Niles City Council votes 5-2 to keep The NODE

NILES – The NODE will stay after a 5-2 vote at the Niles City Council meeting on Monday night.

Following a lengthy public comment session, the NODE was voted by city council members to stay in its current location for a minimum of 12 months, “but preferably indefinitely.”

During public comment on Monday evening, 20 members of the community, including downtown business owners, members of the Niles Downtown Development Authority, area residents and the president and chief executive officer of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber weighed in on The NODE’s location, advantages and disadvantages, impact on community and businesses, and concerns for public safety.

At a prior meeting on March 8, council members received copies of a petition from 28 business owners and employees in the downtown Niles area who expressed their desire for The NODE to be relocated from its location on North Second Street.

During public comment, Stephanie Reno, owner of SLR Pilates and co-owner of Trap House 24 SLR, which is located at the corner The NODE is installed on Second Street, spoke up about her concerns for the location.

“We chose 127 E. Main Street to house our gym exclusively for location, visibility and traffic flow. That was literally eliminated for us without 24-hour notice, with zero regard to our business’ livelihood,” Reno said. “When this is discussed, a lot of times it is being ignored.”

Michael Reed, who owns Custom Computer Company in Niles, said he was on board with The NODE, but said if other businesses did not like the location, it should be moved to a location where it will be positive for restaurants and business owners.

Jim Morris, owner of Jim’s Smokin’ Café on East Main Street in downtown Niles, spoke positively of The NODE’s impact on his business.

“It’s a ‘cool factor’ that we’ve been needing for a while,” Morris said. “I look at my credit card statements in the last two months, and 60 percent are new business. That’s people coming in from out of town.”

Prior to the vote, city council member Gretchen Bertschy said The NODE “could have been a positive for everyone.” She said she felt more comfortable moving around the street to visit businesses and has met people from other communities while visiting The NODE.

“I think there was a missed opportunity for advertisements,” Bertschy said. “There’s some large window space on Second Street. There was opportunity for all sorts of advertising to help one another out. I’m surprised that got missed.”

Council member John Dicostanzo said he did not think there was a strong consensus among business owners in the downtown area regarding the NODE.

“I think we owe it to the business owners downtown to be a little more deliberative. Maybe the fact that The NODE exists right now is putting heat and pressure on everyone to make a rash decision,” Dicostanzo said. “I would prefer that the council either vote this down or only extend it to when the restaurants can come up to full occupancy and then continue to work on the concept and get the consensus among the downtown businesses that we are putting it in the right place, and we are implementing it to benefit all the businesses.”

Despite concerns from members of the public and some city council members expressed during public comment, the resolution to keep the NODE  was passed by a majority vote. Council members Dicostanzo and Georgia Boggs voted no on the action.

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