“It’ll be a tremendous event this year.” These are the words of Christy Trammell, executive director of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA), as she reviewed the activities planned for “Christmas Around Town,” the two-day celebration in Historic Downtown Three Rivers this coming weekend (November 28th & 29th) to kick off the holiday season.
Trammell said there’s been an “outpouring of the community businesses” with “a significant amount of financial donations this year.”
Several new activities have been added this year including a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the Mural Mall at 6 p.m. Saturday and a scavenger hunt to promote and highlight all of the businesses in the downtown district.
The 24-foot Christmas tree – donated by Mott Farms of Vicksburg – was installed in the Mural Mall on Monday with lights and decorations added on Tuesday.
In keeping with tradition, Santa Claus will arrive by fire truck at the Riviera Theatre at noon on Saturday. Santa will be available for FREE photos with youngsters at the Riviera with pickup of the photos the next day at the Walgreens store in Three Rivers.
Other highlights of the celebration include free cookie decorating and face painting, free carriage rides, roasted chestnuts, a free coloring contest and, of course, holiday shopping!
The hours for “Christmas Around Town” are Saturday from 10 to 6 and Sunday from 12 noon to 4.
The Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is all set to deal with Old Man Winter and a whole lot more with the arrival last week of a new John Deere four-wheel-drive tractor and “numerous accessories” for use in the downtown area.
Arrival of the new equipment followed action by the Three Rivers City Commission last month to approve a $15,500 budget amendment and an expenditure from the DDA’s fund balance. The moves cleared the way for the DDA to purchase the equipment from Finnerman’s Farm & Garden of Centreville via a MiDeal contract through the State of Michigan.
DDA Maintenance Supervisor Gabe Smith, who will be on the “front line” in using the equipment for a variety of tasks, is “very happy” with the new tools and said they are “a very welcome addition. It’s just wonderful.”
The equipment lineup includes a 54-inch lawn mower deck, a 52-inch rotary broom, and a 54-inch snow plow blade “with a quick hitch system for about a five-minute change-out,” plus a trailer for hauling.
Smith said the rotary broom can be used for cleaning, moving light snow up to 2 ½ or three inches, and clearing a half-inch to an inch of wet snow and slush.
In addition to dealing with heavier and larger amounts of snow, the blade can be used as a “bulldozer blade” for moving mulch and stones and grading dirt.
A 60-gallon tow-behind sprayer is on back order. It is expected to arrive in a couple of weeks and will serve multiple purposes including flower watering, application of fertilizers and pesticides, and general disinfectant water for sidewalks. Smith said the new tank, considerably larger than the 10-15 gallon tank he’s been using, will trim the time needed for flower watering from two to three hours to one to one-and-a-half hours, thus freeing up time for other tasks.
Smith said that, with the new equipment, the DDA will be able to handle maintenance work in the downtown area without relying on equipment from the city. In his words, “Being a hundred percent all of our own equipment now, it’s going to make it a lot easier. We don’t have to keep making special arrangements with the Department of Public Services to use their equipment. (We can) be more self-contained and pick up after ourselves, clean up better, and be self-sufficient on our own and not rely on others for continuous help and support, which will take up less time on other people’s schedule.”
The Three Rivers City Commission has cleared the way for the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to purchase a John Deere four-wheel-drive tractor and accessory equipment for use in the downtown area.
The action – involving a $15,500 budget amendment and an expenditure from the DDA’s fund balance – will allow the purchase of the equipment from Finnerman’s Farm & Garden via a MiDeal contract.
A staff report prepared for the commission notes that the DDA has been utilizing an aging snow blower to maintain the downtown area’s sidewalks during the winter months and borrowing a city-owned all-terrain-vehicle to perform the maintenance and water of flowers during the summer months. The report says, “Both of these pieces of equipment are aging and oftentimes are unreliable. Therefore, the DDA board is seeking to purchase their own equipment to maintain the downtown areas.”
The DDA board approved the purchase of the tractor, a 54-inch front blade, 52-inch rotary broom, tractor cart, and a 60-gallon tow-behind sprayer during the group’s August 20th meeting. The equipment will provide the DDA’s maintenance staff with adequate equipment for maintaining the downtown area in all seasons.
