Kropp touts city on the rise

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published October 25, 2023

 Upgrades to downtown infrastructure were mentioned in the 2023 State of Mount Clemens speech at the Emerald Theater.

Upgrades to downtown infrastructure were mentioned in the 2023 State of Mount Clemens speech at the Emerald Theater.

Photo by Dean Vaglia


MOUNT CLEMENS — On Sept. 29 at the Emerald Theater, Mayor Laura Kropp took the stage to give a forward-looking 2023 State of Mount Clemens address. Over the course of nearly an hour, the mayor recounted the past year of developments, ultimately arguing Mount Clemens is a city on the rise.

“From the days of the mineral baths and roses, becoming a hub for arts and nightlife, Mount Clemens has always written a different kind of story,” Kropp said. “It’s not the kind of story that sells a million copies or you find on a waiting room coffee table. It’s a rare limited-print collectible that you’ll be lucky to find in the back room of a vintage bookstore. Its early chapters seize your attention, and its spine is cracked from centuries of a life well lived, but its coming chapters remain blank — primed with potential and are being written as we speak.”

The biggest issue coming into 2023 was the fate of Mount Clemens’ water system, though a message from Lansing and the revelation of an instinct bonding capability meant joining the Great Lakes Water Authority was the only viable option. What remained to be seen was how the city would find the funds to bring its system into the GLWA.

“In 2023 the city applied for a Drinking Water State Revolving Funding loan in the amount $42,713,400 to complete the project,” Kropp said. “Knowing this number would be impossible for the Mount Clemens drinking water customers to fund, we hoped that we would qualify for a principal forgiveness grant. We are ecstatic to announce that not only did we receive the low-interest loan for the entire project, but we also received $20 million in principal forgiveness grants from the state of Michigan.”

In all the city received over $39 million in grants and appropriation funds during 2023, including $5 million from the state to demolish the old Victory Inn motel to build market-rate apartments. The site is being developed by Jim George under the name Manchester Mt. Clemens, LLC and is set to double the number of residents in the city’s core.

Changes to the city are not limited to below and above the ground, but are happening at ground level, too. A $5.2 million reconstruction of Cherry Street, Macomb Place and the New Street parking lot will begin in spring 2024.

“For many years we have needed to give a fresh makeover to what downtown looked like,” Kropp said. “Currently, when visitors walk these streets, they are met with coal patches on the sidewalks, crumbling curbs and bumpy roads. We believe this transformation will be a project that will increase traffic to our downtown and really showcase the heart of downtown.”

Much of what brings people downtown can be attributed to the city’s Downtown Development Authority, and Kropp gave the DDA time to shine. Highlights of the DDA include its ongoing facade grant program, its holidays lights program and the numerous events it puts on and supports. New for 2023 was a DDA-supported Juneteenth event at Macomb Place, which occurred alongside celebrations at the Cairns Community Center.

The city and DDA were joined by the Mount Clemens Public Library at the address with Kropp handing the stage over to library director Brandon Bowman for an update on the renovated building and its services. Much of what the library has done and plans to do aims to make it more accessible. Bowman said there are plans to have satellite collections around the city, and the library currently operates on-the-go and pop-up libraries as well as after-hours lockers to pick up reserved books while it is closed.

Libraries are not just places for books but skills development as well, as Bowman highlighted the library’s tech lab.

“One of the shining stars at our library, it has the capability of doing 3D printing and we’re starting to do classes to teach people how to use that to start their own business,” Bowman said.

The tech lab also has a laser cutter and a green screen, the former for cutting objects and the latter for video production. A maker space is also at the library, allowing visitors to rent tools and create using provided materials and equipment. Classes will be used to help visitors get the most out of the maker space.

Books, reading and research remain a key part of the library’s services, and Bowman says reading programs are in place to help Mount Clemens children read at their grade level.

“Libraries are more necessary now than they ever have been,” Bowman said. “As we go through times of economic hardship, they become even more important, and libraries in Mount Clemens are even more necessary.”

Concluding the address, Kropp argued the support the city has received from businesses and government is a sign that Mount Clemens is not only a city to invest in, but one that will deliver on investments.

“I’m so proud of all the planning and execution that has taken place in order to bring these dollars to Mount Clemens,” Kropp said. “We have formulated a plan. The team is assembled. We are moving Mount Clemens forward together.”