Old Town lacks control over assessment dollar use

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Old Town needs to be in control of their assessment dollar use in order to fulfill the needs in the community, said Jamie Schriner, president of The Old Town Commercial Association and executive director of Community Economic Development Association of Michigan.

Schriner said Downtown Lansing Inc. is not satisfying those financial needs for the community because they do not know the community as well as residents.

Old Town turns to Downtown Lansing Inc. for revitalization grants through The Principle Shopping District (PSD). The PSD performs these efforts within its frontier of l-496 in downtown Lansing to Clinton Street in Old Town.

It advances businesses through “advocacy, cooperative marketing, special events, urban beautification and economic development,” Mindy Biladeau executive, director and coordinator of Silver Bells in the City and Downtown Lansing Inc., said in an email.

Through the Creative Places Grant Program, it collects assessments from Old Town which distributes back into its district, Biladeau said.

“Commercial property owners within a district can decide to accept or oppose a special assessment that goes toward public improvement,” Schriner said.

Each zone pays a different assessment rate. Paying higher or lower rates determine the benefits received.

Downtown Lansing pays the highest assessment rates and receive more benefits. Based on Old Town’s rates, the district applies for grants through the PSD, Schriner said.

Any non-profit can apply for grant dollars, but only The Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA) has the mission to revitalize Old Town, she said.

“We’re competing with other nonprofits in Old Town for those dollars. There are other really great nonprofits in Old Town that are applying for those dollars,” she said.“The OTCA is the only one that strictly (wants) to revitalize Old Town and to help Old Town. Their (other nonprofits) mission is not to revitalize Old Town.”

PSD Grants

[infogram id=”old-town-grant-awards-2018-1hzj4ol3k5pp4pw”]

As the grants provided are designed by the PSD, Schriner said she would prefer that Old Town makes their own decisions.

Rather than applying for grants, she said she would rather see more of a partnership between Old Town and the PSD. This would allow for better use of assessment dollars.

“It’s really difficult when your (PSD) volunteers (are) not necessarily in Old Town every day,” she said. “So, your business isn’t there, you don’t live there, you don’t necessarily know what the needs of the community are there.”

To make use of the dollars, she said she wants the PSD to give Old Town its assessment money back, minus an administrative fee and let them make their own decisions.

Schriner’s idea of using assessment dollars is to work better together in leveraging larger contracts and get a better deal for “the entire community, rather than trying to come up with these things as individual neighborhoods,” she said.

“Lets come together and have a trash removal contract that works for Old Town and Downtown (Lansing) and maybe, even potentially other neighborhoods in the city,” she said.

Having one larger trash contract would offer a better price, she said. Whereas, having two smaller contracts makes communities work separately.

“It doesn’t make sense to not work together,” she said.

Old Town also has fundraisers and volunteers that help with the needs of the community.

Volunteers generously donate their hours to clean up the community, said Sarah Arrendondo, owner of Katalyst Gallery.

“We have volunteers that come down here and pick up trash,” she said. “When we raise the funds to buy our own flowers, we have volunteers that plant the flowers.”



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