City of Niles not expected to have to pay back block grant

Published 7:58 am Tuesday, April 25, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Lisa Croteau is confident the City of Niles will meet its goal.
The manager of Niles Main Street said Monday she expects the program will avoid paying a grant of more than $1 million back to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
A 2002 Community Development Block Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation awarded the downtown development authority $1.17 million to create 39 new Main Street jobs. The original deadline for meeting the job requirement was set for Sept. 1, 2005. But, Niles was given an extension from the MEDC until Aug. 31, 2006 to reach the goal. Once the job requirement is met, the Niles Main Street program is no longer responsible for paying the grant back, Croteau said.
To date, around seven jobs have been created along Main Street, but Croteau said she expects many of the remaining jobs to surface through at least three new businesses scheduled to open by June 1.
A new Chemical Bank to be constructed on the corner of FIfth and Main streets should generate around 13 to 15 new jobs, as should a new day care center proposed for the former site of Old Kent Bank at 210 E. Main St., Croteau said.
Director of Community Development for the City of Niles Juan Ganum said proposals for both projects are expected to be on the city's planning commission agenda this week.
Tippy Toes Nail Salon, which will create one new job, is expected to hold a grand opening the first week of May, Croteau added.
For the downtown area as a whole, Croteau said in the last year there have been 11 new business openings that have created 24 new jobs. But, only jobs created on Main Street are counted toward the 39 required by the block grant.
Croteau added, only three business have been lost in the same period.
Ganum said it is important for the community to know the money that originated at the federal level was well spent.
Croteau also said Niles Main Street has adopted a new “tag line” for events - Downtown In Motion.
The slogan is being applied to the Celebration of the Arts festival on June 23 and 24 and is being associated with the Bensidoun-USA French Markets that will begin in Niles on Thursday, June 15.
Croteau said she has heard from at least 62 vendors - 28 from the Chicago area and nine from Niles - that are interested in filling the 20 spots available at the European-style market.
The weekly attraction is scheduled to coincide with concerts at Riverfront Park and a “trolley hop”, which will begin Thursday, June 1 and will provide free transportation from 5 to 9 p.m. for late business hours downtown.