Niles joins elite national Main Street effort

Published 12:27 am Friday, April 4, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Niles has been named one of only 30 communities in the country designated by Local Initiatives Support Corp. as a National Neighborhood Main Street Initiative Community.
The announcement was made at a press conference Thursday at Zazou Restaurant, 219 N. Fourth St., Niles, held by the Niles Main Street Initiative promotions committee.
The announcement of the selection of Niles as a national Main Street Community was the icing on a very sweet cake.
The press conference was held to explain to Niles residents the many grants and resources at work here to help re-develop and revitalize Niles' downtown business district.
Tony McGhee, Local Initiative Support Corp. West Michigan Program Director, said the national designation means Niles, through the organization he represents, will have access to a network of technical and financial resources to help renovate and revitalize downtown Niles.
Renovations will include taking down the Kawneer aluminum facades and renovating Main Street store fronts, a new street scape on parts of Main Street, as well as the separation of the downtown storm and sewer system.
Money will also be made available to turn the second and third floors of some downtown buildings into apartments.
He said $2.1 million -- some grant funds, some potential loan money and some city funds -- has been pooled and is ready to be used on the downtown renovations.
The renovations are expected to begin this June with the removal of aluminum facades from store fronts in the 100 and 200 block of Main Street.
Nancy Butler, chair of the Main Street Initiative Committee, agreed this is certainly a great time to be in Niles.
Michele Boyd, chair of the Niles Downtown Development Authority and owner of Signal Travel and Tours in Niles, said she is glad to see so many people finally pull together toward the same goal.
Terry Eull, Niles city administrator, said the designation of Niles as a national Main Street Community will mean much to Niles.
Eull said this has not been an effort by one person by any means and he commended the city council for taking the steps and committing to invest in their own community.
At the press conference, representatives from the Troyer Group of South Bend, Ind., the successful bidder on the Main Street project, said the project is ready to move forward and store fronts could come down as early as June.
Many here have been critical of removing the aluminum facades from Main Street buildlings for fear of the poor conditions which will be found underneath.
Mike Daly, a lifelong Niles resident and the Troyer Group architect responsible for the project's architectural assessments, said little has been found to discourage them from continuing their work.
But he said because the aluminum store fronts have been up for so long, it's natural there will be some decay and deterioration visible when the aluminum facades are taken down.
Juan Ganum, City of Niles community development director, said he is glad to be a part of the downtown revitalization process.
An important part of revitalizing downtown Niles is also to attract residents to the area and the Main Street promotions committee is planning several events for this spring, summer and fall to do just that.
On Saturday, June 14, "The Great Niles Garage Barage" -- referred to by press conference MC Gloria Cooper, as the "Mother of all garage sales," -- will take place. Cooper is chair of the Main Street promotions committee. She said more than 100 spaces will be available on Main and Second Streets for those individuals and groups who want to participate.
On Saturday, July 12, "The Bikes Come to Niles," as Niles hosts part of the Third Annual Berrien County Riders Muscular Dystrophy Association motorcycle ride.
On Saturday, Sept. 13, "Bob the Builder Day," is planned, a family event for younger children giving them a close look at the progress of downtown construction and a chance to look at some heavy construction equipment.