Oakland County Celebrates Main Street Success Stories

Oakland County Celebrates Main Street Success Stories

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 12, 2018)

Pontiac, MI – The superheroes of downtowns throughout Oakland County gathered at the Strand Theater in Pontiac Thursday evening for the annual “Main Event,” recognizing accomplishments of communities in the Main Street Oakland County program.

The program provides planning, resources and sharing ideas to help downtowns thrive. As County Executive L. Brooks Patterson talked about the history of Main Street, he was proud that Oakland had become the first in the country to embrace Main Street on a county-wide level.  “We started this in 2000-2001, and now we’re got 26 downtowns on board, and five more to go.  By the time I’m done we’ll have everyone in the program,” Patterson said.  Royal Oak and Berkley were welcomed into the program, with representatives joining Patterson onstage.

In 201alone there were 83 net new businesses,  258 net new jobs and  $46 million in public/private investment.  Volunteers put in 15,148 hours of volunteer work county-wide.

Introducing Patterson was Chris Best, co-owner of Rust Belt Market.  He and wife Tiffany did a video with Main Street about the artisan market and the role the Ferndale DDA played in their growth over the past nine years.  “If it’s a Main Street city, you’re already set up for success,” Chris said.

“Entrepreneurs like Chris and Tiffany drive the economies of Downtowns,” Patterson said.  “There are Chris’s and Tiffany’s in every community making this happen.”

The idea of telling stories was one theme of the evening, with superheroes being the other.  Downtown Holly was given a “Spirit of Main Street” award for their entry in the “tell your story” contest.  A video featuring DDA Director Katy Hughes and Linda Goldsmith had the pair going through photos of Downtown Holly that included The Vault, an historic bank building that is now a venue for weddings and other events.  Village Manager Jerry Walker was also in the video, as well as pictures of people and places that make the historic Downtown unique.  For this video, they were given a $2,000 prize from Genesys Credit Union.

The other “Special Award” was given to GoComedy! Improv Theater and Downtown Ferndale. “The ask for the contest was a superhero themed display, which seemed very much in our nerdy wheelhouse,” said PJ Jackoes who founded Go Comedy ten years ago.  “It was designed by Jen Huebel, Tommy LeRoy and myself. Jen made the art and Tommy installed everything and made the toys, smoke cloud, etc.  We do so much creatively within the hidden walls of our theater, it was nice to be able to be creative for the people walking by outside. We have some other outside art planned for our anniversary. It was nice to start with this, especially since the reaction has been so great, both by the Main Street Award judges and the everyday people walking by.” The display earned a $1,500 prize from Michigan Glass Coatings, to be split between the business and the DDA.

Another award was given for communications, going to Downtown Clawson for their Design Guidelines Handbook.  The 53 page document made requirements for  development and improvements fun and easy to understand.  It opened with a quote by the President of Project for Public Spaces Fred Kent who said “Everyone has the right to live in a great place. More importantly, everyone has the right to contribute to making the place where they already live great.”  It goes on to give information on different aspects of development including setbacks, landscaping, parking, painting, windows, entryways, and much more.

Among those who helped with those design standards was Mary Liz Curtin of Leon and Lulu.  Curtin was honored as Business Owner of the Year both for her volunteer efforts and for her successes in continuing to grow her business.  Leon and Lulu proves that a retail store can be more than just a place to sell unique items, it can be a destination.  With classes, events and even just a welcoming space to relax and hang out, Leon and Lulu sets the standard for community-building by a business.

Clawson also took home the award for Placemaking for their Cinema in the Street events, which bring people together for outdoor movies.

The Game Changer Award was presented to 20 Front Street in Lake Orion.  Theirs is a story of revitalization and placemaking.  According to their website “An old antique shop has been transformed into an acoustic music venue and family friendly social space. The 20 Front Street venue provides guests and artists with an acoustic, live streamed concert experience featuring local and national artists in a unique intimate space. Guests of the 20 Front Street Social Cafe will enjoy exotic teas from around the world, locally roasted coffee and fresh local baked goods. The 20 Front Street Creamery has a walk up window that is open seasonally. Located right next to the Paint Creek, it is a perfect place to chill out on warm days with the coolest, creamiest ice cream you have ever tasted from Rays Ice Cream in Royal Oak, MI.”

Also from Lake Orion is the Volunteer of the Year, Jordan Knudsen.  In addition to running a successful business – Knude Products, Knudsen makes time to help uplift the entire community by being involved in projects and encouraging others.

Rick Hamill does the same for Highland.  He was awarded Local Leader of the Year. Even before becoming Highland Township Supervisor, Hamill was rolling up his sleeves to help with community projects including bringing Highland into the Main Street program and helping with the Founder’s Day Festival and Parade, Festival of Trees and other events.

In Ferndale Michael Hennes of Howe’s Bayou has been a champion for Downtown success.  He was awarded the Board Member of the Year award.  In his 18 years of business, Hennes has been part of DDA projects like the parking committee, the West 9 Mile streetscape, festivals and events, ordinance recommendations, business development and more.  “Ferndale wasn’t always as successful as it appears to be now, and I think the DDA helped. The goal of the DDA is to revitalize suburban downtowns, and that fit the needs of the city,” Hennes said.

Ortonville took home two awards – one for a light pole banner project and the other for their Downtown Dollars program, which uses promotional “dollars” to encourage spending in the community, with DDA reimbursement to the businesses.

The key to all of these successes, is getting people and businesses involved. Another of the Main Street videos focused on Architect Scott Reynolds who volunteers with the Lake Orion DDA.“I find a lot of reward in being able to give back,” Reynolds said. “People’s faces light up when they think about the potential of their Main Street… If you want to make a difference, jump in.”

The videos of Rust Belt and Scott Reynolds, as well as other information about Main Street Oakland County, can be found at https://www.oakgov.com/advantageoakland/planning/main-street/Pages/default.aspx

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