DDA Planning Meeting looks at Desires for Downtown Ferndale

DDA Planning Meeting looks at Desires for Downtown Ferndale

(Crystal A. Proxmire, The Ferndale 115 News, Feb 1, 2012 ed)

The Downtown Development Authority held its Annual Planning Meeting on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at the Kulick Community Center.  Over 50 people gathered to share a meal and discuss their ideas and needs for the downtown district.

“The annual meeting gives us a chance to see what we’ve accomplished and is essential to helping us chart the course for year ahead. From here, we develop work plans which give us the ability to track our progress throughout the year and determine what we’ve completed and what we still need to do.  This process is also very all inclusive, it is a great opportunity to have a say in what happens in your downtown,” said DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius.

The meeting has many interactive components, including small-group brainstorming sessions and a delicious meal which this year was provided by Howe’s Bayou.  The most notable thing about the meeting, however, are the giant posters and the sheets of metallic star stickers that attendees use to mark what issues are most important to them.

The #1 challenge, picked by the most number of people in attendance Monday, was to resolve the parking issues in the Downtown.  The DDA Parking Committee has done significant research over the last two years to determine how the system could be managed, financially sustain itself and resolve most of the issues in and near to the district.  However, the DDA does not have the power to make any changes to the system as it belongs to the City, according to Chris Hughes, Communications Director of the DDA.

Other topics important to residents and business owners in attendance were things like code enforcement, promoting business, partnerships between businesses and nonprofits, affordable marketing opportunities, and incentive programs for redevelopment.

The meeting is so thorough and well-known in the planning community that attendees from different cities came to learn what they could from the process in Ferndale.  Doug Brown of Brighton, Will Powers of Clarkston and Joan Bittner and Betty Zwadak both of Hamtramck came out to observe.

Over the past year there have been many accomplishments in Downtown Ferndale, including the attraction of $1.5 million in reinvestment, 29 new businesses and six significant business expansions.  Some of the new faces in the 9 Mile and Woodward area include: Letise Collections, Dangerous Curves, D’s Treasure Chest, Michigan Property Showcase and the Woodward Imperial.

As they brainstormed about their success, those in attendance also noted the new Park Mobile program, the electric charging station, the expanded holiday events, a new major sponsor for events (Motor City Casino), the creation of Ferndale Pride, a traffic study and having over 5,000 fans on the DDA Facebook page.

Hughes was pleased with the turnout and involvement.  “It was gratifying to see so many people, so engaged.  It shows that people from every walk of Ferndale life really connect to their downtown and want to make it/keep it as great as it is,” she said.  “This planning meeting basically sets up the DDA’s marching orders for the next year and it is a collaborative effort.  Downtowns are living, moving places; they are and must be constantly evolving to stay viable, a fact proven out by Downtown Ferndale’s successes of the past ten years.  Processes such as the annual planning meeting helps that evolution and allows us to better track where we’ve been and where we are headed.”

Some things to look forward to for 2012 include an “art” theme to promotions, the further stabilization of finances and the potential expansion of the TIF area, and an I Downtown Ferndale campaign to include bumper stickers and viral videos.

Find out more about the DDA and Downtown Ferndale, including how to get involved with any of their various projects or committees, at http://www.downtownferndale.com/.

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