PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Thoughts on Official ‘Blueprint’ Downtown

Posted by ppna on January 17, 2008

According to the Ypsilanti Courier A blue print is in the works for Downtown Ypsilanti.  This Summer the Ypsilanti DDA received a $25,000 grant to help develop the blueprint or 5 year plan for downtown.  To receive this grant a %50 match must be made by the city.

 That makes the total $50,000 heading towards a plan for the future.   The city will hire HyettPalma, a planning firm, to help them create this plan.  HyettPalma will use information gathered from a random phone survey conducted by the DDA and suggestions from the Blue Print Process Committee.

My favorite part of the article is this — “The first meeting will take place on Monday and continue to meet regularly until the week of Feb. 25, when representatives from HyettPalma will visit Ypsilanti to firm up the plan and hold community forums to garner input from local residents.”

They expect the plan to be finished in March.  Contact Brian Vosburg, Ypsilanti’s DDA Director, at 734-482-1410 or by email brian@ypsilantidda.org

Now that you have the gist of whats going on let me make some points.   We are hiring a firm to help us with a plan but the firm isn’t going to visit the city until February 25th and they are to finish their report in March.  The links of ‘helped’ communities on HyettPalma’s website seems to suggest that they are in the business of helping resort-type communities.   I have strong suspicions that their knowledge of how to rejuvenate an economically depressed downtown.   We need our downtown to be a place that local citizens use.   There is a lot of competition for the tourist downtown and we can’t win that battle.   The DDA continually spends money on improvement projects such as bricking the sidewalks and dividing the road with cement planters (which is the type of thing HyettPalma tells cities to do).  

 We do not need a firm from Virginia to tell us what to do.   Follow the links on this page to the local blogs.  There are hundreds of people that are generally in agreement of what our city needs to develop the downtown.   The first thing we need is appropriate retail space for small business as was mentioned  on the often quoted Mark Maynard site.   We also need to get the property owners to clean up their crap, this included the city.   No matter how you enter the downtown district it looks like crap.  Arriving East and West on Michigan Ave you find abandoned properties (a lot on water-street), poorly maintained properties, and low-income vulture stores (Plasma Center, check cashing stores, $69.00 insurance places).   There is no way people driving by would even think of stopping or looking out the window to see what stores are available.   I’ve driven through a lot of towns and stopped because they looked interesting and none looked like Ypsilanti — See I just saved the taxpayers $50,000.

Here are my ideas for downtown:    

I have long thought that if I won the lottery I would set up a retail SPARKprogram to develop retail businesses for downtown.  Think about it, if we gave small independent retailers with good ideas a cheap or no-rent retail space, training, a single internet page,  legal, and counseling advice (I’m sure there are people that would volunteer) for a year then sent them down the street, In Ypsilanti,  to pay rent after they have figured things out.   The retail Spark would also give us the opportunity to develop a culture of stores for Downtown and develop a ‘scene’ different from other cities. 

What is my vision?  My vision is a downtown that plays on the liberal and green aspects of our population.   According to the Parks Report 67%of our population is between 15 and 44.   We don’t need antique shops we need to make Ypsilanti Hipsilanti (oh yeah that was tried by putting up signs).  Perhaps our Retail-Spark could bring back Henrietta Fahrenheit (a very cool clothing store), A record Store as cool as Rubber Sole, and more trendy stores to compliment The Rocket and the bike-shop.  We get cool stores and we have people with good ideas they just get killed by the plagues that kill most small businesses.   Start-ups (especially trendy start-up) need support to make it and if we can get some to succeed others will follow.   One cool store isn’t a destination but 10 cool stores are, no one cool store can survive on an island.

I would also suggest working on the ‘Green’ theme, have some stores that sell solar panels, wind turbines, rain barrels, hemp pants whatever have a re-use center that sells donated items to fund some of the activities.  All we need to do is make Ypsilanti the destination our citizens would want.  

I would also strongly suggest that the park plan, the Depot town plan, and the DDA plan all work together.  Imagine how great it would be if we continued the Friday music series but instead of it just being a stage with people playing it was an event with sidewalk sales, swap-meet, street performers, etc.   This can only happen if we link the types of businesses downtown with the music and the event.  Remember aged 15-45 is who we are.

 I’ve included this link to Hyette Palma’s own review of what they did for Manistee and since this is their own review I find it less than impressive.   10 years after their initial plan they were rehired to come up with an ecconomic plan?

