cool cities funds for ypsi?

I heard a rumor today that Ypsi’s DDA just received a $25,000 state grant to bring in consultants charged with revitalizing our downtown. I don’t have a copy of today’s “Ann Arbor News” on hand, but I think they may have run an article about it. Unfortunately, since the “Ann Arbor News” made the choice to only post the first few paragraphs of some stories online, I can’t tell for sure. Here, however, is how the article that I think may be about this starts. If you know how it ends, send me a note.

Ypsilanti is one of three cities statewide to win a chance to participate in a downtown program to bring more businesses and visitors to its struggling downtown, officials learned today.

The program, which is part of the governor’s Cool City Initiative, would provide the city with strategies to develop an action-oriented downtown…

If I’m reading this correctly, it says that we’ve been awarded “a chance to participate” in the program. That’s quite a bit different than being awarded $25,000, isn’t it?

And what the hell is an “action-oriented downtown”? Does it involve sidewalk treadmills? I can handle an animatronic Richard Simmons or two, but I don’t want sidewalk treadmills?

One of these days, will someone remind me to write a scathing post about the “Ann Arbor News” and their policies concerning the web? I love the paper, and know that they’re doing the best they can in a climate of dropping ad revenue and rising paper costs, but my issues have nothing to do with quality or content. My issues, and I’ve mentioned it to friends at the paper before, are concerning how they share information online. For one, they don’t archive their stories for more than a few weeks. That means that no one searching the web for information about an Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti company featured in the “News” will find it. That hurts local business. And, I don’t imagine the cost of archiving local stories, and thus making them searchable, would be all that much. I would think the cost would be covered by online ad sales and the like. My second issue has to do with these truncated stories that they run online. I realize they’re doing it because they fear that people who read online won’t bother to buy the paper, but I think that ultimately it’s going to hurt them. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it in this thread, but, at the very least, they should make full versions of stories available to their subscribers online… OK, remind me later and we’ll start a whole thread about it… And do leave a comment if you know something about this $25K that we may have access to through the DDA, and what it can be used for.

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12 Comments

  1. brian r
    Posted July 24, 2007 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    The DDA was awarded a $25K grant for this program. The DDA had to put up a matching $25K.

    Here’s the official press release:

    Ypsilanti, MI — The Downtown Development Authority is excited to announce that Ypsilanti has been selected as one of three cities in Michigan, out of numerous grant applications, by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to receive a “Blueprints for Michigan’s Downtowns Grant”.

    “This grant comes at a perfect time for downtown Ypsilanti. Millions of dollars, both public and private, have been invested in Downtown Ypsilanti for streetscaping, building renovations and the opening of new businesses over the past few years”?, stated Brian Vosburg, Director of the Ypsilanti Downtown Authority.

    The grant will provide a nationally renowned Planning Firm as a consultant to partner with the Ypsilanti DDA and MSHDA to develop a five-year strategic plan for downtown Ypsilanti. This plan will also incorporate economic restructuring, design, promotion and organizational improvements.

    A local Process Committee has been formed to include stakeholders from a variety of downtown organizations & businesses. This Committee will help guide the Study. The Consulting Firm will work with the DDA for three months and then MSHDA will provide five years of technical assistance.

    Strong community support from a variety of sectors played an integral part in the awarding of this grant. The grant, written by the Ypsilanti DDA Director Brian Vosburg, has a value of $50,000 which requires a 50% local match from the DDA. The DDA is seeking local financial assistance for this match.

    It always worries me when national organizations tell small communities what’s best for them after spending a week or so walking around. Regardless, good for the DDA.

  2. Posted July 25, 2007 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    national organizations tell small communities what’s best for them after spending a week or so walking around

    Yes, I always find the “starchitect strike force” approach to planning a little iffy for this reason.

    It’s the “process committee” made up of various downtown and neighboring businesses, residents, and other stakeholders that will make the process valuable or not. The PCom works intensively with the consultant provided for the three month planning period, then is tasked with oversight of implementation over the next five years.

    In this sort of case, it’s important for the PCom to understand that their role is to teach the consultants about the community, and not just soak up general advice like sponges. Fortunately, I think we can count on Ypsilantians to be, uh, opinionated.

  3. egpenet
    Posted July 25, 2007 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I agree with Brian R, plus these comments …

    What we have been trying to do … we/this blog/the 20/200 group/the neww D.A.Y … is to get Council, both the Downtown DDA and Depot Town-Cross Street DDA, and the Chamber to listen to the citizen wants and needs … to create a bottom-up flow of communication.

    What are OUR (citizen)) priorities?

    Some of us want it all, of course.

    But given the times and our circumstances, we cannot have it all.

    Over the past 25 years, we citizens have NOT given our elected and appointed officials clear direction. AND they have not given us REAL budget and expense numbers on which to decide.

    The Blueprint and the 20/20 committees are asking once again for the citizens to be explicit AND for the city and other civic leaders to be forthcoming with REAL numbers.

    This is one more opportunity to get it together and build a base for Ypsilanti’s future.

