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West Downtown: Boosting DDA, Marketing Hoped to Help District

Helping to revive Dearborn's downtown needs to be a collaborative effort, city and business leaders say. Part two of four in a series on west downtown Dearborn.

While residents, business owners and landlords debate the , other discussions center around what to do to solve the district’s problems.

A revitalized marketing and branding plan, efforts to resurrect valet or validated parking, and boosting public pride in the downtown are among ideas currently circulating. And though there’s no magic potion, city and business leaders agree: something must be done­–and quick.

Much of the effort is expected to come out of the . Cynthia Grimwade of the Economic and Community Development Department, who works as the DDA’s liaison, said some plans are already in the works to make west downtown stand out to potential customers.

“We’re looking at perhaps doing some block parties in the west downtown this summer to bring people into the district,” she said. “That’s something that’s in progress.”

manager Steven Guibord, who sits on the Parking Commission and works with the DDA, agreed that district-wide effort is key.

“We’re trying to get more aggressive with our marketing,” he said. “Establishing a logo, marketing it, creating a buzz. We need more events, more people walking around and more energy in the district.”

However, with no full-time staff running the DDA, progress has been slow. Economic and Community Development Department Director Barry Murray said that the DDA has been pushing for appointment of a full-time director, but no final decision has been made by the city to do so.

“We’ve been exploring getting more support to the downtown,” he said. “We just have to work through whether we can find a model for that, and the DDA has expressed interest in that. You have to have people working on it on a full-time basis.”

But beyond DDA efforts, Murray said he believes it falls on the businesses to work together to promote themselves.

“We’ve talked to other downtowns about it and asked them how they do these type of things, but for the most part, those other downtowns are leaving it to the merchants to do that,” he said. “The city helps in ways that it can, but the city doesn’t run those promotional programs.”

“We have to come together and work as a team,” added Guibord. “We’re all in this together. When there are more people here, everybody benefits from it.”

That is­–if businesses can convince shoppers to come to Dearborn.

Some Dearborn residents have admitted to turning their backs on the west downtown in favor of heading to east Dearborn, Allen Park or other nearby cities–often citing paid parking as a deterrent.

“I have changed my ways because of paid parking,” resident Susan Dey wrote on Dearborn Patch. “I rarely go to Dearborn restaurants or shop in Dearborn because of the worry of getting a ticket. I go to Livonia and spend my money.”

Murray pointed out, however, that many cities with paid parking have vibrant downtowns. However, a lack of patronage leads to less places to shop and eat. And with less to do, paid parking is just one more reason not to choose Dearborn.

The best thing residents can do to spur new business, Murray said, is shop in the places that do exist.

“If somebody opens up here, people in the community need to support that business,” he said. “If nobody shops there because they’re going to Plymouth or Birmingham or wherever, it’s not going to change dramatically.”

Frank Lee February 03, 2012 at 05:55 AM
How many appointees does this mayor employ, and why does he pay somebody to come up with such weak ideas as block parties? Does anyone think the solution to WDDA development is more government intervention from O'Reilly and his buffonish posse like Murray and Grimwade.
Lee Jacobsen February 03, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Marilyn ....have you been to both Krogers? They are not made from the same cookie cutter, otherwise one or the other would be 'long gone' as Ernie would say. Are all 'Subways' the same? Why not?...they have the same name, yet we all know each one is uniquely different. Crime is in all cities, it is how the city responds that is the key. You came from Detroit where you would be lucky to get a response to a break-in, been there, experienced that...a response time measured in hours, not minutes. Dearborn is like a bank vault compared to Detroit regarding safety. Mr. Newman has to make a living as a landlord, ...your job is to open a store that someone wants to visit, sell a product, make money, a profit, and pay Newman his rent. The rent is not too much, your idea needs to be better. Retail needs shoppers, shoppers need parking, make parking hard, and the risk is not worth the investment for retailers.
Lee Jacobsen February 03, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Frank...it is obvious that you have lots of great ideas to turn the shopping experience in Dearborn around, why not contact the Mayor and become one of his 'appointees'? Then when you knock down suggestions, the comeback will be obvious from the Mayor....let's hear your ideas. I think slowing Michigan Ave down, changing it from just another fast route away from Dearborn into a traffic jam of excited shoppers with free angled parking where they have time to view the shops, and enter in 'front' doors, eat at the sidewalk cafes, etc would be worth a try. Don't recall any ideas from you.....refresh us please....... Afraid that your ideas will be 'trashed'? Maybe they will be considered 'brilliant'. Unfortunately, if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Which are you Frank?
Elise Larkin April 17, 2013 at 03:54 AM
Guibord is not paid. He is a caring Dearborn resident who puts a lot of effort and his own time to help bring people to the city of Dearborn.
Nickel April 17, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Lee, I have no idea what thought process you have when you say slow down the traffic. The traffic lights are so poorly timed, it is impossible to go thru the downtown area without hitting at least 1 or 2 red lights. The big push in this world is to reduce energy use, by keeping these automobiles idling at the traffic lights only increases gas use. In addition, with all the stopping, there is the wear and tear on the brakes. Also, Michigan Ave is a state trunk line and was not designed to be a residential street

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