By Jenny Johnson –
The city got good news from Lansing. Gov. Rick Snyder announced three communities were selected to Select Level of the Michigan Main Street program.
In addition to Wayne the cities of Three Rivers and Grayling were also chosen by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). There are 18 communities in Michigan that are at the Select or Master level.
As part of the Select Level of Michigan Main Street, these three communities will receive five years of intensive technical assistance, with a focus on revitalization strategies designed to attract new residents, business investment, economic growth and job creation to their central business districts.
“The Michigan Main Street program will help these three communities create opportunities for redevelopment, placemaking and economic growth just as it has in downtowns throughout Michigan for the past 10 years,” Snyder said. “Vibrant communities and downtowns are critical as we look to attract new investment, help local businesses grow and retain and attract the talent that is needed to reinvent Michigan.”
The underlying premise of Main Street encourages community economic development in four areas:
Organization: Getting everyone working toward the same goal and assembling the resources to implement a Main Street revitalization program.
Promotion: Selling a positive image of the commercial district and encouraging people to live, work, shop, play and invest in the Main Street district.
Design: Getting the downtown into top shape, capitalizing on its best assets, such as historic buildings and pedestrian-oriented streets.
Economic restructuring: Strengthening a community’s existing economic assets while expanding and diversifying its economic base.
“This is such great news for the City of Wayne and we are ecstatic to learn that the city was chosen. I want to thank the Ripple Effect for all of their hard work and efforts over the past three years to make this possible,” concluded Mayor Al Haidous.
Wayne is the first Select Main Street Community in Wayne County and the only urban community selected to date.
“I believe in the City of Wayne. But I also realize that my hometown has a bit of an image problem, which has led to its decline during the last couple decades. Both as a result of poor planning and economic conditions beyond our control, the city has certainly endured its share of struggles and continues to do so today,” said Wayne Resident and Rouge River advocate Kurt Kuban. “Despite our challenges, however, I think the city is poised for a great comeback, and is in fact already taking big steps in that direction. We have all the right ingredients in place, beginning with a rich history that dates back to the early 1800s, and residents who are as loyal as they come.”
It has been three years of hard work by the Wayne Ripple Effect, the non-profit group of volunteers who worked hard to make this happen.
Since 2011 the Wayne Ripple Effect has spearheaded downtown spring clean-up days, spring flower planting and the annual scarecrow display. With the help and support of Main Street, they will now be able to expand in the downtown area to other projects.
Representatives from the Michigan Main Street Center will visit Wayne March 25-27 and do a Baseline Assessment. They will tour the downtown area, meet with Wayne Ripple Effect and committee members. They will also meet with downtown business and property owners and city officials and other community stakeholders.
After receiving everyone’s input they will outline the priorities and help develop a plan for the downtown.
The WRE board, along with the help from the Michigan Main Street Center, will also hire a Main Street Manager by May so they can go to the national Main Street Convention in Detroit.
They are in the process of developing a job description and posting the job. The Main Street Manager will carry out the goals from the baseline assessment.
Fundraising is also on-going. They Wayne Ripple Effect is seeking grants from foundations, financial or in-kind donations from local businesses and financial support from current and former residents. Main Street is a five-year program and it will cost $60,000 per year to operate the program successfully. Donations can be made at www.wayne500.com
What can Main Street do for Wayne?
The tools that will be available from the Main Street Center will be able to help Wayne make the changes they need to reinvent the city.
“The City of Wayne’s business owners need help learning how to grow their businesses while vacant building owners need to be taught how they can remodel or improve their facilities to make them more attractive and functional for a new enterprise,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jim Hawley.
They will help with a market study to help the businesses, administration and residents understand the market for the commercial district. With that knowledge they will be able to create opportunities for more business development.
The goal is to draw retail businesses like destination restaurants, unique retail and specialty shops. Attracting more businesses will also make it possible to bring more jobs to Wayne.
“The City of Wayne is ripe for some entrepreneurs to build some great restaurants. This town is ripe for a new beginning!” said Sandy Dorda, Wayne Resident.
Another way Main Street can help is by helping the city’s stakeholders understand the process of community initiated commercial real estate development.
Wayne has several empty buildings and lots that have been vacant for years. For Wayne to succeed it is imperative that the vacant lots be developed and the vacant properties be rehabbed, presenters told the Main Street committee during their presentation in Lansing.
They told the board they needed training to understand redevelopment models to bring downtown Wayne to its full potential.
“I believe a Main Street designation will indicate to potential businesses that Wayne has a solid core and has a lot of upside. This town could be a great bargain by opening a business on the ground floor, so to speak. I think Wayne could be a great opportunity to start a business. Get in now while the getting’ is good, “ said Wayne resident Ron Roberts in part of the Main Street presentation.
Main Street can also be helpful with existing businesses by providing training for retailers to help improve their stores and the look of the downtown.
The design services offered by Main Street will help improve display windows, façade and other exterior features of downtown buildings.
“Having a professional design house assist in the revitalization of our downtown, would provide us with an outsiders view as to what is needed to catch the eye of those visitors to our city,” said Councilwoman Susan Rowe.
“It would be very valuable to Wayne to give a fresh and updated look to our historic city. We are old and that is the beauty but could use a face lift to attract new business,” said Anna Petrou, owner Wayne Dairy Queen.
The Main Street program will help Wayne carve out its own identity and unique image to let surrounding communities and passing traffic know what is so special about downtown Wayne.
“The Main Street training has a track record in past years of helping cities achieve success beyond their expectations,” said Pat Rice, Wayne Ripple Effect president.
Excerpts from the Main Street presentation
You’ve heard why Wayne needs Main Street. You’ve seen pictures of our town from the distant past when Wayne was the place to be. You’ve seen pictures of our recent past when even in the good times commercial development of our downtown passed us by. We believe that Wayne has something unique to offer its citizens and the citizens of surrounding communities. Today more than ever people are looking for a place to live and shop that evokes that feeling of nostalgia and offers the conveniences of the 21st century in a walkable community lifestyle. Wayne has the nostalgia and a walkable downtown district.
Life-long Wayne resident and Superintendent of Wayne Westland Community Schools, Dr. Greg Baracy says, “Wayne has a significant and unique history that is worth preserving. A vibrant downtown that compliments a quality school district is the recipe for a true community renaissance”. We believe the Main Street program will be the catalyst for Wayne’s renaissance.
Wayne is a blue-collar community. Wayne is a place where generations of the same family reside, often just blocks from each other. Love for their community runs deep.
“My husband Bill grew up in Wayne, and I grew up all over Michigan, but never really connected with a hometown until I moved to Wayne. We’re a young couple that sees a lot of value and potential, and it was an important decision to start our life and our business here. Wayne is a tight-knit town, full of hidden gems and passionate people.
There are unique small businesses, excellent parks and trails, and events like the Farmer’s Market that bring the community together. We support the Main Street initiative, because it would help revitalize our town, and help the world see Wayne the way that we do.”
I am Jessi Shaffer and with my husband, Bill, own Warriors 3 Comics and Games in Downtown Wayne.
The biggest thing that the Main Street program can do for Wayne is to help the community realize they can have a vibrant downtown and that it is within their reach.
“Our whole town needs Main Street,” said Cindy Schofield, Wayne Ripple Effect member. “The good things that will happen in our downtown as a result of Main Street will ripple out creating waves of good things throughout our community. We believe we have a good start on changing the perception of what we deserve in our community.”