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Posted on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 5:40 a.m.

Saline's selection for Main Street Program will provide downtown revitalization help

By Tara Cavanaugh


Downtown Saline has much to offer with shops and restaurants and small-town charm, but like many other communities, it has struggled with business closings in recent years.

Lon Horwedel |

The City of Saline is about to get some help revitalizing its downtown. Saline is one of 10 selected for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Main Street Program this year.

The program offers training for city leaders to help them plan redevelopment strategies for the community.

Art Trapp, Saline’s downtown development director, said city leaders will attend four daylong training sessions this summer and fall. Sessions are hosted at cities that have successfully redeveloped downtown areas through the Main Street Program.

The four training sessions are the start of a long-term relationship between Saline and MSHDA. Cities that participate in the Main Street Program move through three different levels of development and assistance.

Trapp said Saline could use the help. He and other city leaders have struggled to fill empty commercial space downtown. Trapp said many small businesses have left downtown Saline over the years. “As those businesses have gone out, we have holes,” he said.

In the Murphy's Crossing building at Michigan Avenue and Ann Arbor Street, “the whole second floor is empty. Five or six businesses used to be there,” Trapp said.

One gaping hole is the site of what was to be the mixed-use development the Village Marketplace + Lofts. The project, west of Ann Arbor Street on Michigan Avenue, has been stalled for years because of lack of financing.

Joe Borgstrom, director of specialized technical assistance and revitalization strategy at MSHDA, said the program offers cities two kinds of expertise: Formal training from MSHDA, and input from other cities who have also gone through the program.

“So they’re not going to just learn from state experts, but from communities themselves and how they’re implementing it,” Borgstrom said.

Another benefit of the program is that cities don’t have to pay for it, Borgstrom said.

The Main Street Program was started in 2002 under Gov. John Engler, and has been continued under Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Six cities, including Howell in Livingston County, have completed the program. Borgstrom said Howell brought in more businesses and developed a new streetscape through its participation in the program. “It’s all locally driven plans,” he said. “It’s not a situation where we come in and tell them exactly what to do. We help them develop themselves.”

The goal for Saline is not to make it another Howell, Borgstrom said, but “to help Saline be the best Saline it can be.”

Trapp said residents of Saline are invited to a webinar on July 13 in Saline’s City Hall to learn about the Main Street Program. Residents will be able to view a presentation and ask questions.

Other cities selected for the program this year are Allegan, Caro, Chesaning, DeWitt, Grand Ledge, Greenville, Lawrence, Sparta, and West Branch.

Learn more about the Michigan Main Street program at their website.

Tara Cavanaugh is a freelance writer for To reach the news desk, call 734-623-2530 or email



Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.

I wish the financing aspect would have been squared away re: the Village Marketplace BEFORE they tore that area up. What an eyesore. It's a big hole in the ground.


Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

The Michigan Main Street Program is, unfortunately, not a magic fairy wand. However, it is one more tool which we can use to help keep our community a great place to live, work and play. Each of us needs to take an active role and promote our community to others. I am fortunate to be a City of Saline Council Member and we are doing what we can within the limitations of government to improve Saline. I am looking forward to taking an active role in this newest effort.

Pat Ivey

Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

Saline is fortunate to participate. We need to work on making it economically and culturally appealing to live downtown. Affordable, well-maintained rental housing attracts population. The Michigan Main Street program provides a means for stakeholders in the city to collaborate and address this goal. As to funding, MSHDA's loan and operating expenses are financed through the sale of tax-exempt and taxable bonds as well as notes to private investors, not from state tax revenues.


Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

I think Saline could take a couple of lessons from Ann Arbor City Council. One; raise the tax on businesses downtown two; raise the parking ticket fees and rates and three; make it about impossible for any new development. Our city council has done this to promote downtown development!

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 7:14 a.m.

My two cents: It is the market place itself that will fill the empty spaces in town. Rents have fallen, but most property owners do not need to lower the rent too much as they have cash reserves to pay any expenses a vacant property generates. If more properties cross into bankruptcy, more and better deals will be had. And it is not Saline itself that is forcing vacancy - it is the loss of confidence in the state of Michigan - that is sending jobs, people and business scrambling to other states. Filling retail is mostly a function of population. Last, the cost of the main street state program should be zeroed and those dollars sent to streamlining the zoning process across the state. Michigan should offer easy zoning - these great Master Plans are cute and make you feel powerful - but fail every time they are tried. They manipulate property value and force 'the money' to look elsewhere. Our State is too weak to have hurdle after hurdle forced on job creators and private investors. They have been 'blown away' and continue to be 'blown away'.


Thu, Jul 1, 2010 : 5:38 a.m.

Art Trapp in addition to downtown, what about the 3 strip malls on Saline's east and west sides. Aco strip mall has 3 empty storefronts, west strip mall has at least 2, Busch's has at least 1, Country Market has at least 2 and Oaks has 10,000 empty sq ft that has never been filled (ie this is after Ace Hardware opens - just what Saline needs a 5th store on Michigan Ave that sells nuts and bolts)! any thoughts Art?