Main StreetNow the real work begins.
The City of Charlotte has been officially welcomed into the national network of communities dedicated to downtown revitalization. Representatives from the National Main Street Center, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Main Street program gathered at the Charlotte Community Library Wednesday, March 22 to congratulate the Charlotte community for its selection into the Michigan Main Street Select Level program.
“They said 12 months was pretty ambitious to reach the Select Level of the Main Street program,” said Jason Vanderstelt, local developer and CharlotteRising board member as he opened the March 22 press conference. “We said we’d do it, and we’ve done it. This is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg for Charlotte and the things we have to come. We’re looking up, we’re rising, we will reach our potential and then set it to new heights from there.”
Norma Ramírez de Miess, Senior Program Officer and Director of Leadership Development for the National Main Street Center spent two days in Charlotte gathering input from community members, business owners, and community leaders in an effort to help guide the CharlotteRising board in revitalization efforts.
“I’ve been very impressed with the group of visionaries leading this effort,” she said. “We know that the community wants change. Change happens, we can’t avoid it, but we can manage it so that it happens the way we want it, and that’s what you are doing here in your community.”
de Miess also guided the community forum that took place Tuesday, March 21 at Windwalker Underground Gallery. There she provided attendees with demographical information regarding consumer habits of those living in and around the Charlotte community. She shared the results of a community survey that focused on downtown shopping, appearance and over feel, which generated 257 responses.
Armed with that information, de Miess and the Michigan Main Street team identified three areas of current strength in the community that could serve as the focus of downtown revitalization efforts — arts (visual, performance, artisan, crafts), health and wellness, and unique food and beverage.
The CharlotteRising board of directors will be charged with narrowing the focus even further over the course of the year, utilizing 2017 to establish a firm foundation for the Main Street program. Their efforts, however, will continue to rely heavily on volunteer and community support.
“Michigan Main Street is such a heavily invested program with their volunteers, that it would not be successful with out it,” said Katharine Czarnecki of the MEDC. “It makes such a difference for a successful Main Street.”
In Michigan Main Street’s 14-year history, volunteers have logged more than 550,000 hours, Czarnecki said. Main Street has also helped start 1,047 new business, creating more than 2,200 jobs and $230,000 in new investments.
“It’s great to see from a local business owner’s perspective, everyone is rowing the boat in the same direction,” said State Representative Brett Roberts, who also owns Charlotte Dairy Queen. “All of the good things that are already happening here are only the beginning … the work has really just begun.”
Fellow small business owner, Travis Lyon said he decided to keep his business — Charlotte Shoe Repair — in the community despite the opportunity to move. Since purchasing the business three years ago, sales have quadrupled and Lyon has been able to add seven new jobs.
“We have been rising,” Lyon said. “It’s just now catching on at the state level, the county level that we are getting the momentum we need so that others can jump on this rising boat so that we can all accomplish these things together. It’s very exiting to be a business owner downtown. I think we’ve primed ourselves and built a great foundation.”
Charlotte Mayor Tim Lewis said he sees excitement from not only business owners, but also from people throughout the community.
“The excitement transcends people that are involved in the program,” Lewis said. “It transcends back into our inner streets where people are seeing a real change in Charlotte. This is the place to come and to do business, to live, to have recreational activities, and we are really becoming a premier community in this area.”
The CharlotteRising board has already begun its strategic planning process, guided by de Miess. They will continue the planning process with the Michigan Main Street staff, including training that will likely take place in early May.
Community projects already planned, however will continue throughout the year, including the pocket park on east Lawrence Avenue and the renovation of Beach Market on west Lovett Street.
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