On May 11, 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to announce that eight communities around Michigan have been awarded a total of $200,000 in grants to support downtown revitalization projects.
Communities receiving grants are Rogers City, Grayling, Downtown Lansing, Blissfield, Howell, Evart, Adrian, and the Historic North End (Detroit).
“Thriving, attractive downtowns are crucial to attracting talent, workers, and small businesses so we can grow our economy,” said Governor Whitmer.
“Today’s investments in main streets across Michigan will improve quality of life, drive economic growth, and support good-paying jobs. Let’s keep working together to lower the cost of housing, invest in community spaces, and make our cities and towns better places to live, work, invest, and play,” she added.
The Main Street Vibrancy Grant Program is intended to provide grants of $25,000 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 sense of place and a more vibrant community.
2023 Main Street Vibrancy Grant winners:
- Rogers City (Region 3)
Rogers City inspired mural, and installation of benches, bike racks and repair stations
- Grayling (Region 3)
Event set-up kit including folding picnic tables, pop-up canopies, folding tables and chairs, patio umbrellas, and barricades
- Downtown Lansing (Region 7)
Artery Alley lighting and permanent power accommodations, which is part of a larger project to transform the alley through public art, resurfacing, and historic and arts-based walking tours
- Blissfield (Region 9)
Transforming a vacant lot into an outdoor dining and cultural space with outdoor lighting, movable outdoor furniture, and a mural, in addition to adding two parklets to the downtown to enhance the social district
- Howell (Region 9)
Wayfinding sign replacement project including sign design, fabrication, installation and maintenance
- Evart (Region 4)
Renovation of building for downtown incubator space
- Adrian (Region 9)
Downtown mural project with two distinct community representative murals to jumpstart a district wide mural project
- North End – Detroit (Region 10)
Light Up Main Street Holiday Event including district promotion, pop-up tent space to feature local businesses, seasonal entertainment, and holiday light display
“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 Technical Assistance Programs at the MEDC.
“Today’s Vibrancy grants reflect our efforts to create a holistic, people-first approach to economic development here in Michigan, and will help further strengthen the downtowns and commercial districts in these communities while also building unique places where people want to live, work, visit, and play,” she continued.
In June 2021, five Michigan communities were awarded a total of $100,000 in Main Street Vibrancy Grants and in April 2022, eight communities were awarded a total of $160,000 in Main Street Vibrancy Grants to support downtown enhancement and improvement projects.
Michigan Main Street 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.
A total of 25 communities currently participate in the Michigan Main Street program at the select and master levels.
Over the past year, Michigan Main Street communities generated more than $60.6 million in private investment, 131 new businesses and 174 façade and building improvements. For 20 years, Michigan Main Street has been a catalyst for job growth, private investment, and community engagement leading to comprehensive economic development creating more vibrant downtowns and traditional commercial districts in Michigan.
From 2003 through 2023, 1,753 new businesses have been launched, with a total public investment of more than $137 million and total private investment of $407 million. In addition, more than 851,890 volunteer hours have been recorded by Michigan Main Street communities in revitalizing downtowns across the state.
Local leaders praised the awards:
Rogers City Main Street DDA
“Our community is so appreciative for this opportunity from the State to enhance our downtown vibrancy and promote the Main Street program,” said Alex Harimoto, Rogers City Main Street/DDA Executive Director. “Our three-piece project incorporates all four points of the Main Street approach in a visible, tangible, and impactful way that focuses on improving the pedestrian and cyclist experience for all residents and visitors.”
Grayling Main Street DDA
“Organizing vibrancy-building activities in downtown Grayling, like our twice-weekly farmers market as well as large scale events like AuSable River Festival, demands a lot of equipment that just felt out of reach for us,” said Grayling Main Street Executive Director Jillian Tremonti. “The equipment we’ll be purchasing with the Vibrancy Grant dollars have been on our wish list for quite some time! It will help us streamline the execution of our vibrancy activities so we can focus staff & volunteer efforts more efficiently, allowing more time to actually build community with one another. It also sets up a handful of our future projects with useful tools, and will reduce those project costs in the long run.”
Downtown Lansing, Inc.
“The MEDC’s Michigan Main Street Vibrancy Grant for ARTery Alley will enable us to realize our dream of a distinctive and lively public space at the core of our city,” said DLI Design and Planning Director Trevor Benoit. “By installing eye-catching overhead lighting, murals, and public art, we will improve the alley’s overall aesthetics. Furthermore, the establishment of this public gallery will create opportunities for local businesses to activate the space boosting the area’s cultural and economic vibrancy. The grant funding will aid us in fostering a bustling 24/7downtown atmosphere, increasing foot traffic, and promoting economic development. This will make Downtown Lansing an even more appealing destination for residents, businesses, and visitors.”
“I am excited to see that Artery Alley in downtown Lansing has been selected for a Main Street Vibrancy Grant,” said State Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing). “Investing in projects that make our downtowns cultural destinations is a key to revitalizing our cities. I look forward to the positive impact this project will have on Lansing.”
Blissfield Main Street DDA
“It is with heartfelt gratitude that the Blissfield Main Street Board wishes to thank Michigan Main Street for the 2023 Vibrancy Grant,” said Blissfield DDA/Main Street Director Laura Nichols. “We are celebrating Blissfield’s Bicentennial in 2024 and will use some of those Vibrancy dollars to create a mural and infill a vacant lot. This will make a gathering spot downtown for our citizens to use in our new social district. This grant allows us as a small rural community to do more than just maintain, it allows us to flourish. Michigan Main Street is helping to keep Blissfield beautiful, vibrant and relevant.”
Howell Main Street
“Vibrancy Grant funding will be instrumental in transforming the Wayfinding Signage Project from a basic navigational tool to a visually captivating experience that showcases the charm and character of Howell,” said Howell Main Street Executive Director Kate Litwin. “By enhancing walkability and raising awareness of the features and attractions found throughout the city, this project will not only benefit visitors, but also the local businesses and residents, creating a more connected and vibrant community.”
Evart Main Street DDA
“The vibrancy grant dollars will give a big boost to Downtown Evart,” said Evart DDA/Main Street Direct Todd Bruggema. “These funds will help to remodel and develop an incubator/pop-up space in a downtown building. We are very excited to be able to offer this space to three or four local people who want to explore business opportunities in the Downtown and then graduate to their own location.”
Adrian Main Street DDA
“The Downtown Adrian Main Street is overjoyed to receive the Vibrancy Grant,” said Adrian Main Street/Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Jay Marks. “These funds will be used to enhance our arts in culture in our downtown by creating a Downtown Mural project. This project will not only activate spaces throughout out our district, it will improve the economic vitality of area by giving residents and visitors another reason to explore our Downtown. Since becoming a Main Street community, we have benefited from training, technical assistance, and grant opportunities. We could not be more pleased by our involvement and are excited for the future.”
Historic North End (Detroit)
“The MEDC Vibrancy grant will enable Vanguard Community Development to light our North End Main Street for the holiday season,” said Vanguard Community Development President and CEO Pamela Martin Turner. “This will create a safe, beautiful commercial boulevard for all to enjoy.”
“Receiving The MEDC Vibrancy grant for holiday lighting is not just about illuminating the streets of Detroit’s Historic North End, it’s about brightening up the hearts and souls of the community, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that brings people together to shop, dine, and enjoy the holiday season,” said State Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park).
2023 photo of downtown Adrian, Michigan (one of the award winners) is by Notorious4life via Wikipedia.