Downtown Development Authority news

Did you know that St. Louis has a Downtown Development Authority that works to improve the appearance of the downtown area and promote downtown businesses?

The DDA extends east to the Marathon gas station on M-46, west to the small strip mall on west side of Watson Street, south to the Historical Society and railroad tracks and north to the Pine River.

The DDA is also a Tax Increment Financing District, meaning that a portion of property taxes within the district finance the DDA.

The way that works is that a property’s taxes at the time of the district’s formation (1998) is noted, and any taxes resulting from increased assessed value goes to the district and thus fuels the DDA.

This was once $40,000 a year but has shrunk to half that since 2008, said DDA Director Phil Hansen.

The latest financial statement shows that the DDA has $94,000 in total assets and $29,000 in liabilities.

A 15-year bond issued in 2003 to fund parking lot improvements downtown was paid off last year. The payments had limited what the DDA could do, as most of its money was tied up in bond payments.

Now that more money is coming in, Hansen wants to let it build up for a while to fund a yet-to-be-named future project.

The city could levy as much as 2 mills on property within the DDA but choses not to.

There are 13 members of the DDA. In order to be a member, you have to own property in the DDA. Hansen strives to have a mix of businesses represented and to keep a balance of men and women as well.

One downtown property owner Hansen singles out for praise is Bill Coty, who owns multiple parcels downtown, keeps them in good repair and makes sure they don’t sit vacant. “Bill Coty has been a major, major citizen,” Hansen said. “He’s a very community minded guy.”

Other DDA members are Mary Anderson of Anderson Custom Carpeting, Mary Peterman of Chemical Bank, Corey Bailey of Commercial Bank, Lenore Worden of Hair Worx Plus, Scott Morrow of Peters Hardware, Stephen Near of Near Optometry, Jerry Lewis of Jim’s Barber Shop, Carla McDaid of McDaid’s Chop Shop, Dana Saurman of River Rock Bar & Grill, Monica McCloskey of Blue Shamrock Pub, George Kubin of Kubin’s Furniture and City Manager Kurt Giles.

DDA members meet at 12:15 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of every month in city hall. Meetings are open to the public.

Since the DDA has no big projects ongoing, the meetings usually take for form of Hansen telling the business owners what he’s been up to.

Here’s what he reported at the April meeting:

Someone has expressed interest in buying the vacant building next door to Main Street Pizza that formerly housed Weathervane Antiques.

The owner of the Corner Market building is tentatively planning to re-open it as a meat market. “I think he’s going to give it a shot,” Hansen said.

Blue Moon Boutique and Alterations now owns Extreme Tan and Extreme Fitness, Hansen said. The owners are Kim Vliet and Duane Thompson.

Hansen hopes the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will complete an environmental assessment of the Clark gas station property this summer, which would clear the way for a sale. “Whatever goes there, I don’t think it’s going to be a gas station,” Hansen said.

The retail space next door to Delta Chiropractic (Dr. Zia) was discussed, as well. Hansen would like to see exterior improvements made.

Legacy Pizza at the corner of N. Main and E. Saginaw (formerly Jan’s Pizza) is open and doing well.

The city’s W.T. Morris Memorial Pool interior bowl will be rehabbed and painted with a Gratiot County Community Foundation grant before it opens for the 2018 season.

Hansen said he has been running the gauntlet through M46 road construction daily to see how long the wait is and said five minutes is the maximum lately.

A tree is coming down at Commercial Bank and will be replaced with a planter.

The St. Louis Garden Club will work with DPW personnel to plant flowers in large planters next month with help from Twin City Landscape.

City government is working with legislators Jim Lower and Judy Emmons to find funding for repairs and improvements to South Main from M-46 to the railroad tracks.

Inmates in the prison are ready to make new trash can containers for downtown but are awaiting material that should arrive soon, Hansen said. Some 14 or 15 containers will be made.

The DDA is concerned with the pigeon population downtown, as the birds roost in awnings and defecate on the sidewalk. Hansen said steps must be taken to keep the birds out of the awnings.

The St. Louis Farmers Market will open for the season on Thursday, June 7, and run through Thursday, Oct. 25.

The Middle of the Mitten Community Golf Outing goes forth on Thursday, June 7. Proceeds benefit the Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call  466-3103 or email baileyco@commercial-bank.com.

Kevin McCreery, the late musician who was a member of Uncle Cracker Band will be remembered with two events on Saturday, May 19. A presentation of McCreery’s career in music begins 1 p.m. at Historical Society Depot Museum (119 East Crawford). That will be followed by a “celebration through music” 3 p.m. at the GEM Theater. The former St. Louis resident died last fall.

St. Louis sixth grader Monika Borie received a grant for two events for kids with disabilities in Clapp Park. (That’s the big square park across the street from the high school.) The times are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dates are June 23 and Aug. 25. Events include face painting, board games, sports games, ladder toss and sidewalk chalk. Hot dogs, chips, drinks, snow cones and cotton candy will be provided free.

The Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce has an interim director, Diane Yonker. She agreed to do the job for six months while chamber member search for a new permanent director. Former director Taryn Blanshan resigned to pursue other opportunities.


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