(Crystal A. Proxmire, 7/2/2011)
As the Ferndale DDA Downtown Authority prepares to ask for a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) renewal and expanded TIF districts, they are reaching out to the businesses and residents to ask: What is the Future of Downtown Ferndale?
A June 29 event held at Valentine Vodka gave the public a chance to weigh in on potential projects, and to get information on the TIF proposals. Over 50 people attended the event, including DDA volunteers, city officials, business owners and residents.
The upcoming TIF plan will have an overall assessment of existing conditions, best practices and property value analysis. Then specific elements of the street scape, traffic, and circulation will be evaluated. Projects will be identified and a strategic plan will provide a road map to making them happen. The plan will then have to be approved by Oakland County and the City of Ferndale. This will happen over the course of the next four months.
The DDA receives the bulk of its funding through TIF revenue. Since 1981 the TIF area has been Nine Mile from Livernois to Bermuda, and Woodward from E. Breckenridge. The proposed expansion would bring coverage to just east of Paxton and just west of Pinecrest along Nine Mile, and Woodward from Ten Mile to West Marshall. 79% of the funding that the DDA uses for improvement projects and promotion of the Downtown comes from TIF collections. Property owners in the new area would continue to pay a base level of taxes to the City and the County, but future increases brought about by increased property values would be captured by the DDA.
To this point, the TIF renewal and expansion process has been led by a TIF Committee made up of a dozen residents and business owners, along with consultants from Birchler Arroyd who are experts at DDA administration, funding and planning. “We’ve been helping to facilitate the process,” said Jill S. Bahm of Birchler Arroyd. “We’re helping them update the TIF plan and explore expansion so Downtown Ferndale can have the best return on investment for their businesses.” Bahm is also on the Main Street Oakland County Advisory Board.
Douglas Christie, Chair of the Ferndale Environmental Sustainability Commission, is one of the TIF Committee’s volunteers. When asked why he felt serving on the TIF Committee was important, he explained “As the City continues to move forward, stay lively, and accommodate growth and hold traditions, traffic flow, walkability, and bicycle safety are important to the livelihood of Ferndale.” He added that he has enjoyed being involved. “I get to see the behind the scenes of how the community got to where it is now. Seeing so many people get involved in shaping the community is one of the things that enticed me to move here from Royal Oak four years ago.”
“Back to the Future” attendees were able to view displays with ideas for the city, and they were able to add stickers to ideas that appealed to them, and to leave notes with suggestions. Some ideas include putting a parking deck in the Withington Parking Lot, improving the Woodward crossing at Vester, evaluating traffic flow at Allen and West Troy, and adding bike lanes along the corridors. There were also added suggestions for what types of businesses the DDA should try and attract – including a hotel or more low-cost business co-ops.
DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said she is excited to see “the future of Ferndale” take shape. “I love seeing all the conversation and people inspired. We need everyone’s involvement and ideas,” she said. “We’ve had twelve people working on this for over a year. It’s a grassroots influence in terms of revitalization that has come from many people. And now we are getting the whole community involved.
Those who were unable to attend the “Back to the Future” event, there will still be opportunities to share your vision and ask questions. When the proposal comes before council there will be opportunity for public discussion. There will also be a survey on the DDA website in the coming weeks, along with more information about the TIF plans.
Check out the DDA website at www.downtownferndale.com.
For more stories about Downtown Ferndale, check out our Downtown Ferndale Section.
To learn more about Tax Increment Financing, check out Wikepedia.
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