In commenting on the purchase, Mayor Allen Balog said, “I think they’re doing a great job downtown. I would say, probably, within the last year or two, downtown, since I’ve lived here 22 years, has never looked better than it does right now and I’m very proud of their efforts.”
There’s no doubt the new Portage River Parking Plaza, which replaced the former East City Parking Lot, is a plus for downtown Three Rivers, but a little “tweaking” may be in order to improve its functionality.
During the October meeting of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Thursday morning (October 15th), DDA board member Sarah Ely expressed concern about the width of parking spaces. Ely, who lives downtown, said, “They’re really close” and indicated “It’s awkward for me.” Another board member, Doug Mitchell of UniQ Jewelry, said he’s had elderly customers come into his store and comment on the parking.
In response to a question about the size of the spaces, City Manager Joe Bippus, who also serves on the DDA board, said, “They’re eight feet, but I think we can go up to ten in our ordinance.”
In the course of discussion on the topic, it was noted that “some people take two spots.”
Ely also expressed concern about the slope of two concrete walkways that connect the two different levels of parking areas within the parking lot. She indicated they get slick in the winter and can be difficult to negotiate.
DDA Chairperson Donna Grubbs also suggested that “hash marks” might be added in front of the walkways to keeping motorists from parking in front of them.
Grubbs noted that, with the seasons changing, the parking lot will soon be covered by snow. She suggested that the group “get some facts together and think about it in the spring” and Bippus indicated he would pursue the matter.
A ribbon-cutting in June of last year celebrated successful completion of the rather substantial downtown redevelopment project that created the new parking facility.
The Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has agreed to take the first step toward establishment of a Local Historic District under Michigan’s Local Historic District Act.
The action came during the DDA board’s October meeting Thursday morning (October 15th) and followed a presentation on the subject last month by Pam O’Connor of Preservation Practices, a Kalamazoo enterprise that does research, consultation and writing.
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.
As a result of Thursday’s action, the DDA will ask the Three Rivers City Commission to approve a historic district study, adopt a resolution that gives the authority to conduct the study to a historic district study committee, and appoint members of the study committee.
The DDA proposal is expected to be an agenda item for the city commission meeting on Monday, November 2nd, a date that is one day earlier than usual because of the general election on Tuesday, November 3rd.
DDA Executive Director Christy Trammell reported that she and Danielle Moreland, a DDA board member, met last Thursday with Nan Taylor, Field Representative with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network/National Trust for Historic Preservation (MPHN/NTHP). Trammell said Taylor “brought a whole lot of information” and “is there as a field rep to work with us as we pursue this process.” And she added, “They’re, of course, very passionate about this preservation aspect and very interested in getting as many downtowns onboard as possible.”
Information from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) says, “Time, geography, people and events uniquely shape each community. It is the combination of the individual pieces – houses and yards, stores and public buildings, trees and sidewalks, streets and alleys – that form the community’s overall character. The primary reason for establishing local historic districts is to manage how change occurs in a designated area to ensure that as much of the original character as possible remains intact. After all, changes that occur to one property can impact the property next door, the block, and ultimately the neighborhood overall. Local historic district designation provides communities with the legal tools to protect their local landmarks and architectural character.”
A recent lighting experiment in downtown Three Rivers in which overhead “cobra” street lights were turned off for a two-week period yielded a consensus that the present ornamental lights alone do not provide sufficient illumination in the central business district – but that’s not the end of the story.
City Manager Joe Bippus reported on the experiment during the August meeting of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Thursday morning (August 20th). He said the city is using lighting engineers from American Electric Power and engineers for Sternberg Lighting, the manufacturer of the ornamental lights, to look at installing brighter LED lights to get more candlepower out of them, use less energy and, ultimately, save the city and DDA money for lighting. And, he added, the possibility is also being explored “throughout the city.”
Regarding the potential for consuming less power for lighting in the downtown area, Bippus said it may be possible to convert some of that for special events like HarmonyFest and other ornamental lights at Christmas time, “things like that.”
Bippus said it will be up to the engineers to determine if additional globes will need to be installed on the ornamental light poles. He said, “It is possible that we’ll have to have doubles up there and it just depends on how many lumens they can generate.”
The DDA asked for the experiment because of the sense that the ornamental lights are more attractive than the cobra lights.