  4. Posted July 25, 2007 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    For some reason the DDA press release didn’t identify the national firm. The out of state consulting firm is Hyett Palma. (http://www.hyettpalma.com/) They will come in and do a study and write a report.

    Battle Creek did a similar Blueprints consulting agreement.
    http://www.hyettpalma.com/features/battlecreek.html

    Some have argued that you could take Battle Creeks report, do a search and replace for Ypsilanti and you will have 95% of the same report they will do for Ypsilanti and save about $50,000 in taxpayer money that we could use for police and fire which the City threatens to cut.

    Police and Fire are critical quality of life issues for the community and I am having troubles spending all this money on out-of-state consultants that won’t bring in any new tax revenue and at the same time telling neighborhood associations and city employees their jobs are on the chopping block.

    The total cost is $50,000 for the consultants report. $25,000 comes from the state in a grant and it requires a $25,000 match in local funds.

    The local money will likely be taxpayer money and will come from the DDA general operating budget.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  5. Amanda
    Posted July 25, 2007 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Re: the A2 News… Mark, I SOOOO agree, and complain about the non-archiving online on just about a daily basis, especially as I plow through stacks of newspapers that I need to clip from, scan, etc because I know I won’t have any way of keeping that information otherwise. I find it appalling that the A2 News doesn’t archive. I think when I started undergrad at U-M there wasn’t even an online version of the MI Daily (the campus newspaper), and later when they archived online, they even went back to well before they started the online one. I just don’t get why, since it’s soooo common, the A2 News can’t do that. I would have expected them to be at the forefront. I also find the search function on mlive and the overal navigation totally useless. I’ve spent several minutes (and sometimes with no luck) trying to find an article that I know was in that day’s paper. Argh.

  6. Posted July 25, 2007 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    For the record, the day the press release was written and the day the State of Michigan announced the winners, the “national planning firm” had not been announced. I asked Brian Vosburg (the DDA Director) which planning firm won the State’s RFP and he said that he had asked, but was told it hadn’t yet been announced.

    I’m not sure where you found your information, Steve, maybe an educated guess, since it was Hyett-Palma that conducted the 1992(?) study that so many administrators continue to reference?

    Either way, this downtown needs a PLAN. And as EGPenet stated, this grant allows THE PEOPLE to be a major force in decision making and the shaping of the future of downtown.

  7. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 25, 2007 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I like experts, I don’t like outta-towners.

    Can we just pay Murph $25,000 to research and report on everything the experts would likely say?

  8. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 25, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    What I’m trying to say is:

    My extremely ill-informed assumption is the experts will say the same thing our own experts could/would/do say.

    We all appeal to experts when their expertise allies with our folksy wisdom. We all find reasons to discount their advice when it collides with our assertions.

    My assumption is that whatever the experts say, some will discount it as the self-serving ramblings of out-of-town con men and others will herald it as proof that their view was right all along.

    I don’t see how it will alter the current local climate or give direction that we’ll collectively rally behind.

    Experts are only valuable if their verdict has some hope of being adhered to. It would seem the lines are already being drawn to attack or herald any study’s results. It’s already a waste of tax-payer dollars. We’ve already been told there are no experts in town that can offer us any solutions. Apparently, there’s nobody out there who can offer us any better.

    I like experts. But, I don’t like spending a mint on some crabdip that no one at the party will eat.

  9. BVos
    Posted July 26, 2007 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Well the DDA could have spent $60,000 or $70,000 for the study by going it alone. However we decided to go with MSHDA who is able to negotiate the cost down to $50,000. Then on top of that MSDHA agrees to split the cost 50/50. They’ll also throw in 5 years of technical assistanct to boot.

    $25,0000 for a $60,000 to $70,000 study. Sounds like the DDA is working to use tax payer money wisely.

    The process will be very bottom up focused, as stated above, with lots of public input. The goal is to get everyone working on the same page and same goals for downtown. I’m hearing folks around town discussing and agreeing on 80% to 90% of the ideas out there on how to improve downtown. This is a process to bring that all together, put it on paper and figure out how to make a go of it for the next 5 years.

    The consultant has not been selected yet. MSHDA put the consultant out for RFP this year. Hopefully they should have the firm selected soon. In the past it was HyattPalma.

    If someone can offer the same or better study for $25,000 or less, give me a call.

  10. mark
    Posted July 26, 2007 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    I suspect there might be some truth to what Steve says… if we don’t push them, we might just get back a recycled version of something that they’d done before. But I don’t think there’s much danger of that happening if we stay on them. It’s going to be up the the DDA and the community to demand that these consultants really take the time to know our community, etc.

  11. Amanda
    Posted July 26, 2007 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    i for one will put a vote on confidence in for brian at the dda… who in my experience working with him on a number of things in the past year is on the same page as many of us about wanting community-focused and -demanded solutions, and really authentically cares about input, and really wants the downtown to succeed, and in my experience doesn’t have any super misconceptions about what will or won’t work. he’s open to creative ideas, dedicated to good process, and pretty dang smart.

  12. brian r
    Posted July 27, 2007 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Sample Blueprints:

    Menominee
    Whitehall
    Big Rapids
    Houghton
    Saline
    Romeo
    Muskegon Heights
    Iron River

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