Three Rivers is a great place to be right now. Maybe you have noticed it too, but we’ve got an honest-to-goodness, renewed sense of spirit right now. I overhear people talking about what’s happening, and they are excited. I am too. We aren’t out of the proverbial woods yet, but we have potential in spades—market opportunities, exceptional assets, and hard work. And so, last month, I shared some of the personal background that brought me to Three Rivers, and some of my thoughts on the importance of good relationships in my work. Now, it is time to talk about our successes downtown so far, and a bit about where we are headed. I think we’ve done some great things, and are close to the edge of more.
So, here’s what that looks like: after years of hard work, downtown is on the move. We’re ramping up our events schedule. If you were one of the 200 or so people who came out on June 2nd, you experienced the kickoff of our First Fridays series with our downtown Ice Cream Social and the Farmers’ Market’s outdoor movie. We saw a street full of people of all ages, who brought great energy with them. This bodes well. The next First Friday on July 7th, Veterans’ Family Night, will allow us to say a gentle thank you to our service members courtesy of our business owners who will offer meals free to veterans, as well as family-friendly, sidewalk activities, giveaways, and store specials. We hope you’ll come out, and that you’ll stay tuned for more like the Sass in the City ladies’ night in August.
But, the events are only part of our success. You might know that a brewery has been open here since March. If you’ve tried it, you know that the product and atmosphere are excellent. Even where breweries are the hottest thing, ours stands out. As proof, the hours and the menu have expanded after a month—far more quickly than owner Jerry Barkley predicted. Perhaps you have also heard that John and Sherri Rivers are renovating a building that, when finished, will play host to pop-up restaurants. Maybe you’ve been following the former Paisano’s, and are eager to try the product when it reopens as the new Rooster’s Wing Shack, just as soon as the owners can work through final punch lists and ensure staff are trained. Then, too, you may know that the Landmark Tap house’s owners are diligently and patiently making their way through the regulatory process, and are eager to turn a shovel once that’s lined up. Before long, we’ll have as many as six dining options here, with even more in the works.
Years of hard work by a lot of different people are producing results. Tom Meyer and others invested considerably in renovating downtown buildings in the 1990s and 2000s before there was a clear market for it, believing in a long-term promise of civic and financial return. That promise is starting to pay out. The Monroe family did similarly, including the beautiful 180-degree flip that they performed on the Riviera. This showpiece remains one of our city’s most well-known and loved icons, and I believe that its renovation catalyzed everything that is happening today.
So, too, have the contributions of many other people: our hard-working merchants, who have weathered prosperity and recession to see that a downtown would be here when its time came; volunteers who have spent tens of thousands of hours in improving the streetscape through cleanups and flower planting; the professional guidance of Michigan Main Street staff; and a city and county that made way for hundreds of thousands of dollars in amenities like parking, the Mural Mall and other green space, improved seating and lighting, and assistance to the entrepreneurs who are making things happen.
This shows something important. Whether or not we like to admit it, we’ve been collaborating all along. I said last month that good relationships produce results, and that’s not just nice talk. The more we recognize what we’ve been able to do collaboratively, the more we commit to the cause. Our momentum is not an accident. Many of us have worked at this because we see a possibility of benefit down the road, whether it be civic improvement or outright profit. But there is only one reason we do it right here: because we love Three Rivers, and we love its downtown. We will be successful because the stakes are just that high. There is no better guarantee for an ROI than that which combines a well-thought-out plan with the labor of love.
Submitted by Dave Vago, Executive Director of the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority and Main Street Program. He spent summers growing up in Three Rivers, and has worked in the business of making great old places socially and commercially viable.