What's The Dream For West Nine Mile Road?
The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority held an open house where stakeholders could plant their opinions directly on the plans.
The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority wants West Nine Mile Road to one day reflect the development philosophy of the rest of downtown Ferndale, and they know that means getting input and support from residents.
So on Wednesday evening the DDA held an open house complete with maps of possible plans on which residents could place their two cents with gold stars and sticky notes.
More than 50 people wandered in and out of State of the Art Framing Gallery where the open house took place, carefully studying the plans for the area of West Nine Mile between Livernois and Pinecrest that many would like to see as polished and pedestrian-friendly as the portion between Livernois and Woodward.
Possibilities include widening the sidewalks, general beautification like potted plants, and building a roundabout at Livernois and West Nine Mile to combat traffic congestion.
The DDA also acknowledges that West Nine Mile looks too much like a "strip mall," buildings look "tired and outdated," and there is "too much surface parking" that is underutilized--observations that many residents agreed with.
Right now the plans to revamp it all are simply a "wish list" put together by DDA officials who are hoping Ferndale's City Council will approve a tax increment finance (TIF) plan in the fall that would bankroll certain improvements.
And although the issue of a TIF plan is not one that will be put to voters, the DDA says it is still important for them to understand the financials behind it and to let officials know what they consider to be West Nine Mile's most pressing needs.
"We've shown in the past that we can make really positive changes with funds from a TIF," DDA Director Christina Sheppard-Decius said. "But the City Council is facing tougher decisions about how to spend money these days, and if we have plans that are based on solid projects that residents support, it will be easier to convince them to approve a TIF."
A TIF plan made possible more than 10 years ago the general improvements of downtown Ferndale from Livernois to Bermuda east of Woodward. There has since been $56 million in private and public investment in Ferndale, the DDA says.
"Ferndale 10 years ago bears no resemblance to what it is today," said Chris Hughes, communications and marketing director for the DDA. "It's proof that our past TIF plan worked."
A TIF plan allows a municipality to capture whatever additional tax revenue comes in as the result of rising property values within a specified district, and to use that revenue for improvements in that same district.
Many residents said Wednesday that they support a TIF plan for West Nine Mile. Their sticky notes echoed each other in theme: "Better traffic control!" one read. "Wider sidewalks," said another. And "How would pedestrians walk in the round-about? It just needs to be pedestrian-friendly!"
The DDA is taking these issues seriously, having already engaged a private civil engineer to draft plans for widening the sidewalks and acquiring the rights-of-way that would be necessary to do it.
"The pedestrian realm is uninviting, and in many areas unsafe," the DDA has stated.
Ferndale resident Dave Cottrill agreed, saying he'd love to walk on the sidewalks on West Nine Mile but doesn't because of how close pedestrians must get to heavy, fast-moving traffic.
If the Ferndale City Council approves a TIF plan for West Nine Mile this fall, Sheppard-Decius said the sidewalk widening project and other improvements should ideally coincide with its resurfacing in 2013, which is being financed with a federal grant.