Cassopolis proceeding with applicationPublished 5:56pm Wednesday, September 11, 2013
The Village of Cassopolis continues to research reviving its Downtown Development Authority and applying for the Michigan Main Street Program.
Members of the village council, Cass County and citizens gathered in the Kincheloe Room in the old courthouse annex Sept. 4 to hear from Niles’ Juan Ganum and Lisa Croteau.
Ganum is the community development director for the City of Niles, while Croteau is the director of marketing and administration for the Niles DDA.
They talked to the group about how Niles got involved with the program, its advantages and then answered questions.
Cassopolis Village Manager Cindy LaGrow is currently in the process of reviving a dormant DDA. She is working to update the information and resubmit it to the state before December.
At the same time, she is asking the village’s planning commission to act as the board of directors for the DDA.
One of the first questions LaGrow had for Ganum and Croteau was if the DDA and Main Street board were the same. Croteau said that they started out as separate boards, but is now the same.
“One of the criteria to become a Michigan Main Street community is to merge the two,” Croteau said. “First of all, you have the same mission. It’s just a different way of doing it. Quite frankly, the Main Street way is a more effective way of getting things done.”
Ganum and Croteau pointed out that there are four key components to becoming a Main Street community — design, promotion, economic restructuring and organization.
The application must be completed by Nov. 1.
Croteau and Ganum told the group not to expect to be accepted the first time around and that Niles did not make it on its first attempt.
Even if Cassopolis does not get accepted into the Main Street Program this time around, LaGrow stressed that it would not keep them from acting like they had.
“If we are going to do this, let’s commit and move to this next level,” she said. “I think there are some things that we can do. Monica (Kennedy) and Ben (Anderson) and others have been planning the Fall Fest. That will be going on as we go through this process.
“I reached out to MHSDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) and I worked in other communities, Niles and Dowagiac, that has that rental rehab program. We don’t have to be a Main Street Program to take advantage of that and we don’t have to be a DDA. But we have to have landlords who are interested in putting that residential living space above their store fronts.”
LaGrow said she has contacted someone who is willing to come in and take a look to see if the program would be beneficial for them.
“I need an example so the next time the grant program rolls out, which comes out every single year, we need that momentum here. I could bring someone to Dowagiac or someone to Niles, but we need the people from Cassopolis to understand what can happen if you put your mind to it and move to that next level.
“As we continue down this path, we may not be able to hit the wins Niles has, but we need to start somewhere.”
“If you don’t get started, you will never get started,” Croteau said. “You will be amazed at what you will be able to do when you get people together who are willing to work on it.”
LaGrow also mentioned that she is in the process of putting together a grant application for the Downtown Improvement Grant (DIG), which the village has applied for before.
Ganum and Croteu before they left stressed that it was important for village members to attend the National Main Streets Conference which will be held in Detroit in May of 2014.