By Sue Moore
Kathleen Hoyle is knee deep in the grant writing process for Vicksburg’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA). They all seem to come due on April 1. Among them:
- A just completed application came in with the good news that the DDA has been selected to be an Associate Main Street Community. The designation will provide training opportunities to increase the skill set and success of managing and promoting the downtown. Members of the DDA board will be encouraged to attend workshops via webinars and meetings with the Michigan Main Street Center.
- The main one she is working on is a submission to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the Trail funding. This was prescribed in the Parks and Recreation plan for the Village of Vicksburg. Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is also involved as a possible funding agency. Although it is technically not a DDA project, a large portion of it runs through downtown and has an impact on many things the organization wants to do in developing the downtown. The results of this application will not be known until Nov. 1. If it is approved, the work wouldn’t start until spring of 2016. In the grant request, Hoyle is looking to connect the downtown with a Clark Park walkway that extends to the paper mill property.
- Funding for the extension of Liberty Lane between Aaron’s Music Shop and Jaspare’s Pizza Place is next on Hoyle’s agenda. She told the village council at its meeting in January that this renovation project is the first one she wants to work on, since it will have an immediate impact on the downtown.
- Hoyle is looking for a grant that would help fund parking lot reconfiguration behind the stores on the west side of Main Street. From what she has been told, there is not as much money being allocated for parking lots these days by the state of Michigan or any other source. She is looking at other possibilities as it is a high priority for those who have participated in the village’s planning sessions. “We have sufficient parking with 593 spaces but it is not well marked. The lot could also use some landscaping and better lighting.”
- The next step will be to work with developers who might come in to build on the west side of north Main Street, and possibly on the east end of Prairie Street.
Besides the grant writing, Hoyle reported to the village council on the downtown design plan progress while she is working on the grant writing. It all works together to facilitate the development of plans and strategies to attract business in downtown Vicksburg. Among the goals:
- Keep the Italianate look of the buildings that was popular in 1800s.
- Improve the look of the back sides of the buildings through the rental rehab program.
- Encourage more non-motorized traffic.
- Cross walks and bike lanes are an important addition to the plan.
- Wider pedestrian walkways are also being considered.
- The Authority is looking for a wider range of retail shops.
- It is planning an aggressive marketing plan with an emphasis on the village’s identity.
- A facade program is being offered to help owners fix up the front side of their buildings.
- The DDA is asking the planning commission to rework village ordinances to allow awnings.
- Streetscapes, including bike racks and plantings with low maintenance, are a priority.
“We have a great small town atmosphere with festivals and strong housing stock,” she told the council in conclusion.