for those sessions hadn’t been set as of press time.

“We are pleased to have found such an experienced professional who will help us execute the Main Street plan,” Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak, who also served on the executive committee that searched for the executive director, said in a press release. “This is the first time we have had a full-time professional dedicated to the Village. We are confident Cindy will work well with property and business owners, the City and the larger Grosse Pointe community to create a renewed vitality in the district.”