Muskegon is one of three communities statewide accepted into the Michigan Main Street program, modeled after the highly successful national initiative in place in more than 1,700 communities nationwide.
Organizers of Muskegon Main Street will receive a year of intensive training in best management practices from both the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Main Street National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Participation in the program will give downtown Muskegon more visibility and an improved image, both within and outside the community, as well as create momentum for the revitalization push, said Steve Vaughn, administrator for Muskegon Radiology’s downtown offices and chairman of the Muskegon Main Street Advisory Board.
“Anything like this that is going to kick-start it is just going to be positive. The biggest thing there is getting the ball rolling,” Vaughn said. “We’re moving in the right direction and we will continue moving in that right direction.”
The Neighborhood Development Corp., in a partnership with the Muskegon Arts and Entertainment District, formed a local Main Street program in early 2003. The program covers a 10-block area of downtown Muskegon, along Western Avenue from Seventh Street and down Third Street to Merrill Avenue, that includes 46 parcels, 42 buildings and 76 organizations and businesses.
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 initiative is designed to enable downtowns to become more vibrant, attractive places for businesses to locate and for people to shop and gather at public events.
Since 1980, communities involved in Main Street have generated $40.35 in new private investment for every $1 spent to operate the program, according to the National Main Street Center. In that time, participating communities have seen more than $17 billion in new public and private investments, 57,470 new businesses formed, and more than 231,000 jobs created.
The program’s formation locally came after downtown Muskegon had already drawn millions in new investments and redevelopment in recent years, most notably the Amazon Building, an old factory that was turned into an apartment/retail complex, and the pending development of the Edison Lansing commerce and residential park on Muskegon Lake.
“The program that you’ve undertaken, I think, is something so important so you can have the kind of driving momentum you need to participate in the Main Street program and accomplish a lot of the goals and objectives that you’ve strategically set out for yourselves,” MEDC Chief Executive Officer Don Jakeway said last week during a visit to Muskegon to announce the designation.
“You have a lot to be proud of here. You have a lot of things you can build on top of for success,” Jakeway said. “I look at it as knocking the dominoes over in a very logical sequence of economic development activity.”
The MEDC also chose Niles and Clare to join the Michigan Main Street program.
The Muskegon Main Street program will eventually extend to the now-vacant site of the former Muskegon Mall, Vaughn said.
A downtown development group, after recently parting ways with a Southfield firm, is still exploring options for redeveloping the mall site in the heart of downtown.