By Sheila R. McAfee
Downtown development authorities rely on tax revenue growth to fund revitalization projects in their communities. Unfortunately, the economic turmoil of the last five years has not boded well for some of these entities.
In Trenton, there is uncertainty about the future of the DDA. Created in 1996 as a means of revitalizing the downtown area, the group is credited with the charming facelift of West Jefferson Avenue and upgrades to the downtown district’s infrastructure.
With those complete, there is some uncertainty about what comes next, especially when DDA discretionary funds are based on the growth of the tax base within the legally defined DDA district. (read more…)
12 — Citywide delivery of The Buzz directory
26 — Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony
7 — Trenton Business Association Biz Blast, 3-7 p.m., at Riverside Kayak Connection’s summer kayak rental launch at Elizabeth Park
8 — Trenton High School graduation ceremony
9 — Garden of Eden Gala, a fundraiser for the Trenton Village Theatre; visit dypac.org for details.
11 — Salute to Education, noon, at the Westfield Center; scholarship presentations by Trenton Rotary and the Trenton Business Association
4 — Fourth of July Fireworks at Rotary Park.
13-15 — Trenton Mid-Summer Festival, downtown Trenton
20 — A Taste of the Races, kickoff party for the PNC Roar on the River, Elizabeth Park.
21-22 — PNC Roar on the River, Elizabeth Park.
4-5 — Jazz on the River, Elizabeth Park
16 — Somewhere in Time and Taste of Trenton & Beyond, Elizabeth Park, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
By Mark Slagle
I am honored to be the new chairman of the Trenton Downtown Development Authority, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. I want to thank our previous chairman, Bob Howey, for his leadership of the DDA for the past 12 years.
Bob has been, and still is an enthusiastic supporter of the DDA. Everyone in the DDA district is fortunate that he was recently elected to the City Council. In addition to Bob’s past leadership and continued support, we have an 10-member board that is dedicated to promoting the goals of the DDA, even though we continue to operate amidst numerous challenges.
I have been a business owner within the DDA district since 2003. Like many people in Trenton, I love this town and I want to see it thrive. The DDA district was hit hard, long before the most recent economic downturn. Probably most notably was when the Mulias & Elias store burned in the summer of 1987. Since then we have seen the area slowly decline and today its economic health dwarfs the activity it had prior to the store’s demise.
My goal for 2012 is to focus on being “lucky.” The definition of luck I subscribe to is “Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity.” Wayne Gretzky is famous for saying that he didn’t skate to where the puck was, but rather, to where it was going to be. We too need to position ourselves to be where the opportunities will be in the future.
As part of this preparedness, there have been significant investments the downtown area infrastructure. Recent economic indicators show signs of improvement, though slow, but at least moving in the right direction. We need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will appear as well as those that we proactively go after.
Despite reduced revenue for the DDA as a result of reduced property values, and despite continued payment on capital improvements (which will continue for some time); we cannot sit on our hands and do nothing, if we wish to see the DDA district come alive again
Surrounding cities are not standing still and like any business; if we don’t attract customers to our area, they will spend their money elsewhere, and we risk becoming a ghost town. We can attract businesses and consumers if we are persistent to assemble all viable ideas and implement whichever ones we can, no matter how large or small. I personally don’t want any other alternative.
I recently returned from my franchise national convention held on-site at Disney World. It was my sixth visit and every time I’m awed and amazed at what Walt Disney accomplished as a result of having a vision and being persistent. He did not let the naysayers take away his dream. He is an inspiration to me, as he is to many others who believed success was not possible.
No one person or group can accomplish great things alone. We need input and resources beyond the DDA to move forward faster and further. In early 2011 we held a town hall meeting to initiate discussion within the DDA district. Many people expressed their support and optimism for what could be accomplished if we work together.
There continues to be a trickle of businesses opening within the district. Plans are moving ahead with the conversion of the former Riverside hospital building (see related article in this installment of the DDA E-News) to reopen as a sub-acute care facility. The McLouth property is potential asset looking for an owner. There are many other hidden opportunities to guide business owners and consumers to the DDA district. We have to make them happen.
