Downtown gets good report card

Published 1:20 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - It was time for downtown Niles to receive its report card on Tuesday.
And, the Niles Main Street program scored an eight out of 10 in its annual program assessment report.
The purpose of the evaluation was to review goals met in 2005, suggest new standards for the coming year and how to move past some obstacles that may appear while moving forward.
The City of Niles last year joined 11 other cities participating in Michigan Main Street. The downtown revitalization program operates under the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Kalogeresis' report was based on 10 standards of performance: Broad based community support, vision and mission statements, comprehensive work plan, historic preservation ethic, active board and committees, adequate operating budget, paid and professional DDA/Main Street Manager, program of ongoing training, reporting of key statistics and Main Street Network membership.
Of the 10 categories, Niles received a ‘yes' rating in eight. Kalogeresis said community support around Niles was strong. He referred to conversations he had with city officials, including Mayor Michael McCauslin, who said they were excited about the downtown program.
The progress of the downtown program should follow in the steps of the program's mission statement, Kalogeresis added. The statement adopted promotes “community identity and heritage”, and the fostering of “a center of activity and ensure(ing) economic stability” for downtown.
The promotions committee also rec
The 2004 facade project that removed the aluminum sheets from the front on Niles' historic stores fulfilled the historic preservation standard, but Kalogeresis said the Main Street program should encourage new developments, such as Chemical Shoreline Bank, to construct with “compatible architecture.”
Kalogeresis said Niles Main Street has a solid board of directors and core of committees, plus an adequate operating budget. He did suggest, however, the idea of creating more fundraising opportunities for the program. The wine and chocolate tasting tent during the Hunter Ice Festival was a good event to push as a main fundraiser, Kalogeresis said.
The woman in charge of the Niles Main Street program is “one of the better program managers I've seen out there,” Kalogeresis added, referring to Lisa Croteau. Kalogeresis suggested higher pay and adding an administrative assistant for Croteau in 2006.
The overall progress of Niles Main Street program has been consistently reported to Michigan Main Street, and has also joined the National Main Street Network. Both were important steps in the progression of any Main Street program, Kalogeresis said.
There were two areas in the Niles Main Street that could use improvement. The first, Kalogeresis said, was establishing more thorough committee work plans, which will help organize workloads and determine the number of volunteers and money needed to complete projects.
Continually training new volunteers and board members was the other area needing improvement, Kalogeresis said. Plus, adding a “layer of active volunteer recruitment activities,” was suggested.
Comparing Niles to other active Main Street communities - even those of similar population - was difficult, Kalogeresis said, because of the uniqueness of each city's issues and circumstances. But, Niles did show considerable progress in 2005 and has already seen the beginning of a “growth phase” and significant re-investment period downtown, Kalogeresis said.
Nothing in the evaluation caught Croteau by surprise. So far, Croteau said she has been very pleased with the progress and direction of the program and the enthusiasm from the committees.
Events lined up by the Niles Main Street program for the summer of 2006 include the weekly Bensidoun U.S.A. French Market and Downtown In Motion: A Celebration of the Arts.