By Catherine Ferland
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
What makes a community feel like home?
For Tracy Miller, the director of the Delhi Charter Township Department of Community Development, it’s a lot more than just new sidewalks, flowers and flagpoles.
“Having a strong sense of place helps to attract people, who in turn help to attract businesses,” she said.
Miller is working with the Downtown Development Authority of the Delhi Charter Township to revitalize Cedar Street by investing in infrastructure that will help businesses to thrive.
“I don’t think that anyone would argue with me if I said that we continue to have businesses here that struggle,” Miller said at a DDA meeting at the end of September.
Davis said that the Cedar Street Revisioning Plan will be looking into options to change the traffic patterns so that people passing through will slow down and be able to see more of the businesses.
The DDA was founded in the mid-1980s, according to C.J. Davis, the Delhi Charter Township supervisor, and has been offering funding for businesses to better the community since then. Success stories of the DDA include the Sam Corey Senior Center, the year-round Holt Farmer’s Market and the Premier Rehabilitation on Cedar Street.
“The whole point of DDA was to take portions of taxes that would have gone to other things for the state and to capture them for the downtown area and to help rebuild it and revitalize it,” Davis said. “And this Cedar Street project would be almost trying to work to complete the work that the DDA has done for so long on Cedar, and to help change that corridor so it’s more business friendly and opens it up to the community.”
Referring to Cedar Street as “one of our last big hurdles,” Miller hopes to create a space where residents can feel a sense of home.
“People love that,” she said. “Our economic viability is going to be tied to how well can create that for our residents and for our businesses.”
Davis said that the businesses on Cedar Street aren’t showcased in the most effective way.
“It has the same problems as any other place,” he said. “If you look at Cedar and go down and you’re a business there, you know that thousands of people are passing through here everyday. That’s great that you have people passing everyday, but they’re not looking at your business.”
Miller said that Holt doesn’t have a true downtown area, but the DDA works in a triangle portion of the town that holds the most businesses. This revitalization process is looking to improve the current state of Cedar Street as well as expand it.
“South of Holt Road, Cedar Street has lots of available land for future development and existing unique businesses that really need to be showcased,” Miller said. “The existing condition of Cedar Street falls short of achieving these goals.”
McKenna Associates, a Michigan-based community planning and design firm, is leading a study of Cedar Street to determine other elements that could be changed. Miller met with McKenna Associates on Oct. 15, 2015, to discuss the project and it’s implementation.
“Bottom line, I don’t know what those infrastructure improvements are yet,” Miller said. “But we’re going to spend about the next nine months figuring that out and coming up with a very decisive . . . plan with decisive action steps, with dollar amounts associated with them to find out what that looks like.”
The details of the project have not yet been released to the public, but once the plan is finalized and reviewed by a steering committee, Miller said that she is looking forward to a lot of community input. Davis said that this community input will come in the form of online surveys and polls for the most effective community outreach.
“We’re looking at how to make it very, very clear that you are not in South Lansing,” Miller said. “And I think that this extremely important for out community, particularly perhaps as south Lansing continues to experience increased difficulties with some of their businesses and the socially driven things that are occurring there.”
Davis said that Holt used to be thought of as a “bedroom community” for Lansing, but that the Township board and the DDA are looking to give Holt a sense of identity.
“The past several boards, and this one, is working to give Holt our sense of identity and considering we were picked to be number eight happiest municipality in Michigan, I think that’s important. When you redo a corridor, it opens us up to other businesses who may not have thought of you before and who start looking ate because you change the look of your town.”
The project is expected to take about a year and will cost around $79,000, utilizing a portion of the Delhi Charter Township budget that was portioned out for this project. It includes a collaboration of several areas of local government with the township planning the process, the Department of Community Development coordinating the effort and the DDA helping out with the project.
Lisa Trubac, a lifelong Holt resident said that she doesn’t want Cedar Street to change completely. But does see some businesses struggle. She works at Bigby Coffee on Cedar Street and said that she doesn’t think that the building next door gets enough attention.
“I think the business in that building go unnoticed,” Lisa Trubac said. “I think they need better advertisement. I never knew that they were occupied.”
Trubac is no stranger to the importance of thriving businesses on Cedar Street. Her parents run the local State Farm Insurance branch that recently moved into a vacant property on Cedar Street to help fix it up.
“By moving their office they were able to take out all of the trees, fix the parking lot and fix up the property,” she said. “It was super run-down and now it’s just a nicer location.”