We have added two new members to the DDA board using the idea that “two heads are better than one” to help generate even more ideas to help the DDA move forward. Last year we published a written communication and now quarterly e-mails through this year to better communicate with DDA businesses and residents.
I encourage everyone to volunteer your thoughts, ideas, energy and resources to help improve the downtown development area. Send your thoughts and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
8 — Election Day
10 — Trenton Business Association networking at TVs Grand Event
11-13, 18,19 — Cinderella Kids at Trenton Village Theatre, ages 5-19 performing
17-18 — Goodfellows newspaper sale
1-3 — Trenton Silverstick Tournament
3 — Christmas Parade
4, 10-11, 17-18 — Weekend Wonderland, Cultural Center
9-11 — Frosty Follies; Trenton Village Theatre; an annual tradition showcasing a large cast and feel-good holiday favorites
17 — Skating with Santa at KRC
17 — Fire & Ice Carvings at Cultural Center
21 — City Awards Banquet
Just like in the majority of other Michigan cities and townships, funding is tight in Trenton for community improvement projects.
But the Downtown Development Authority has been able to push ahead with a variety of efforts thanks to receiving some timely grants and taking other creative approaches, including soliciting some hands-on help from residents.
A prime example of community involvement occurred Sept. 30-Oct. 1, when city employees teamed up with community volunteers to help assemble a new playscape at Slocum-Truax Park.
Other improvements that were at least partially or fully funded by grants included the paving of two municipal parking lots and additional shoreline improvements at Ellias Cove. Similar projects on the horizon include street-lighting enhancements throughout the downtown and the creation of a fourth street-end park on the south side of Riverside Commons, the new name for the former Riverside Hospital site.
“We continue to make progress,” DDA Chairman Robert Howey said. “It’s definitely slower than we’d like but we’re excited to see some positive things happening.”
The creation of a the new playground at Slocum is the (read more…)
News that the vacant Riverside Hospital site is finally slated for revival has provided some long-awaited encouragement for downtown business owners — many of whom are anticipating brighter days ahead for the city’s original business district.
Despite the recent losses of some longtime businesses such as A&W and Trenton Lanes, the downtown has been buoyed by the drawing-power of some of its newer restaurants, the slow but steady growth of the Trenton Village Theatre and the emergence several new boutique-style shops.
“The Riverside project will be a tremendous shot in the arm for all of us,” said Chris Hancock, whose Round House BBQ already has earned a reputation as one of the metro Detroit area’s best barbecue restaurants in just one year. “I love being in the (downtown) environment and Trenton fits that bill. I’d love to see this be like a Wyandotte, although we’re light years away from that.” (read more…)
Anyone who visited downtown Trenton this summer likely saw the work being done to the former Riverside Wedding Chapel at West Jefferson Avenue and Harrison Road. All of that hard work led to an Aug. 15 opening of The Riverside Treasure Shoppe, owned and operated by Renae and Brian Raboczkay of Taylor.
The Victorian home, which is over 100 years old, had been vacant for two years and needed a lot of work, including structural, plumbing and electrical renovation. The Raboczkay’s paid for and completed all the indoor repairs and renovations themselves, and the building now boasts a beautiful mosaic tile foyer, hardwood floor, and new staircases, along with a completely restored exterior.
Mom’s little Secret opened its doors at 2723 West Jefferson (between West and St. Joseph), and Riverside Treasure Shoppe is at 2305 West Jefferson, in the former location of the Riverside Wedding Chapel.
They join existing shops such as The Perfect Dress and Diva on a Dime, which are relatively new to the downtown themselves. Each shop is attempting to carve out a special business niche, and from all appearance the shops that have chosen to locate here complement each other very well.
Mom’s Little Secret carries top-of-the-line maternity wear and children’s clothing on consignment. Owner Dionne Sparks is looking for great, gently-worn clothes and will pay 50 percent of the sale. She said the store is open Mondays through Saturdays and offers a “Drop and Run” service for busy parents who want to drop a bundle of clothes and fill out paperwork later.
