Third Street business owners voted to be a part of the Downtown Development Authority

Nikki Mitchell

After formal requests from Marquette businesses, surveys and months of discussion, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has expanded to include businesses and properties on Third Street.

According to its website, the DDA was established to promote economic growth by helping to prevent deterioration of buildings, roads and other parts of the downtown area in Marquette. Garbage cans, public parking, pedestrian accessibility and maintenance are made available through the DDA.

Mona Lang, executive director of the DDA, said that several businesses on Third Street had sent in requests to become part of the DDA, claiming that it would better serve the district.

The DDA then sent surveys to property owners in July that asked if they were for the inclusion of their property or against it. A 60 percent response rate showed 78 percent in favor (30 owners) and 22 percent not in favor (8 owners), Lang said.

“I think it will be good for the community to see small businesses pulling together,” Lang said. “It can really strengthen our independent business section.”

After receiving the surveys, the request went to the DDA and then on to the City Commission, where it was approved.

Now that businesses on Third Street are included, the DDA has been working on marketing analysis and joint promotion with the businesses downtown, Lang said.

Business and property owners in the district will be charged a property tax. For every $1,000 the property is worth, $2 will be added to the property tax, Lang said.

The DDA applied for a $104,000 planning grant from the Housing and Urban Development to fund a project that will focus on pedestrian, bicycle accessibility, parking and housing. Smaller changes along Third Street will include hanging flower pots, flags, bike racks, and trash cans, Lang said.

“By linking downtown and Third Street, it will better integrate students into the community,” Lang said.
Although the extension will have several benefits, there will also be challenges. Additional properties will create a need for more resources including DDA office staff and maintenance workers, Lang said.

“There’s going to be a lot of opinions that we’ll have to facilitate through, but overall, I think it’ll be a great thing,” Lang said.

Michele Butler, co-owner of Vango’s, was for the extension because of the work the DDA has done with the downtown district.

“I’ve watched the changes occur downtown for years,” Butler said. “We’ll have to pay more taxes, but I think it’s worth it. You get what you pay for in that respect, and I think it’s going to be good.”

Butler said she doesn’t foresee any changes to Vango’s, but she knows that it will be good for the area overall. She is looking forward to having flowers that are maintained and other décor that will spruce up Third Street.
While the majority of the responses were positive, there were property owners on Third Street that were opposed to the extension of the DDA. Don Potvin, owner of several properties on the street, was not in favor of the change.

“We weren’t ready to make the decision yet,” Potvin said. “We should’ve had more people to discuss it and look into more options and alternatives first.”

As a former member of the City Commission, he believes that the money should be used for the entire city instead of small business areas, like downtown and Third Street. The decision was made by a small group of people that assumed leadership, which has lead to misconceptions and high expectations, Potvin said.

Although there has been no set date for the completion of the larger projects, smaller changes have already occurred on Third Street. Hanging flower pots were added over the summer. Garbage cans, bike racks, and other small changes will be added in the upcoming months.