By Sue Moore
Revitalizing Vicksburg’s downtown became a little easier for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) with a grant of $10,000 from the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and a loan of $50,000 from the same organization. How the money can best be used for maximum impact was a big decision for DDA board members at their monthly meeting in October, according to Executive Director Kathleen Hoyle.
She had previously organized a meeting of the building owners in the downtown to garner suggestions from them as to the best way to stretch the funds. The $10,000 is a grant and doesn’t need to be repaid. The $50,000 needs to be repaid to LISC in approximately four years. The building owners’ recommendations to the DDA board for the loan program were accepted as follows:
• Use the money for design services in a revolving loan fund.
• The amount of a loan for facades and other work could be up to $10,000, with repayment within three years. Currently it is $5,000 for five years.
• Require an 80/20 match for the grant program.
• Coordinate a list of desired contractors for building owners to call on for bids, listed as a need but not a requirement.
Chuck Vliek, a representative of LISC at the meeting, ended by promising, “We will make it work for you guys.” His organization is nationwide, supported by the Ford Foundation, with offices in Kalamazoo and many other cities across the U.S.
To further enhance the downtown area, Emily Pantera attended the meeting to describe the Michigan Main Street program’s “select” designation, a goal the authority’s board hopes to achieve to gain revitalization assistance from the state.
A year ago, the DDA decided to apply to be an associate community in the program for a year. The next step is to set their sights on becoming a select designation. Only three communities are approved for admittance every year, according to Pantera. If accepted it would be for a five-year commitment, at little or no cost to Vicksburg or the DDA, except in the time commitment of the director and the volunteers.
Each Michigan Main Street (MMS) community is locally organized, run and funded. The payback is in the professional advice offered through design services, training sessions for volunteers, and working with the other 11 communities in Michigan that are part of the program. MMS seeks to refill vacant store fronts, focus reinvestment in the downtown district and support small businesses, Pantera said. “Being part of the program will signify real return on investments and renewed community commitment.”
Other cities and villages currently in the select program for MMS include Three Rivers, Otsego, Owosso, Saline, Hart, Grayling, Blissfield, Hart, Wayne, Wayland, and downtown Lansing.