“Quality children’s clothes and maternity wear are so expensive; we want to offer great items for great value and we know there are even tour groups who take buses to shop at quality consignment (stores), which we hope to get involved with,” Sparks said.
Sparks is a friend of Kim Hillen, who owns Diva on a Dime, which is a high-end second-hand shop a few blocks north at 2355 West Jefferson.
“We joked that we should open a Little Diva’s and Mom’s Little Secret developed from there,” Sparks said.
Hillen’s shop features gently-used designer fashions and accessories for women of all ages, in sizes 2 through 3x in most current trends. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
“Business has been pretty steady here,” Hillen said. “We are growing from word of mouth and because of our great selection of designer clothing.”
Another new shop to recently join the growing mix of unique specialty stores is Riverside Treasure Shoppe, which aims to offer combination of candy, gifts and consignment artwork throughout the two-story historic home at the corner of West Jefferson and Harrison.
The Perfect Dress, 2710 West Jefferson (between West and St. Joseph), specializes in offering designer bridal gowns “at reasonable prices.” The shop also has a wide variety of special occasion dresses for prom, homecoming “or any formal event where you want to look your best.”
The Trenton DDA was created by the City Council in 1996 with those and other thoughts in mind. The bottom line in creating the DDA, though, was that it just made sense to take advantage of all the governmental tools available to encourage and incentivize new business growth where help is definitely needed.
Our DDA is located within an area roughly bounded by King Road, the Detroit River, Slocum Street and Fort Street, excluding the industrial park area near King and Fort. The district comprises primarily commercial (business) and residentially zoned properties in the area referred to by most residents as “downtown” Trenton or “old town.”
DDAs can serve as a mechanism to eliminate blight, improve public services and encourage controlled growth within the zoning district identified in the DDA Development Plan. Although Trenton’s DDA district is located in just a portion of the city, the entire community is served through the DDA’s protection and enhancement of assets that are shared by all residents.
By maintaining and improving community infrastructure, the DDA can help lessen the impact of overall property value declines, like much of Michigan has experienced over the past four to five years.
Some of the noteworthy projects conducted with the involvement of the DDA include a series of street-end parks along the riverfront, the Trenton Pier condominium project, the multi-phase Downtown Streetscape Project, and the shoreline restoration project conducted just north of Helen Street.
The DDA is working proactively with the new owners of the former Riverside Hospital to help redevelop the site into new commercial and residential uses, and is prepared to assist additional projects as local market conditions and the economy improve.
The current Authority is comprised of nine members, eight of whom are appointed by the City Council. One of the seats is reserved for the current serving mayor.
Additional information about DDA services and capabilities can be obtained through the city’s administrative office at City Hall, or by calling Assistant City Administrator Scott Church at (734) 675-6500.
Look for additional helpful information about DDA programs in future issues of the DDA E-NEWS.
“We had great comments from all the crafters and vendors,” said event Chairman Scott Barr. “Sales were up for all the food vendors and crafters made more than expected this year. Many crafters sold out of items, like the Cheesecake booth and Fudgy Wudgy.
“We attribute a bit of the success to not competing with Wyandotte Street Art Fair this year, even though we did contend with the competing Uncle Sam Jam in Woodhaven again this year.” Barr said. The Wyandotte event was held the following weekend, and also reported an increase in traffic.
First-time vendor Deanna Pappas liked what she saw.
“I have been a visitor of this festival for years and this year I got to get the privilege of being a crafter there and having my own booth,” Pappas said. “This was my first show and it was absolutely awesome … I cannot wait to do it again next year.”
Sponsors seemed upbeat as well.
“This has been my first year as a sponsor for the Festival and I am so pleased with the results I am signing up again for 2012,” said Ketura Brandes, owner of Brandes Agency, and sponsor of the Festival’s popular Classic Volleyball Tournament at Elizabeth Park. “As a sponsor we received pre-press coverage, ideas on how to market my business at a festival and more. We collected emails for our business and are very satisfied with the responses we received.”
The festival committee also conducted on the street interviews with downtown business owners and uploaded them to their YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/trentonfestival. They also used Facebook and Twitter to make people aware of the event.