City and business leaders recently took a walking tour of downtown Menominee with members of Michigan’s Main Street Program. The Downtown Development Authority is hoping membership in the program will bring opportunities for growth to the city. <B>EagleHerald/Mike Desotell</B>
City and business leaders recently took a walking tour of downtown Menominee with members of Michigan’s Main Street Program. The Downtown Development Authority is hoping membership in the program will bring opportunities for growth to the city. EagleHerald/Mike Desotell
MENOMINEE - Downtown Menominee is filled with a variety of restaurants, shops and offices. A $10.5 million renovation is under way on the former FNT Building to turn it into a 44-unit housing facility. It's a far cry from the ghost town it once was.

To always try to stay ahead of the curve, the city has a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) which is currently led by Lee Bunting. One way the DDA is trying to keep buildings occupied is by keeping everyone in the business district on the same page and driven by similar goals. Right now the DDA is in the process of becoming an associate member of the Michigan Main Street Program.

"The state will give us guidance," said Bunting. "They will advise us on new business creation, existing business, expansion and rehabilitation, façade and infrastructure projects."

The Main Street Program is run through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). Being a member will allow the DDA to apply for grants through the city.

Bunting mentioned some of the immediate ideas that come to mind are infrastructure improvements such as parks and benches, but grants can also be used for creating signs used to direct traffic into the downtown.

"The historic way-finding sign plan that we've been working on is going to be a big draw for us because as the DDA we're trying to focus on getting people downtown right now," he said.

The Main Street Program will share a lot of valuable information with the DDA such as provide market studies, help set up a resource team and offer training opportunities.

A key component of a successful program is having a downtown manager who can pull everything together. But funding for such a position is still a few years as it is part of a long range plan.

"It would be great if we could be able to have an individual oversee a lot of the events and the master plan and be an individual contact for the DDA and the city of Menominee," said Bunting.

Perhaps the biggest single project in years to give the downtown a kick-start is the $10.5 million renovation of the former FNT Building into the Lloyd House. The former factory is in the process of being converted into 44-low to moderate income housing units with commercial space on the ground level. 

"I think for us it will be a good thing because there will be an influx of people and hopefully we'll start seeing some more business," Bunting said.

Just a few years ago, nearly every storefront was open for business but the tide has shifted and there are several empty buildings. Bunting said the Lloyd project could be just the spark necessary to get back on the fast track.

"Hopefully it will start to bring people back in," he said. "With a project like that going on, hopefully it will start to show the downtown in a more positive light."

Bunting added that member of the DDA would also like to see a beautification enhancement movement with a focus on landscaping and artwork.