Ferndale City Council approved a $1.1 million West Nine Mile streetscape project at their regular meeting on Monday night.
The project extends from Livernois to Pinecrest and aims to improve walkability, safety and the overall appearance of the area.
Ferndale Downtown Development Authority executive director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said this part of West Nine Mile has a higher rate of vacancies and is currently hazardous for pedestrians and lackluster for consumers.
"This was always an area that we had looked to eventually getting to," she said.
Work will take place between April and September next year, including resurfacing West Nine Mile Road from Planavon to Pinecrest, water main replacement and a variety of streetscape improvements. The road will go from five lanes to three lanes, on-street parking will be added and sidewalks will be wider.
The city had already budgeted for water and sewer replacement and street resurfacing for this section of West Nine Mile, and the DDA utilized the opportunity to seek out grant funds for street enhancements.
Grant money secured by the DDA covers $590,134 of the project and the DDA has also contributed more than $60,000 in engineering costs.
City management provided three options in which the city could fund the remaining $473,443 cost, with one option being the extension of four Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plans along the DDA boundaries.
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.
Council ultimately voted to fund the project with a 50/50 split between the city's Major Street Fund balance and the General Fund Balance. The street fund will have a $525,000 remaining balance and the general fund balance will have $5,179,000 remaining.
Councilman T. Scott Galloway was the only "no" vote, as he was in favor of the TIF funding. He said he enthusiastically supports the enhancement project but is "adamantly opposed" to the chosen financing approach.
Mayor Dave Coulter said TIFs have been "a great tool for the development of our downtown" but have downsides too. "If we've got the financing to do it then I don't think it's a necessary tool at this time," he said.
Councilman Dan Martin noted that voting for a different funding structure doesn't mean a vote against the DDA. "We wouldn't be here today without the work the DDA has put into this," Martin said.
Mayor Pro Tem Melanie Piana said she appreciates the community outreach that went into making the plan - including an event last summer, where more than 50 residents offered input into the types of improvements they'd like to see on West Nine Mile Road.
"This is definitely a move in the direction where we want to go as a community," she said of the project.
Stay tuned to Patch for more details on the West Nine Mile enhancement plan.