Saline Main Street Updates City Council On Plans, Events
Downtown Saline could be in store for a new public gathering space and a social district if the plans of Saline Main Street come to fruition.
Saline Main Street is a private, non-profit, volunteer-driven organization, funded partly by the City of Saline, that is dedicated to downtown revitalization. It’s most well known in Saline for events like Oktoberfest and the summer concert series.
Saline Main Street executive director Mary Dettling provided an update on the organization’s activities and goals at Monday’s city council meeting. Her informational presentation was well received by council. The tension between city council and Main Street seems to have been replaced by cooperation.
“A lot of what we have planned for downtown overlaps with what the city is working on with master planning. We’re super excited to get it going,” Dettling told council, while going over some of Main Street’s goals.
Main Street is focusing on a couple of “transformational strategies” in the area of retail and active living. Main Street wants to build on existing retail and attract new retail. Main Street also wants more arts and culture, outdoor recreation, entertainment and activity downtown.
Dettling shared a list of several areas where Main Street wants improvement. They include including fewer vacant storefronts, regular live entertainment, more visitors from out of town, more foot traffic, new volunteers, attractive storefronts and a social district.
“They have in common having a vibrant and active downtown filled with more people on a regular basis, giving people more reasons to come downtown, and getting more people involved in making things happen downtown,” Dettling said.
Dettling teased a few upcoming events, including Ladies Night Out in May, the Salty Summer Sounds concerts starting June 13, a new golf outing on June 21, and Oktoberfest, Trunk or Treat and the Cocoa Crawl. Main Street is also bringing back the annual celebration and information night. This year’s is planned for Feb. 6.
Dettling said Saline City Council can help in important ways. First, she said, they can visit, shop and dine downtown. Council can also approve initiatives that focus on downtown and help Main Street achieve its goals. She mentioned that council will be asked to approve a study on a public space for downtown.
“Your actions and support matter more than words,” Dettling said.
City Council can continue to provide financial support from the city, but also volunteer at events and participate in fundraisers. Dettling said the council members can also encourage entrepreneurs to open businesses downtown.
Mayor Marl said one of the city’s primary responsibilities is to fill vacant storefronts in the city. He added that the city’s Community Recruitment/Retention Team planned to have a meeting in February to talk about planns.
Marl said he believed a proposal for a social district would come before city council around April 1.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked if Saline Main Street planned to expand its footprint and boundaries.
Dettling said Main Street is planning to expand its borders.
Dillon said she wanted to see Henne Field incorporated into the Main Street district.
“It’s a great resource and a hidden gem in our community,” Dillon said. “It’s under-utilized.”
Dillon said Henne Field could host Main Street events.
Councillor Dean Girbach said Dettling’s presentation included much information about shopping and dining downtown.
“Can we also talk more about living downtown, and encouraging density in the development on those streets?” Girbach asked.
Dettling said Main Street was in support of encouraging more residents but that Main Street doesn’t currently have an action plan for that iissue.
Girbach asked how businesses could help Main Street reach its goals. Dettling said Main Street will soon be rolling out ways for businesses to donate to the organization.
Councillor Nicole Rice said Dettling has worked well with city staff and strengthened the city’s relationship with Main Street. That relationship had fractured during the pandemic over issues such as the location of the concert series and the city council’s reluctance to create a social district.
Councillor Jenn Harmount said she saw some pop-up businesses at recent downtown events. She asked if that’s part of the strategy in downtown.
Dettling said they were used at the Fourth Friday events. Some of the business owners have decided to move on from the monthly events, but Dettling said pop-up businesses will continue to be invited downtown.
“We want to try to do something (an event) every month. We will try to program pop-ups in the vacant spaces,” Dettling said.
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