By Sue Moore
A drive to build a new hospital for Vicksburg back in the 1970s may have been the most successful fundraiser for a nonprofit in the village. It raised about $1.3 million.
In 2015, the village’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is hoping to raise more than double that amount, utilizing a “crowdfunding” approach that didn’t exist until a few years ago. The beauty of this approach, said DDA Director Kathleen Hoyle, is that the money is donated online with the state of Michigan matching the amount dollar for dollar.
The first attempt in November and December was a targeted giving for $32,500 to purchase the existing car wash at the corner of Richardson and North Streets for the entrance to the Vicksburg Nature Trail which will link to a trail in Portage. The crowdfunding closed on December 20 with the state contributing the matching $32,500 for a total of $65,000 toward the project cost. This will let the DDA to buy the property, demolish it, and put up a new building to greet visitors walking the trail into the village downtown.
Behind the scenes, the vision campaign chairs were hard at work, talking up the potential for doubling the money. When the Patronicity crowdfunding site closed, 31 donors had given generously. This effort has been headed up by Kristina Powers Aubry and Ted Vliek as co-chairs of the vision campaign. They have been aided by Hoyle, village President Bill Adams, village Manager Ken Schippers, Project Specialist Stella Shearer, and village Treasurer Jenny McKillop.
“It’s been heartwarming to feel the love of people in the greater Vicksburg community as we pushed to raise the money in just 30 days,” Hoyle reported. “The state funds this program through the Michigan Department of Economic Development (MEDC) and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). It was so successful that we plan to go the next step and do the same thing for the Liberty Lane extension.”
This effort should raise another $50,000 with the state contributing another $50,000 if the crowdfunding site is successful. It would go to re-make the alleyway between Jaspare’s and Aaron’s Music Shop. When completed, the Liberty Lane East would resemble its opposite alleyway between Hill’s Pharmacy and the Vicksburg Hardware store. This area was developed in the early 1980s through the efforts of Grace Appell, June Hill, Tim Moore and their gang of planters and brick layers.
The Liberty Lane East project would turn a dark, rundown alley into a vibrant Victorian garden path offering a pedestrian-only passage connecting the S. Kalamazoo St. and S. Main St. shopping and dining areas, according to the legend on the Patronicity web site. Implementation of this $135,500 piece of the plan is being funded through the Vicksburg Vision Capital Campaign which will be used to leverage matching grant dollars.
This six-foot-wide Victorian Garden Path will be reminiscent of a European street to complement the 1880s Italianate architecture of the downtown buildings. Liberty Lane will unify these two shopping and dining experiences into more cohesive downtown district, and will also provide a scenic gateway to the parking area located along S. Kalamazoo St. The new garden path and courtyard will offer outdoor seating in a lush shaded area to enjoy the outdoors or relax after shopping. The following items will be developed if the funding is accomplished:
• Demolition of the current asphalt drive
• Installation of a six-foot stenciled brick winding walkway
• Creation of murals on the walls
• Construction of iron entrance arches on both Liberty Lane East and West
• Planting of decorative trees, flowers and planters
• Installation of benches, café tables, a bicycle rack, and lighting
• Creation of a courtyard space for gathering
• Installation of a themed garden sculpture
Other efforts by the visioning campaign will be matched by the Vicksburg Foundation, in a dollar for dollar grant for the capital campaign. Hoyle expects to announce this effort in January.