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.”