The Village in Grosse Pointe City is one of only two downtowns selected this year for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Main Street program.

The Village in Grosse Pointe City is one of only two downtowns selected this year for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Main Street program.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


Michigan Main Street is making its way to the Village

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 23, 2020

GROSSE POINTE CITY — The local business community is getting some good news at a time when it could use it the most.

On June 17, Grosse Pointe City officials announced that the Village business district had been selected by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for its prestigious Michigan Main Street program. The City’s was one of only two downtowns chosen this year — the other being the North End neighborhood in Detroit.

Becoming a Michigan Main Street means that the Village will get five years of technical aid from the MEDC, including guidance on how to attract new businesses and residents, add jobs, and revitalize the district.

“The four-point Main Street approach to revitalizing downtowns is needed even more now than when we applied last December, as businesses are struggling to survive the COVID-19 crisis,” Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said in a press release. “It will be great to have staff dedicated to coordinating the Main Street program for the Village.”

Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak said getting into the Main Street program is something she and other City officials have been working on for roughly the last 2 1/2 years.

“Everybody knew we needed to do something about the Village, but nobody knew what … because we don’t have that kind of expertise,” she said. “This has really been a long time in the making.”

Tomkowiak said Main Street has a proven methodology that revolves around promotion, design, economic vitality and organization.

“A good part of this is place-making and giving the district a personality,” she said.

Under Main Street, Tomkowiak said the existing Downtown Development Authority Board will be doing business as the Grosse Pointe Main Street Program, and it will have committees and additional responsibilities.

“We have new bylaws that have been drafted,” Tomkowiak said.

She said she anticipated that the new bylaws would be approved at the DDA’s next meeting, which was slated at press time to take place July 6.

The typical Main Street program budget is $150,000 to $190,000, which includes roughly $50,000 for a full-time executive director for the City’s program, said Leigh Young, a Main Street specialist with the MEDC, during a June 17, 2019, City Council meeting. Funds can’t just come from tax increment financing dollars; she said there needs to be buy-in from the stakeholders — the City, businesses and the community.

A city often contributes $20,000 to $50,000 toward the total budget, but not necessarily in dollars — it might be in paying for access to city benefits and the like, Young said. She said many member communities offer façade grants to businesses; for example, a city might give $5,000 to $10,000 to businesses that are willing to redo their facades. Young said the City doesn’t need to have the funds on hand, but it does need to create a fundraising plan.

At a council meeting in November, Dame explained that the Michigan Main Street program prefers to see funding coming from a mix of private and public donations from the City, the Downtown Development Authority, businesses and individuals.

“There’s a lot of fundraising that we have to do,” Tomkowiak said.

When City leaders were working on their Main Street application, Tomkowiak said they received “wonderful support” from all of the other Grosse Pointes. The neighboring cities recognize that a more vibrant Village will spill over into greater vitality in their business districts, as well.

“It will really be good for the whole area,” Tomkowiak said.

The MEDC said it’s currently working with 23 other downtowns, in addition to the Village and the North End in Detroit. These include Boyne City, Charlevoix, Howell, Lapeer, Sault Ste. Marie and Wayne. To qualify, Tomkowiak said, a downtown needs to be at least 50 years old. Historical preservation is one of the aspects of Michigan Main Street, and Tomkowiak said that fits in well in the Grosse Pointes, where history is valued.

“Developing downtowns and commercial districts is essential in building a tax base, raising property values and putting people to work,” MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Michele Wildman said in a press release. “Programs like Michigan Main Street provide communities with the tools needed to create jobs, provide desirable places to live and build a sense of place for Michigan residents.”

In the past year alone, the MEDC said Main Street communities have attracted more than $19 million in private investment and have seen the launch of 109 new businesses. Between 2003 and 2019, Michigan Main Street downtowns have seen overall public investment of more than $99 million and private investment of $306 million, as well as the opening of 1,408 new businesses.

Tomkowiak said they hope to hire an executive director by this fall.

Volunteers will also be needed for Grosse Pointe Main Street committees and events. Tomkowiak said they’ve already gotten applications for some committees, but more are needed. Committee members and event volunteers don’t need to live in the City or have ties to Village businesses or properties, she said.

“Volunteer. We’ll be happy to have you,” Tomkowiak said. “Main Street really believes in strong community involvement and fostering a sense of place and a sense of community.”

To volunteer for a committee or find out more about other volunteer opportunities, send an email to MainStreetGrossePointe@gmail.com.