The process aimed at establishing and utilizing a Local Historic District Ordinance in downtown Three Rivers is moving forward.
Christy Trammell, Executive Director of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA), provided an update on the topic during the March meeting of the DDA Board of Directors Thursday morning (March 18th).
The Three Rivers City Commission set the process in motion February 2nd by adopting a resolution to authorize the appointment of a Historic District Study Committee to conduct a Historic District Study. The commission also appointed the seven-member committee consisting of Trammell, Judy Gilchrist, Larry-Michael Hackenberg, Doug Mitchell, Danielle Moreland, Curt Penny and Jerry Wright.
Trammell reported that the committee has had two meetings so far and said, “We are at the phase now where we are educating the building owners. We will do that on an individual basis. There’s a subcommittee doing that and, hopefully, we’ll be able to see all of them in person, except the ones of live out of town.”
Trammell said there are 69 buildings that will be included in the district and indicated that – in addition to the education activity – the group is doing “field work,” photographing buildings to identify changes that have occurred to both the fronts and backs in the last 22 years, using an earlier photo for comparison.
Trammell said the group is working with Nan Taylor of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network who will come to Three Rivers and “do a public education where we will formally invite all the building owners to come and hear the advantages and the effects that it has on the area.”
Regarding the study committee and its efforts, Trammell said, “We’re pretty excited that the group is actively pursuing this and that they are very passionate about preserving downtown Three Rivers.”
Still another building in downtown Three Rivers is being eyed for rehabilitation.
Tim Raakman, the new owner of 51 North Main Street, has requested establishment of an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act (OPRA) District for the property. His application says he would like to renovate the property with a total investment estimated to be $200,000 for windows, doors, brick work and painting.
In action Tuesday evening (March 16th), the Three Rivers City Commission responded to Raakman’s request by scheduling two public hearings for the commission’s next meeting on April 6th, one to consider establishing OPRA District 13, the other to approve the OPRA application for the 51 North Main property.
A staff memo from City Clerk Lindsay Howes and City Manager Joe Bippus explains that, “The goal of an OPRA (designation) is to rehabilitate older buildings into vibrant commercial and commercial housing projects. A community essentially freezes the existing taxable value on a designated facility for up to 12 years. By freezing the taxable value, it provides an incentive for the developer to make significant improvements to a building without increasing the property taxes on the building. The exemption does not apply to the land on which the rehabilitated facility is located and does not apply to personal property.”
The Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has added another tool to its toolbox for helping owners and/or tenants make improvements to downtown buildings.
The new tool is a Downtown Development Authority Loan Program – a façade and interior improvement loan program in conjunction with Southern Michigan Bank and Trust.
The DDA Board of Directors voted to move forward with the program during the group’s February meeting Thursday morning (February 18th).
DDA Director Christy Trammell said one person is already interested in utilizing the program and described the interest rate as “very enticing.” She said the rate – based on “Wall Street prime less one percent floating” – is “a significantly lower rate than what you can get without this program.”
Southern Michigan Bank and Trust has committed $500,000 to the program.
The maximum loan amount is $25,000 per building, although waivers of this maximum can be requested at the time of application.
Eligibility extends to owners and/or tenants of existing buildings within the DDA target area.
Rules for the program say that the term for each loan will be determined base on the particular project and use of funding, but will not exceed five years. However, the amortization period is negotiable.
Applications are available from the DDA office.
The DDA Rebate Committee will review applications to be sure the project is in accordance with DDA design guidelines and the intent of the loan. Following its approval, the DDA Rebate Committee will forward the application to the bank for financial approval.
The loan program is intended to stimulate improvements of downtown commercial buildings.
Establishment of a Local Historic District under Michigan’s Local Historic District Act will be a topic for conversation during the next regular meeting of the Three Rivers City Commission.
That fact was noted by City Manager Joe Bippus and Christy Trammell, Executive Director of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA), during the January meeting of the DDA Board of Directors Thursday morning (January 21st).
During their February 2nd meeting, city commissioners will be asked to adopt a resolution that gives the authority to conduct a historic district study. They will also be asked to appoint members of the study committee.
