Being introduced to Main Street in Saline MI

 One of the things I like most about being a consultant to downtown groups is being able to introduce the Main Street Four Point Approach™ to towns just starting to become involved in downtown revitalization.  I had the opportunity to do that just last week in Saline MI.

 As a bedroom suburb of Ann Arbor Michigan, Saline has a downtown of about 50 businesses stretched along the crossroads of Michigan State Route 12 and Ann Arbor Street.  Saline is fortunate to have a considerable stock of handsome and well-restored historic commercial buildings arrayed along both Route 12 and North and South Ann Arbor Streets.

 Only one major corner building has been replaced over the years, and the bank occupying the new building on the corner is supportive of the Main Street effort.  Several groups, including the area chamber (located in downtown Saline), a merchants association and a part time downtown manager paid by city funds, have managed the downtown for a number of years.  Saline is hoping to apply to Michigan Main Street to become a designated community at the end of this year in a highly competitive application process.  I was there to help them develop their fundraising efforts and explain to a larger group what the four Main Street committees do.  We also talked about how Main Street organizations budget and develop work plans to manage the work of the volunteers who implement projects.

 What impressed me the most were the 20 volunteers who took more than six hours from their regular work life, to attend this training session last Monday afternoon, March 28.  Their leader is Cindy Czubko.  Saline is her hometown, and she herself, has worked in the Main Street movement for more than 20 years as a local manager and as a consultant to other towns.  She has gathered around her a highly motivated group of volunteers who are fully committed to integrating Main Street into the already existing downtown projects and organizations.

 The Mayor, other elected and appointed officials, merchants, property owners and City staff were present on March 28.These core volunteers will move the process forward over the next several years:

Through the Michigan Main Street Associate Level, they have gone and visited other towns in Michigan to see how the Main Street Approach™ works.  Because of these visits, they have become true believers that Main Street can have a positive and lasting impact in Saline.

 Starting a residential membership campaign is hard work.  There are countless details, and endless meetings to get ready to launch one.  However, no matter what I threw out to the group, their response was “bring it on!”  They understood that residents would be the primary beneficiary of a revitalized downtown and should be asked for support.

 Saline's downtown looks good now.  Most of the key historic buildings in downtown have been restored within the last ten years, and there are interesting shops and restaurants.  This is not a place plagued with vacancies and poor sign choices.  However, the folks I met in Saline know it can be better.  They want to use the Main Street Approach™ to coordinate with the already existing organizations, and make downtown the focus of community life.

 After spending six hours with the Saline downtown volunteers, and hearing about their dreams, there is no question in my mind that these volunteers can make their downtown into something special by using the Main Street Approach™.  I am humbled that they wanted me to help them get their fundraising efforts off the ground and to support and encourage the many groups to work together toward a common goal.  I am rooting for you!   Nice article from Ann about my visit, can be found here.