Coming Home to Madison Heights: Downtown Plans in Progress

Coming Home to Madison Heights: Downtown Plans in Progress

(Mark Stowers, Oct.9, 2017)

Madison Heights, MI – The more than 30,000 residents of Madison Heights will have a more enjoyable downtown area to peruse in the near future. The city’s DDA is working on a 20-year plan to build a downtown that will feature tree lined streets, public art, bike racks and streetscape improvements. DDA Executive Director Linda Williams and DDA member Michael Sheppard explained the plan.

“We started our TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) plan update last year. The kickoff was a Town Hall Meeting last year and then we did some brainstorming and got feedback from residents and business owners,” Williams said. “Lots of great ideas came out of that.”

TIF is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects across the country.

More meetings brought the ideas and information into a Draft TIF plan that will be presented to city council in October. Some of the proposed projects drawing interest have been ranked by board members.

“We’ve broken it down to four categories – marketing/branding, beautification, maintenance and events,” Williams said. “Each category has specific objectives or proposed projects. For example, on marketing/branding, the one ranked pretty high was some streetscape improvements and permanent ID elements. We have way finding signs that we’re doing currently. The board was very clear that they want to see those things that define downtown.”

Downtown Madison Heights has been laid out as the area that begins at Gardenia to the North side of 10 Mile. Then to the I-75 Service Drive to Lorenz.

“It looks like a small cross. It’s our south end DDA district. Relatively speaking, compared to other DDA districts it is small. The one element everyone recognizes as our DDA district is our clock tower,” she said.

The clock tower was the first ever project for the Madison Heights DDA.

“They borrowed money from the general fund and actually paid it back early,” she said. “We’ve done some smaller projects as well. We have no debt – zero debt.”

The city’s TIFF revenue was just under $300,000 ten years ago. But these days after the recession, revenue has dipped to only $50,000.

“It’s a budget constraint but we’re still doing a lot for that $50,000. We’re trying to leverage private dollars,” she said. “We have an art contest every year and the kids designed bike racks. Now we have a DDA board member fabricating it and businesses put it in front of their businesses. We’ll start with two of those. We call it usable art.”

There is interest for block parties, a farmer’s market and a food truck rally.

“The consensus is there needs to be more family friendly type events to bring people to the DDA district,” she said.

Sheppard noted one main issue is to find investors.  “It’s a big project over several years but the goal is to unify it so it’s more of a home feeling downtown like the old small cities used to all be,” he said.

Sheppard is looking to start a project working with Madison High School where clubs would paint business windows for homecoming with a theme.

“I’m going to try and get it done this year,” he said. “The theme would be ‘coming home to Madison Heights.’”

Mayor Brian Hartwell is excited about the work being done.  “Business owners say they want greater attention to blight enforcement, property upkeep and code enforcement. Neighboring residents want more downtown events, green space, and a greater sense of place. The members of the Downtown Development Authority have designed a 20 year plan based on public input from a town hall meeting, online surveys, and many thankless long business meetings,” he said. “I want to see new businesses locate here that will hire our residents. I want to see blighted properties removed. I want a business district that is inviting to young and old residents. Local, accessible businesses that keep our seniors in their houses longer and our young people employed. This will not happen overnight. I am inspired by the eight people running for city council. We need all the help we can get if things are to change.”

More info:

Madison Heights News Page

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