(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 10, 2013)
With the flair of a fire-twirling roller-skater and the pep of the Clawson High School cheerleaders, members of Main Street programs from throughout Oakland County got together at Leon and Lulu on Wednesday to celebrate a number of Main Street Oakland County accomplishments.
A record number of Oakland County communities received accreditation by the national Main Street program for 2013, with ten out of twelve of the full service cities meeting 100% of the national standards. The program helps communities focus on downtown development through organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. The cities that received accreditation are Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Oxford, Ortonville, Pontiac and Rochester.
Downtown Rochester was given the top honor of Great American Main Street for 2012, an award that was received by Downtown Ferndale in 2010. More news is that the National Main Street Conference will be held in Detroit next year.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson touted the program’s success and personally thanked each of the cities by presenting them with a certificate.
Oakland County was the first in the nation to develop a county-wide approach to Main Street implementation, and there are now 18 area downtowns participating. Since it began in 2000, there have been 8,000 new full time jobs created, 818 new businesses and over $685 million in public and private investment.
In 2012 alone there were 548 special events held in participating downtowns, 45 new businesses were established, 435 new jobs created and 199 buildings were rehabilitated.
“Keep in mind all this happened during the worst recession since the Great Depression. We’ve been able to set these records and bring this kind of action to our downtowns when other communities around this country were literally dying, but we went out and turned it around, took advantage of it, so that’s double the effort that you should be proud of,” Patterson said.
The event gave Main Street participants a chance to celebrate and network. Though downtowns have similar features, such as walkability, diversity of small businesses, and a sense of history and place, there are differences that make each downtown unique.
Downtown Rochester is enjoying the rewards of getting top honors. Kristi Trevarrow explained “Downtown Rochester is an amazing place. We’re just coming off the great win of the 2012 award… But the thing is, Main Street is forever. We’re so proud to have all our independent merchants, all the great events, all the reasons people want to come to Downtown Rochester. We’re just so proud to be part of the Main Street Oakland County program.”
Missy Dashevich of Downtown Highland shared what she loves about the area she represents. “Downtown Highland is a little different than most downtowns,” she said. “We don’t have the normal infrastructure. We don’t have a downtown that’s contiguous, like walking from one store to the other. It’s more of a hamlet with a little bit of open space. But the one thing that I have to share that we have that most do not have is about 5000 acres right out our back door. There’s horseback riding out there. There’s mountain biking. There’s dog trails. They’re hiking. Horses are actually welcome in our downtown,” she said.
The Mainstreet principles that are helping Dashevich and her team of volunteers revitalize Downtown Highland, are also being put into practice in Pontiac. County Commissioner Mattie Hatchett explained the pride she feels in her downtown, stating “In any city the Downtown is crucial to the outward development of everything else that’s going on, and so many people have put in effort into downtown Pontiac to make it grow…A city is vibrant if it has a vibrant downtown. You gotta bring people in. I’ve been following Downtown Pontiac for quite a while and I’m so grateful to the county for its interest and investment in it.”
Volunteers are crucial to making all of the Main Street programs work. “When people come together they’re noting we can’t achieve and I like that feeling of being a team,” said Veronica Lujic, a volunteer with the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority.
Melissa Andrade of Downtown Farmington thanked her volunteers as well, saying “Our Main Street volunteers have so much passion and so much care for the downtown. It’s interesting I don’t have to tell them what to do or where to go as volunteer coordinator, they just go and do it. They love our community and Main Street.”
The program also has associate level participation from six communities: Birmingham, Clarkson, Lathrup Village, Leonard, Oak Park and Waterford. Patterson said his vision is to get all 30 identified downtowns participating.
For more information on Main Street Oakland County, visit http://www.advantageoakland.com.