Two big steps forward were taken by the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) at its June meeting. The Board decided to hire McKenna Associates of Northville, MI, to prepare a downtown redevelopment and design plan at a cost of $17,000.
They also moved to extend Kathy Hoyle’s contract through March, 2015, so she can oversee the DDA projects
“We would be dead in the water without her [Hoyle’s] leadership,” said Mike Oswalt.
Hoyle had been on a six-month contract, funded by both the Vicksburg Foundation and the DDA. Hoyle had been pushing for a website devoted to DDA business and she received that approval as well. A company out of Spring Lake, MI, bid approximately $640, depending on the number of hours it would take to have a website up and running.
The design project is also on a fast track, with the first designs expected for the DDA’s August meeting. This will be doable according to Hoyle, since much of the work has already occurred through the strategic planning process that she instituted in March and April. McKenna Associates is familiar with the community because they were hired by the village planning commission to update its five-year plan for the entire village.
The major charge of the project is to:
•Determine the most appropriate design standards for the Village’s downtown.
•Develop guidelines to achieve the desired outcome for the downtown.
•Make pedestrian movement safe, comfortable, and enjoyable.
•Identify and define opportunities for new development/redevelopment in downtown Vicksburg.
McKenna will provide graphics that will “paint a picture” of the future of downtown Vicksburg including pedestrian areas, building facades, and potential redevelopment sites.
Their proposal says, “Infrastructure is a key element to a successful downtown. Parking, sidewalks, street trees, signage, pedestrian amenities, and many other items fall into this category.”
They also recognize the importance of effective marketing, on the success of a downtown plan. They will conduct a retail void analysis that will help the DDA identify opportunities for capturing retail, entertainment, and services for the downtown.
Expanding the boundaries of the DDA has been considered for several months. Hoyle presented a map showing how the DDA could be more effective with grant monies and other projects if both sides of the streets were included within the DDA on N. Main, W. Prairie, Washington St. and as far out to the entrance to the village on N. Richardson and W. Prairie. The process has been set in motion to expand the boundaries to get the approval of each unit of government that collects taxes from the designated properties. It will take at least two to three months to complete the process, according to Hoyle.
Concern was voiced over the Village Council voiding out the fund to fund transfers from the various village fund accounts. If this wasn’t done, it could amount to a charge either for or against the DDA funds to about $120,000.
“Nobody owes anybody anything,” Tracy Locey, village clerk, said. “No more guessing as to who owes whom. We just haven’t been able to close this circle yet.”
Added Hoyle, “The Board decided to wait and vote on approval until the next meeting after the auditors’ recommendations from the review process were made on cleaning up the past accounts. Then we can finally get the accounts finalized for the next fiscal year with no outstanding balances owed to either party so we can move forward. The Board will have to vote to approve the auditors’ recommendations at the next meeting.”
“There isn’t much we can do about it,” Tanya DeLong, board president, said, “so let’s wipe the slate clean and move forward from here.”