On April 6, 2022, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced that eight communities around Michigan had been awarded a total of $160,000 in grants to support downtown enhancement and improvement projects via the state’s Main Street Vibrancy Grant Program.
“Vibrant downtown areas are critical to creating jobs, attracting new investments, and helping local businesses build a foundation for long-term success in Michigan,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“These grants will help communities in both peninsulas invest in their downtowns, developing unique places where people want to live, visit, work, and play. Small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy, and we must continue working together to help them thrive. Over the last couple of years, entrepreneurship has flourished in Michigan, with over 430,000 new businesses formed since January 2019. Together, we will continue investing in small businesses and helping towns and cities of all sizes build thriving downtowns,” she added.
Michigan’s revitalizing economy has added jobs for 10 straight months, including adding 172,000 jobs year over year, and has a low unemployment rate of 4.7% that has declined 10 months in a row.
The Main Street Vibrancy Grant Program provides grants of $20,000 to Select or Master level Michigan Main Street communities for projects that enhance the vibrancy and economic vitality of Michigan Main Street downtowns.
Projects could include pop-up shop programs, implementation of a marketing or advertising campaign, physical improvements such as new seating, seasonal infrastructure, signage, or art, and other transformative projects that help create a stronger sense of place and a more vibrant community.
Over the past year, Michigan Main Street communities generated more than $26.6 million in private investment, 127 new businesses and 143 façade and building improvements. Since its inception in 2003, the Michigan Main Street has been a catalyst for job growth, private investment and community engagement.
From 2003 through 2018, 1,622 new businesses have been launched, with a total public investment of more than $128.9 million and total private investment of $346 million. In addition, more than 810,704 volunteer hours recorded by Michigan Main Street communities in revitalizing downtowns across the state.
“These communities have all worked diligently to enhance the sense of place and vibrancy in their downtowns, engage residents and businesses, and drive economic growth,” said Michelle Parkkonen, Managing Director of Community Development Technical Assistance Programs at the MEDC.
“Today’s Vibrancy grants will help further strengthen the downtowns and commercial districts in these communities, helping their businesses grow while also building unique places that are attractive to residents and visitors,” she continued.
In June 2021, five Michigan communities were awarded a total of $100,000 in Main Street Vibrancy Grants to support downtown enhancement and improvement projects.
The Michigan Main Street Center supports local communities across Michigan as they implement the Main Street Four-Point Approach®, a community-driven, comprehensive strategy encouraging economic development through historic preservation in ways appropriate for the modern marketplace.
The program aims to create communities distinguished by a “sense of place.” The rationale is based on a range of studies that show investing in creating a sense of place is an integral part of developing vibrant city centers and downtowns, thereby making the state economically stronger and culturally diverse.
As part of the Select Level of Michigan Main Street, communities receive five years of intensive technical assistance from MEDC with a focus on revitalization strategies designed to attract new residents, business investments, economic growth and job creation to their central business districts.
After communities have completed the Select Level of the program, they can participate in the Master Level, a two-year commitment that includes additional training and networking and mentoring opportunities.
Here’s what the 2022 Main Street Vibrancy Grant winners say:
Grand Haven Main Street DDA
“The Michigan Main Street Vibrancy Grant funds will have such a large impact on the overall vibrancy and place making of our Main Street district. Our planned project is the creation of a Social Zone, complete with activities, yard games, live entertainment, and gathering space, right in the heart of our Downtown district,” said Grand Haven Main Street DDA Executive Director Jeremy Swiftney.
“We have painted barricades with beautiful murals to protect areas from vehicles, and plan to expand our beautiful flowers into the area as well. This will continue our positive impact to our vibrancy and place making of our district for all visitors and locals to enjoy! A HUGE thanks to Michigan Main Street for the opportunity this grant affords our community,” he added.
Main Street Grosse Pointe
“Main Street Grosse Pointe is honored to be a recipient of the Main Street Vibrancy Grant. As a newer Main Street community, the opportunity to showcase the partnership with Michigan Main Street and the MEDC on a project that is meaningful to the community is exciting. Creating a visually appealing and vibrant physical environment that both honors the district’s rich history as well as embraces 21st century technologies is a key component of our transformation strategy,” said Main Street Grosse Pointe Executive Director Cindy Willcock.
“Utilizing grant funds for enhancements to holiday decorations and the iconic clock arch in the center of The Village will help further establish the district as a place that honors past traditions, but is also relevant in today’s world, helping establish the Main Street Grosse Pointe program as proactive, community-based and focused on becoming a lively, vibrant destination that welcomes everyone into its space,” she added.
Downtown Lansing Inc.
“The support of MEDC and the Vibrancy Grant program will allow us to transform a historic park in our downtown district, bringing added light and life in all seasons,” said Downtown Lansing Inc. Executive Director Cathleen Edgerly. “The support of this project brings a strong focus on creating opportunities for start-ups, creating spaces and experiences for our residents, and seeing Downtown Lansing residents and businesses through this transitional period.”
“This grant is a very exciting opportunity for us. Quite honestly it will allow us to do in a few months what would otherwise take a few years to accomplish. That means we will be able to create a bigger community impact and generate more excitement and positive momentum for our town,” said Lapeer DDA Executive Director James Alt. “The project will add more community created public art and another layer to the inviting atmosphere that we are creating in Historic Lapeer.”
Niles Main Street
“The support MEDC and Michigan Main Street provide communities is phenomenal,” said Niles Main Street Executive Director Lisa Croteau. “We are thrilled to have been awarded a Vibrancy Grant to help us put in place recommendations from the Winter Cities Report as well as the outdoor area we are currently working to create.”
Saline Main Street/DDA
“We, at Saline Main Street, have been dreaming about this moment since we founded The 109 Cultural Exchange in 2019. From the very day this prominent storefront became available, our ‘people space’ has become a year-round nexus for Main Street planning, artist installations, wellness programs, and small business development – bringing together a wide variety of diverse audiences and helping hands. With the funds from our Vibrancy Grant award, we will be able to install equipment at the 109 that may finally reward our amazing partners and volunteers who have made magic with the bare minimum,” said Saline Main Street Executive Director Holli Andrews.
“Better technology and space improvements will help us increase our resources for locals and stakeholders, establish the 109 as a front door and connector for visitors, and stake our long-term vision to creatively transform the ecosystem of our Main Street District with arts and culture,” she added.
Sault Ste. Marie DDA
“Historic Downtown Sault Ste Marie is a place many have still yet to discover! This opportunity to partner with the MEDC in the Vibrancy Grant will help strengthen our brand and commitment to enhancing our downtown,” said Sault Ste. Marie DDA Director Tony Cutler. “We look forwarding to guiding our international friends, tourists from all over and even locals to discover and explore Downtown Sault Ste Marie.”
Otsego Main Street DDA
“Vibrancy grant funding will allow us to expand our ongoing greenscraping projects into a true public space activation initiative. By combining local development dollars, grant funding, and community fundraising, this project will bring new, exciting public space improvements and amenities to what had previously been an old parking lot and city dump,” said Otsego Main Street DDA Executive Director Kahler Sweeney.
“The vibrancy grant will fund improvements to our riverfront area nearly as large as our adjacent commercial downtown business district, greatly expanding the range of outdoor, family-friendly recreation opportunities available in downtown Otsego for residents and visitors alike,” he added.
Featured photo courtesy of City of Otsego.