2018-09-13 / Front Page

DDA reviews pop-ups, considers re-capture

By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com

GRAND BLANC — Although still pending approval of the Planning Commission, the city Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board discussed the plans for ‘pop-up’ business chalets to be located in a mini-mall space east of city hall.

The project is being funded by a $70,000 grant from the Harding foundation and in partnership with the UM-Flint’s Office of Outreach, the city will place five chalets, (four of which will be 16 feet x ten feet) on the property which contains 19 parking spaces.

Vendors who rent the chalets will be able to park on Grand Blanc Road and additional parking for vendors and visitors is available on Grand Blvd. and in the city hall parking lot. Kevin Groves, DDA Chairman said after reviewing the area and parking in person, he has no concerns there will be enough room. The plan should come before the sharp eyes of the planning commission soon.

City Manager Wendy Jean-Buhrer said the area will also serve as an extension of the current pocket park located in the area and they hope to possibly add a water feature and a bioswale for excess water retention.

One chalet will be nine by 18 feet. They are being built in partnership with multiple entities at Grand Blanc Community Schools, principally the building trades classes, but Jean-Buhrer added the marketing and graphic arts teachers are also getting involved.

University of Michigan’s part will be coordinating a business ‘boot camp’ and competition at McFarlen Library on Perry Road.

Jean-Buhrer says this will be idea for the business person who has or is thinking about starting their own business but isn’t ready to invest in a full ‘brick and mortar’ building. She added the experience may help them decide if their business is ready for a move to a more formal presence in the marketplace. The space should be ready by next spring.

The business pitch competition will be open to all contenders, not just those who attend the boot camp classes. Jean- Buhrer also said they are in the process of recruiting good local people to judge the competition, which will earn the winner free rent for the whole season.

As of now, the season is defined as May- September or possibly October, as well as a short-term ‘holiday market’ according to city officials. . may align with farmers market and also add holiday market. The chalets will be in place year-round and have electricity. Restrooms will be those at city hall. Groves initially expressed concerns over parking, saying they would want to be careful to not have spill-over to the parking lots of nearby businesses such as Little Joe’s. After viewing the space he said he believed that wouldn’t be a problem.

Also as of now, Jean-Buhrer said they anticipate business hours for the chalets being Wednesday-Friday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday and holiday hours to be determined; possibly 10 a.m. – 7p.m. but those are not yet ‘set in stone’.

Board member Suzanne Johnson asked if lessees would have to be ‘new entrepreneurs’ or those without a current business location and city officials said that would have to be discussed.

Jean-Buhrer also reported after meeting with their state partner on making the city a Re-development Ready Community (RRC), they suggested looking at updating the DDA plan and “resetting” their base. It is just something they are exploring at this time, and Jean-Buhrer explained she had heard different things such as that the taxing entities who provide revenue to the DDA can then ‘opt out’ of the current agreement.

She consulted with the Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC) who told her “the law is iffy” and also consulted with officials in Beaverton, MI who did this and were assured by their planners that it wouldn’t happen. The city manager said this would reset the base to “what it is now” and then that would be their taxable value next year—increasing their income as when they started the DDA it was nil.

The boundary wouldn’t change but it would tweak the plan she said. The original plan included things such as a parking structure and other items which never took place because when General Motors left the area, the revenue projections failed. So resetting the base takes into account what is actually there now and resets those revenue indicators based on their actual value.

The entities who provide revenue and could possibly opt out are those who receive millage money from county residents such as the Mass Transportation Authority, Mott Community College, and Genesee County Parks and Recreation. Jean-Buhrer is going to look into it further and it is likely to come up in future meetings.

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