Editorial: Edwardsburg shares cover with 'Beatles'

Published 7:08 pm Monday, May 31, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

At first glance, it’s hard to miss that the May-June cover of The Review, the official magazine of the Michigan Municipal League, has emulated the iconic cover of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road.
The issue promotes “Walkable Communities,” like Brighton, where a boardwalk boosted summer business 15 percent.
Then you realize that an Aerosmith analogy (“Dream On” or “Walk This Way”) might be more in order because another component of the cover package is the four-page “Dreaming Big in Edwardsburg,” plus it’s by Chuck Eckenstahler.
Longtimers might remember Eckenstahler from his days as executive director of another SMC, the tri-county Southwestern Michigan Commission.
He teaches economic development in the Purdue North Central Graduate School of Business.
The article, giving the village positive progressive exposure statewide, details, if you haven’t been keeping up with this project, how Edwardsburg (pop. 1,147) and Ontwa Township (pop. 5,865) are coming together (another intentional Fab Four reference perhaps?) to turn three focal points into a “walkable destination” for residents and, given the number of lakes arrayed along the U.S. 12/Indiana border corridor of southern Cass County, visitors.
Their big dreams are “reviving the town square as a public gathering place” teases the text over a color photo of Village President Jim Robinson, CIA (Uptown Corridor Improvement Authority) member Tony Leininger, an architect, and township Supervisor John Brielmaier.
Only five of 138 parcels of land are actually in Ontwa.
Such cooperation, of course, is not unusual in Cass County, which has been holding intergovernmental forums for two decades, than other parts of Michigan. Eckenstahler’s old outfit still gives out an annual cooperation award named for late Dowagiac mayor Graham Woodhouse.
Edwardsburg’s town square will be formed by the Cass District Library branch, the school campus, the post office and a clock tower and kiosk.
Growth propelled by its sterling school system has gone all over the place east and west on U.S. 12 and north and south on M-62, leaving the ‘Burg’s traditional business area in the dust and in need of restoration and a new identity.
The CIA Act, passed in 2005, gives communities a way to fund public improvements such as new streets, lighting and sidewalks without hiking taxes. A CIA is created and operates similar to the Downtown Development Authority which remade Dowagiac’s streetscape in the 1990s with tax-increment financing.
Edwardsburg’s partners jointly formed their CIA in July 2009 to tackle a more than $8 million plan for 8,610 lineal feet of streetscape improvements, including installation of streetlights, sidewalks, street landscaping and decorative benches, brick planters, banners, decorative concrete stamping and underground utilities.
The clock tower will anchor downtown improvements, which will be promoted with $10,000 designated for marketing. As a public-private partnership, the plan also encompasses paint and supplies to property owners for approximately six district buildings and design and implementation funds for facade and building renovation grants and loans designed to obtain a unified architectural appearance, including a mill makeover.
As Leininger explains in The Review, “recognizing that over 50 percent of our residents are employed and routinely shop in Elkhart, Ind., we want to create a destination where our residents and visitors will want to shop and engage in other social activities.”
We’re proud of Edwardsburg for captivating such elite imaginations.
In the words of another legendary rock band, U2, “Walk On!”