Downtown Manistee, MI: Hyette Palma   in 1992 to help the city of Manistee revitalize their downtown. They state on their website that Manistee has made great improvements over the last 10 years and in 2002 they were rehired to update their plan. The plan they came up with in 1992 was to enhance the appearance of downtown and in 2002 they changed their focus and are now working on 1)Maintenance, to further improve Downtown’s curb appeal; Economic development, to further improve Downtown’s business mix via business retention and recruitment; and
3)Marketing, to attract larger numbers of both local residents and area visitors.

To sumerize — Save the money and work with the great volunteer brain power our city has to offer.  I don’t want to here that we only have to pay $25,000 either because the other $25,000 comes out of somebody’s pocket. 

Thanks for your time,

Kurt Anschuetz

*post updated since original — thanks to Steve Pierce for correcting my figures.

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6 Responses to “Thoughts on Official ‘Blueprint’ Downtown”

  1. The 50% match paid for by the taxpayers in the downtown is $25,000. The total cost of the branding of the downtown in a new report from Hyett Palma is $50,000. That is $50,000 of tax payer money that is being spent on this study.

    The other $25,000 doesn’t come from some other pocket. It is state money that we all paid in taxes. This isn’t free money from some foundation wanting to help our community. It is taxpayer money. It is your tax dollars.

    Hyett Palma has done hundreds of these studies throughout the state and country. After you read about 20 of them you see a consistent pattern of the things they recommend. We could have saved us the $50,000, gone out and got the reports from the other communities, they are all available for free or just the cost of printing, and then used that $50,000 to implement some of their recommendations.

    – Steve

  2. ppna said

    Thanks Steve,

    I got the same impression when I read the ‘plans’ they had posted on their website. I’m glad you corrected me on the money side of things too. I guess I’m not glad that is worse than I thought.

    I think the city goes through more ‘plans’ than the Detroit Lions.

    Kurt A>

  3. Paul Schreiber said

    The state of Michigan redistributes approximately 80% of its tax revenues to municipalities, schools and universities, and other organizations. Since 2001, state revenue sharing to Ypsilanti has been cut cumulatively by $2.9 million. In 2007, the state paid $1 million less to Ypsilanti than in 2001.

    The Blueprints for Downtowns grant directs $0.025 million of state money toward Ypsilanti’s downtown. The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority will fund the $25,000 match from local tax increment financing funds. No city general funds that pay for services like police and fire will be used for the match.

    The Blueprints for Downtowns process creates a five-year strategic plan that incorporates economic restructuring, design, promotion and organizational improvements for downtowns. The 2006 Blueprints for Downtowns grants were given to Charlevoix, Muskegon Heights, Oscoda, Petoskey, and Tecumseh. This year Caro and Clio and have received the grant along with Ypsilanti.

    Ypsilanti is different than these communities. The challenge for the Blueprints Process Committee and the YDDA board is to shape the HyettPalma Blueprints report into a professional document that will point the way for continued resurgence and investment in downtown Ypsilanti. Organized involvement by the community will accomplish this goal and the grant money will be well spent.

    The Blueprints process committee is a group of twenty-seven people from public and private organizations and businesses. The Blueprints committee and the YDDA board appreciate suggestions like the original blog entry above and look forward to more suggestions.

    Paul Schreiber

  4. ppna said

    Thanks Paul,

    I’m very happy there is going to be a 5 year plan for downtown. The main point is that $50,000 is a lot of money and it comes out of sombody’s pocket and it shouldn’t be invested in Virginia. I’m willing to put my faith in the Blueprints Process Committee, community involvment, and the YDDA board alone.

    Paul Schreiber states:
    The challenge for the Blueprints Process Committee and the YDDA board is to shape the HyettPalma Blueprints report into a professional document that will point the way for continued resurgence and investment in downtown Ypsilanti.

    It seems to me that the job of HyettPalma (the reason they are getting paid $50K) is to provide a professional document. I’m now even more confussed as to what they are getting paid to do.

    Kurt A>

  5. […] comment on how you would answer the questions in the invite. I’ve previously written on this subject so check that out if you haven’t […]

  6. […] to town to create a new vision for us and Tuesday night was our chance to speak out. You can find my initial feelings on the downtown plan here. I do want you to keep in mind that $50,000 dollars was spent bringing HyettPalma to town to work […]

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