Williamston looks to expand downtown with new development program

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Williamston has been working constantly to revitalize its downtown, according to Mayor Tammy Gilroy. One action the city has taken is inviting the National Main Street Center to do the Baseline Site Visit for Associate Level Michigan Main Street Communities.

The goal of this assessment is “to evaluate the needs of the local community and provide direction in how the community is to move forward to the Select Level,” according to a flier by the National Main Street Center.

The Main Street Program has been positive for the city so far.

“We have been given a lot of information on all about what we can do to make Williamston a desirable destination,” Gilroy said.

Gilroy said the program has given the city ideas on how to market and promote the downtown, how to revitalize aged buildings, and how to make the downtown desirable to those who are just passing through.

The event will be held 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 18. The agenda includes five items including a tour of Williamston’s Downtown Commercial District, a discussion of the vision City Officials have for the downtown, a community presentation by Street Managers from Old Town Lansing and the City of Howell, refreshments, and a meeting with the Main Street Steering Committee.

An important goal of this program is to attract new businesses to the downtown that will appeal to both residents and visitors, according to City Clerk Holly Thompson. Thompson said retail is sparse in Williamston’s downtown; expanding that business would certainly be beneficial to the city.

Choosing what businesses should be incorporated into the city can be a difficult task, as the preservation of small businesses is important to a community like Williamston. Community Development Director Mario Ortega said he is concerned the balance between making sure businesses feel comfortable with moving into the city while also making sure the business is complementary to the needs of residents.

While the city wants to expand its downtown, it also has room to grow the 96 interchange, one of the last undeveloped interchanges on the highway. The goal is to be sure that both districts can be supported.

“To expand the city properly we need to be proactive by looking at all districts and the benefits certain industries could bring to the city,” Ortega said.

Mayor Gilroy agrees, and said it is important that the city not bring in an industry to the interchange that would take away from downtown business.

“We want to preserve small business, and have the right balance…we want to make sure anything we bring in is beneficial and positive to all,” Gilroy said.


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