“Construction has begun.”
That was the indication from Christy Trammell, executive director of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA), as she reported on the ‘Mural Mall’ project during the January meeting of the DDA Board of Directors Friday morning (January 4th). Trammell said contractors had to work around an additional foundation on Thursday and indicated that the plan for Friday was to seal the basements for buildings on both sides of the walk-thru. She said, “The goal is to have the substantial portion of the projected completed by May 23rd with the final touches the first part of June” and added, “They’re on track to do that.”
Conversation during the meeting revealed that some people were upset that the area was blocked off before New Year’s Eve and that construction activity was underway early on New Year’s Day, but it was noted that there’s a tight time frame for getting the project done and there will be some inconveniences along the way.
The discussion included suggestions for posting information at the site regarding the design of the renovated walk-thru that will emerge from the construction, as well as the funding for the $940,000 project, the bulk of which will come from a $750,000 Downtown Infrastructure Grant (DIG) awarded to the City of Three Rivers by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). DDA Board Chairman Jeff Zimont also asked Trammell to send a brief, weekly e-mail update to DDA board members to keep them apprised about the project as it moves forward.
During a post-meeting interview with the River Country Journal, Zimont said the Mural Mall reconstruction is “a very exciting project,” indicated that it was “certainly a surprise at how quickly things got started,” and noted the tight timeline getting the project completed. (Jeff Zimont audio clip – :39)
Friday’s meeting also included an update regarding the DDA’s participation in the Michigan Main Street Program. Zimont reported that the Organizational Committee is working to develop a one-page ‘fact sheet’ with bullet points about the Main Street Program and the benefits to be derived from it. The DDA has been involved in the program at the ‘Associate’ or entry level and is considering an application to advance to the ‘Select’ level.
In regard to the fact sheet, DDA member Paul Shingledecker expressed concern that “Main Street focuses this board more on the two downtown blocks than the DDA board already was over-focused on the two downtown blocks. That’s the opinion of someone who’s not on the two downtown blocks and now we’ve gotten excited about Main Street, which is fine, no problem. We’ve integrated the boards together so we have basically the DDA board and the Main Street committees are all the same entity for all practical purposes. If we’re going to go that route, we need to come up with some way of letting the people who are not on the two downtown blocks realize there’s a benefit to them from the work that gets done through those committees because I would dare say that a vast majority of the DDA money does not come from the two downtown blocks.” Shingledecker said, “I’m in agreement that those blocks being healthy is good for everybody, but we need to communicate that to people because I can tell you people think that all that ever happens around here is we spend time, money, effort and talk about the two downtown blocks and, in that, I hoping there’s some talking points to communicate to people that listen that a healthy downtown permeates to everybody.”
In response to Shingledecker’s remarks, Zimont said, “I think those are great comments, Paul. I think it’s incumbent on us as a board to also make sure that, at our strategic planning, that that is for our entire footprint and what have we done, what plans have we made, what action steps have been taken to make sure that we’re servicing the entire footprint.”
Shingledecker said, “There’s things that the DDA does that are available to those people (outside the two blocks downtown). I’m just saying we need to make sure we’re communicating to all the people that are paying taxes to this what the benefits are to them because they see it, all we ever care about is the two downtown blocks. . . . We just need to make sure that, as we produce talking points, that we make sure that everybody understands the benefits to the community as a whole, not just the two downtown blocks.”
Discussion regarding the issue included considerable conversation about the challenges associated with making people and businesses aware of the DDA and its efforts and getting them actively involved.