Niles’ strengths, weaknesses discussed during master planning session

Residents shared their thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of Niles during a public planning session for city’s master and consolidated plans Tuesday evening.

Approximately 50 people participated in the interactive, hour-and-a-half long session, which included group discussions, surveys and other ways to gain information that will be used to help guide the city’s development over the next five to 20 years.

Attendees were essentially asked to consider four things about Niles: strengths, weaknesses, things threatening the city’s progress and opportunities for advancement.

Attendees were also asked to think of uses for three key city-owned properties in the downtown area.

“Dreaming is what tonight is all about,” said Sanya Phillips, the city’s community development director. “Reinvent these spaces for us. Tell us what should be there.”

People were also invited write on large pieces of paper the answers to the following questions: What do you like about downtown Niles? What is missing from downtown? What is missing in Niles? What threats exist here? Why do you live and work in Niles?

Phillips said she and others would compile all the information gained from Tuesdays meeting and reveal the results within a month or so. That information, she said, would be used to help create the plan, which will be in development for several more months.

A master plan is a document, sometimes hundreds of pages long, that shows a community where it is now and recommends how it should exist in the future. It addresses many things important to a community, including transportation, public services, parks and recreation, economic development and natural resources.

Niles last developed a master plan in 2004.

Below are some of the responses to questions posed by the city in the meeting:


What’s missing in Niles?

• Ice rink

• Covered trail rest areas

• Public transportation

• Brewery

• Sports bar

• Walkable neighborhoods connecting businesses with people

• 24-hours businesses downtown

• Dog park

• Tech center

• Teen center

• Wayfinding signs

• Tech businesses

• Good paying jobs

• Chickens

• Public art

• Things for kids and teens

• History

• Bio-med business

• Kayaking

• Food trucks

• Water sports

• Historic tours

• Wineries

• Fine dining

• Entertainment locations/activities

• Good food/good atmosphere

• Childcare options

• Developed green space

• Tiny houses

• Great schools

• Coffee shops


Why do you live and work in Niles?

• Like the community

• Close to everything

• Good schools

• Friendly

• History

• Born and raised here

• Came for a job, stayed because people are great

• Centrally located in my sales territory

• Education system (New Tech)

• Great place to raise a family

• Largest town in county


What threatens Niles?

• Renter occupied housing

• Absentee landlords

• Landlord accountability

• State of Michigan finances/revenue sharing

• Jobs

• Crime

• Blight — abandoned buildings

• Lack of new business/manufacturing

• Apathy

• Poverty/lack of education

• Culture

• Poor quality streets and sidewalks

• Tech and bio-med jobs


What do you like about downtown?

• Mix of businesses

• Hunter Ice Festival

• Architecture

• Variety of shops

• River and the park

• Historic character

• Outdoor movies

• Bike path

• Restaurants that are there


What’s missing downtown?

• Business hours commensurate with shoppers

• Boutique hotel

• Involved business owners

• Fine dining

• Business owners working together to create overall success

• Unique offerings

• Wow factor/appealing to the eye

• Non-chain Italian restaurant

• Public art

• Good entertainment

• Public restrooms

• Wayfinding signs

• Main Street parking

• Signs

• Breakfast diner

• Bed and breakfast

• Brewery

• More stores (clothes or shoes)

• Outdoor seating


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