Trammell reported the names of six people who are being recommended by the DDA for appointment to the study committee – Danielle Moreland, Doug Mitchell, Jerry Wright, Curt Penny, Judy Gilchrist, and Larry-Michael Hackenberg – and indicated that all have agreed to serve. Trammell will be working with the group and wondered if she, too, should be appointed. In response to her query, Bippus said, “I don’t think it would hurt to have you appointed.”
The Local Historic District Act declares historic preservation a public purpose to safeguard a community’s heritage, strengthen local economies, stabilize and improve property values, foster civic beauty and promote history. It enables local governments to adopt a historic district ordinance that contains design review guidelines based on national standards and to appoint a historic district commission to implement the ordinance.
The DDA agreed to take the first step toward establishment of a Local Historic District during its October meeting after a presentation on the subject during its September meeting.
Historic Downtown Three Rivers is sporting another new business these days, one catering to the needs of the very young set.
A December 11th ribbon-cutting conducted by the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce and its Ambassador Committee helped celebrate the grand opening of Ambrosia Vae Baby Boutique at 113 Portage Avenue.
The business is owned and operated by the mother/daughter combination of Holly Hart and Amber Witt, respectively.
The store bills itself as providing a “unique collection of baby and children’s clothing and accessories.” Witt said, “We have a really beautiful dress line. It’s Isabella and Chloe and they’re really detailed, really lacy, lots of sparkles and just lots of details. That’s one of our favorite lines. We also have a line called Bobbinette for little boys. It’s a very classic little boy look – bibs, corduroy, flannel shirts. We have a Harley line also for the little boys.” And Witt added, “We’re always going to carry a section that’s ten dollars and under – brand name stuff ten dollars and under – so if anyone is looking for a bargain, we have that right here, too.”
The store also carries accessories such as “piggy banks, little rubber duckies, (and) fancy little blankets by Patricia Ann Designs.”
The store occupies a portion of the space that for many years was home to Matt & Mike’s Eatery. The restaurant is moving and is slated to re-open soon in a new location at South Lincoln and West Michigan avenues in Three Rivers.
Witt is looking toward serving the needs of Three Rivers residents and those in surrounding communities, as well as customers from as far away as Kalamazoo.
Ambrosia Vae Baby Boutique is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 to 6 and on Saturday from 10 to 2. You can reach Holly Hart at (269) 506-5404 and Amber Witt at (269) 267-3596.
Hart said, “We’ll be getting new merchandise in all the time. Hopefully, we just grow and expand.”
An artistic touch has been added to the “walk-through” at 25 North Main Street in downtown Three Rivers in the form of a sculpture donated by Tom and Jackie Meyer of Three Rivers.
A brief ceremony and picture-taking session Monday afternoon (November 30th) celebrated the recent placement of “Storytime,” a statue that depicts a young adult reading to a child.
Christy Trammell, executive director of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA), read a statement prepared by Meyer that said, “Jackie and I are pleased to donate this statue to the citizens of Three Rivers, especially to the children of Three Rivers. We both think it is very important for parents, grandparents, teachers and other adults to read to children as often as possible. The ability to read well is the foundation of all scholastic education. Hopefully this statue will encourage more children to learn to read better and also encourage more adults to help them in that endeavor.”
“Storytime” is small in stature – not adult-size. Meyer said, “We picked the smaller size intentionally in hopes that it would be more appealing and less intimidating to small children. It is the proper size for children to be able to sit on the bench next to the figure of the woman reading to the child.”
Meyer said, “We picked the walk-through location deliberately because of the visibility and the high pedestrian traffic. It is an added advantage that it is directly across the street from Lowry’s, the best book store in southwestern Michigan.”
“We hope this statue gets a lot of attention and use from children and their parents.”
The statement concluded with these words: LEARN TO READ, TEACH OTHERS TO READ AND REMEMBER TO READ TO YOUR CHILDREN.
Event attendees – in addition to Tom and Jackie Meyer and Trammell – included other members of the Meyer family, Mayor Allen Balog, City Manager Joe Bippus, and two members of the DDA Board of Directors, Patty Lockwood and Doug Mitchell.
The DDA gave the green light for installation of the statue in August after Meyer, a DDA board member and past chairman of the group, showed pictures of the sculpture and said that he and his wife “would like to purchase that and put it in the walk-through.”
The passageway connects the Portage River Parking Plaza to North Main Street. It was developed by Meyer Enterprises and purchased by the DDA last fall.