Earning formal designation for the Muskegon Main Street program would put the downtown on the map and potentially generate greater awareness among prospective developers across Michigan and the nation who are looking to invest in downtowns, said David Sperry, Main Street manager with the not-for-profit Neighborhood Development Corp.
“That means something to them,” Sperry said. “They have an idea of what you’re trying to do and your objectives.”
After unsuccessfully bidding for a designation a year ago, the Neighborhood Development Corp. is again seeking recognition from the Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation that offers a clearinghouse of best practices for downtown revitalization, development and management.
The Muskegon group is one of seven statewide vying for four Main Street designations under a partnership between the Main Street National Trust and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Muskegon and the other communities that recently filed letters of intent with the MEDC will next submit formal applications and undergo a review process.
The Neighborhood Development Corp., in a partnership with the Muskegon Arts and Entertainment District, formed a local Main Street program in early 2003 that is modeled after the highly successful national initiative in place in more than 1,650 communities nationwide. The program covers a 10-block area, along Western Avenue from Seventh Street and down Third Street to Merrill Avenue, that includes 46 parcels, 42 buildings and 76 organizations.
The group is again seeking the state designation because it would help sharpen the local efforts in certain areas and provide some validation to the effort, Sperry said.
“It reassures you’re doing it right, basically,” he said.
The MEDC in June will select four communities that will receive Main Street designations, qualifying them for a year of intensive training in best management practices from both the MEDC and the Main Street National Trust. The national Main Street program focuses on four key areas to help revitalize urban business districts: aesthetic design, organization, promotion and marketing, and economic restructuring.
“The continued economic vitality of Michigan’s community cores is central to maintaining the state’s overall economic strength,” MEDC President and Chief Executive Officer Don Jakeway said.
Competing with Muskegon for the Main Street designation are Baldwin, Clare, Kalkaska, Lapeer, Linden and Monroe. Winners last year were Boyne City, Calumet, Marshall and Portland.
The push to secure the Main Street designation for downtown Muskegon comes amid the pending redevelopment of the 23-acre former Muskegon Mall property into a commercial and residential neighborhood and the emerging development of the Edison Landing commercial and residential park along Muskegon Lake.
Neither site is presently included with the Main Street district.