Main Street Outlines Plans for City Council, Which Says More Money May Become Available


The City of Saline has approved $35,000 for Saline Main Street's operations and the Be Bloomin' flower basket campaign.  That figure helps fund the operations of the downtown revitalization organization which puts on events like Oktoberfest and the Salty Summer Sounds music series. The city had funded Main Street with $56,000 a year over a three-year deal that expired before the current fiscal year.

During a presentation to city council last Monday, Main Street Director Mary Dettling highlighted what Saline Main Street has done for the city, what it plans to do this year, and what it might do with more funding.

Dettling stated that in fiscal year 21-22, the city committed to a three-year funding model in which the city paid Main Street $56,000 a year. In 2023, the city informed Main Street that it was not renewing the professional services/Economic Development with Main Street and instead offering a $35,000 per year contract.

Dettling noted the city stated at the time the intention was to work back towards $56,000 a years -but that she understood funding levels are far below that.

"We understand that's not going to happen this year. And while we are grateful for the contribution because it allows us to exist, we are concerned about the optics for the city and how the community might perceive support for downtown," Dettling said.

To demonstrate the organization's importance to the community, Dettling painted a picture of what downtown Saline might look like without Main Street. Events like Oktoberfest, Salty Summer Sounds, Trunk or Treat, and the Cocoa Crawl might disappear. The downtown sign grant might disappear. So, too, might the banners and flower baskets.

"If we were to go away, it would put an extra burden on city staff," Dettling said.

Saline Main Street also offers webinars and training on various topics offered through Michigan Main Street to local businesses. Main Street also provides business recruitment. On a practical level, the organization is also a conduit of information between local businesses and city staff.

Dettling said on top of all the regular programs Main Street runs, there are new programs planned for this year. She said Main Street preparing a "Ready To Recruit" primer to help entrepreneurs launch businesses in Saline. Mayor Brian Marl, Community Development Director Ben Harrington, and City Manager Colleen O'Toole served on the committee to create the primer. They were joined by Tyler Kinley, owner of Praxis Properties, Jill Durnen of Hartman Insurance and Lindsay Gibson of Fine Print Book Shop.

The primer includes an updated information sheet of businesses and property information, a community profile sheet, and a map of vacant properties on the city and Main Street websites. It includes a "How to Start a Business in Saline" guideline sheet. 

Dettling said Main Street also plans to have more entertainment at the 109 Cultural Exchange. Located at 109 W. Michigan Ave.,  the building is currently home to Main Street. For years, the goal has been to have art shows, concerts, seminars and more events. The pandemic took a bite out of the plans. Dettling plans to work with people in the entertainment field to utilize the space better and bring more foot traffic to downtown Saline.

Main Street is working with Harrington and Police Chief Marlene Radzik on a social district in downtown Saline in time for the Salty Summer Sounds music series. This would allow people to buy drinks in a special cup from one of four dining establishments on South Ann Arbor Street and carry them around the district.

Also new this year is a July 26 golf outing, individual donor initiatives and a matching grant for improvements to the 109 Cultural Exchange.

Dettling noted that there are things on the Main Street radar that won't happen due to a lack of funding. A plan for a mural on the side of Benny's Bakery remains on the horizon. 

"That's definitely something we're going to have to wait until next year to do," Dettling said.

She also mentioned a few business recruitment plans.

Wrapping up, she told the city council that the Saline is lucky to have Main Street.

"For less than the cost of a part-time employee, the city is getting an entire volunteer organization passionate about the heart of our city and making amazing things happen downtown town," Dettling said, noting the volunteers accomplish everything in their spare time.

Council was mainly receptive to Dettling's presentation.

"I think we have the potential to have a lot of young families moving in. My particular (subdivision) has a lot of people at the other end of the spectrum. And everyone I talk to loves your program. I'm happy to see the city continuing to support you," Councillor Chuck Lesch said. "I'm in agreement with our Mayor that if we can find a way to help you, I'm certainly in favor of that."

Mayor Marl said that as the year goes in, if there's budget room, he was supportive of finding funds for Main Street to take on projects.

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