With the assistance of Progressive Engineers & Architects of Grand Rapids, the first Downtown Development Authority Board set out to establish a base plan for future development of the downtown area in the village.
A very fundamental and rudimentary layout, the plan identified the weaknesses of the downtown area and the basic needs that had to be overcome before any realistic plan for the future could proceed. A lack of a central waste water treatment system for the village left downtown buildings without the capacity for discharge, and subjected much of the downtown area to restrictions imposed by the County Health Department. Subsequently, the base plan initially laid out small and incremental projects that the DDA could accomplish in the early stages with a more serious effort focused on public utility improvements for the long run…..a sanitary sewer system.
Expected cost for that sewer system was originally estimated at $1.7 million dollars, with an estimated completion of 2005. Since the village as a whole had no sanitary sewer system, that became the driving point for the future of the downtown as well as the rest of the village. In 1992 the village received revolving fund loans from the Department of Natural Resources for the installation of a sanitary sewer system at a cost of $2.7 million. The DDA portion of the project represented $1.0 million of the total project. With a contract commitment from the DDA, the village accomplished the task of installing sewers throughout the village with an annual commitment to the bond debt service totaling $1.0 million over 20 years. From that point the village was on its way to vitality in 1994 as the sanitary sewer system was installed and brought on line. Click on the Workbook above to view the base plan.
Design Grass Lake
The Downtown Development Authority proceeded through the 90’s with minor projects and changes as it tended to be hampered by its commitment to the sanitary sewer project. Revenues remained tight throughout the 90’s as a result of Proposal A, and the political environment found several changes in board membership.
In 2002, a new administration found the drive of the authority to be sure, but slow. A complete change in the authority board membership brought new blood and fresh drive to the authority. With the focus on the DDA base plan, the Village committed and applied for a grant through the Michigan Council for the Arts & Cultural Affairs. With the initial commitment of $6,500, the Council for the Arts granted a matching $6,500 to bring the staff of Design Michigan to Grass Lake for an enhanced community wide review of the downtown, its strengths and weaknesses, and recommendations to enhance the base plan.
An overall recommendation from Design Michigan followed in the attached presentation and the Design Process Group in the Village began an approach to implement those recommendations.
Blueprint for Downtown
The logical step following the Design Michigan program was a market review and a combination of the recommendations from the Design Grass Lake program. In 2005 the Downtown Development Authority combined with the Village Council of Grass Lake to seek assistance from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In doing so, the Village Council and the DDA put up $15,000 in matching funds for a grant application before the MEDC to accomplish a market study and further enhance the image of downtown with additional review.
In late 2005, the State of Michigan approved the grant application of the DDA and awarded the Village an additional $15,000 for the market study, awarded the Village with a State of Michigan “Cool Cities Neighborhood” designation and set the Village on its way to a Blueprint for Downtown study and review conducted and coordinated by professional consultants Hyett Palma of Alexandria, Virginia. Hyett Palma took the program a step further by proposing further enhancements for downtown including endorsement of a combined municipal facility housing the Post Office, Village Hall and Library.
In 2006, the DDA adopted the Blueprint for Downtown as its plan for the future.
Review of the Plan Progress
In 2010, the Village Council received from the Downtown Development Authority a report on the review of the overall planning process and the accomplishments or successes in the downtown since the inception of the DDA. Since the Village Council has completely changed since the creation of the Downtown Development Authority in 1990, the Village Manager took the council through the basics of the original establishment of DDA, through today with the current DDA Board’s interest and current priorities.
That review accounted for the successes of the DDA plan and its ability to collaborate with the Village Councils’ over the years, and a number of outside agencies to put together a number of achievements. Those achievements leveraged thousands of DDA funds to millions in grants and loans from other agencies to provide more than $4.0 million in benefit for the downtown and the Village as a whole. For a review of the Tax Increment Financing plans over the years feel free to examine those plans as they existed in Part I, and as it currently exists in Part II below.