by Danielle Portteus
The City of Monroe is one of seven Michigan cities selected to receive technical assistance with an economic development project that will connect pedestrians from parking to businesses and cultural destinations facing S. Monroe St. The city is looking to improve the alley between S. Monroe St. and Cass St. running from W. Front to W. Third Sts. to serve as a pedestrian corridor, which officials say could draw more people to downtown Monroe.
The city is looking to improve the alley between S. Monroe St. and Cass St. running from W. Front to W. Third Sts. to serve as a pedestrian corridor, which officials say could draw more people to downtown Monroe. (Monroe News Photo/Rob Gorczyca)
Mayor Robert E. Clark said this was an opportunity to assist the city in “placemaking,” which is a buzzword for a multifaceted approach to planning, design and management of public places.
“This is an opportunity to discuss how to better utilize and improve the corridor,” the mayor said recently. “ This initiative will bring in MSU for public outreach, work with businesses in the corridor and also put together a concept plan.”
Last week, the Michigan Municipal League announced the cities participating in the PlacePlans, which is a partnership between the league and Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design and Construction. The PlacePlans projects are done with support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Gov. Rick Snyder’s MIplace Partnership.
The majority of the project work is supported by a grant or in-kind contributions from the Michigan Municipal League, but the city is required to supply $ 8,000 in a local match and access to the planning department staff throughout the project.
The city is looking to improve the alley between S. Monroe St. and Cass St. running from W. Front to W. Third Sts. to serve as a pedestrian corridor, which officials say could draw more people to downtown Monroe.
Matt Bach, director of media relations with the Michigan Municipal League, said the city’s contribution will leverage about $40,000 to $50,000 in work from the league and MSU’s staff.
The city council approved the matching funds during its meeting Feb. 2.
In a memo to the council, city staff said the city, along with its community partners, have demonstrated the intent to invest in the built environment, natural features, recreational opportunities and arts and cultural venues within downtown Monroe.
Citing recent examples like the Riverfront Park and Parking Lot, the River Raisin Heritage Trail and the Commission on the Environment’s work to restore the river, the place-based initiatives have created points of interest that are within a short distance.
The alley could become a pedestrian connection that residents and visitors could use to travel the downtown, however, the alley needs to be developed.
Mayor Clark said the city has identified the partners along the corridor who will be contacted as this effort moves forward, along with the public’s opinion, to discuss how best to improve the alley.
“It’s a direct passage from the Riverfront Parking Lot and it connects a number of businesses downtown,” the mayor said. “There is an opportunity here to make this a place where the public can go.”
Mayor Clark said that while S. Monroe St. is the city’s “main street” it is not “fully pedestrian friendly” because it is a state highway.
The courtyard near the Monroe County Labor History Museum could be purchased by the city and the area could be improved to create rear entrances to buildings that face S. Monroe St.
Rear entrances could help in revitalizing the block of buildings because they lack on- street parking in the front, the mayor said.
The alley would need to be resurfaced and have enhancements such as brick pavers sections or stamped concrete to improve aesthetics.
In addition, landscaping would need to be installed along with lighting to improve the safety of the alley.
One issue going forward will need a creative solution.
“We have to find an alternative for the Dumpsters,” the mayor said.
Dan Swallow, director of economic and community development, said a planning meeting will take place March 12. A time and location has yet to be announced. “We are asking people to tell us what they would like to see,” he said. “ The city sees it as an opportunity to improve the area.”
The report likely will be finished in October or November.
Mr. Bach said the city can use the report to seek funding for the project including grants.
Now, the league and a team of MSU graduate students will work on developing and facilitating a project timeline, create a communications and engagement plan, publicize the project, involve state agency representatives and produce a final report.
To learn more about PlacePlans, please click here.