North corridor improvement efforts continue to move forward

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Grand Blanc Township officials continue to look for the best ways to engage stakeholders in the efforts to improve the northern gateway to the township.

“I think we can really revitalize this area, the original commercial district,” said township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta. “It’s been neglected for a while.”

Empty buildings, untended green spaces and general decay do not present the image Liimatta and others want residents and visitors to see at the community threshold.

So far, township officials have met with property owners to discuss options and opportunities. As a result, a few business owners already have made some improvements such as fresh coats of paint.

The next step will be to survey the stakeholders to determine their priorities. Additionally, township trustees are considering measures including a bounty on dilapidated properties, special recognition for improved parcels, and a Corridor Improvement Authority to capture new taxes to invest in revitalization efforts.

Executive Coordinator Melissa Roberts, who is preparing the survey, said the township already has an idea of some of the things on the property owners’ wish list.

“I know lighting was a big one,” Roberts said. “I know that the sidewalks, multimodal transportation, was a big topic of conversation, and the potential for a revolving loan program for façade improvements.”

Supervisor Scott Bennett said that if the township can get the ball rolling with some “small wins,” it is likely to encourage more private investment.

“When it comes to things like what would be a small win, … the lighting thing might be the easiest priority for us to tackle,” he said.

“If we can change the lighting, that would be significant improvement,” Liimatta said.

Improvements such as lighting, walkways and signage are within the township’s purview. Where the challenge lies is in motivating private owners to revitalize ramshackle parcels.

Liimatta said “it’s a fine line to walk between people’s personal property rights” and the community’s desire to fend off blight.

Bennett agreed.

“That blight that’s north of Maple Road could not only creep south of Maple but south of Hill,” Bennett said. “We need to make sure we’re maintaining our property.”

Liimatta said he will invite consultants from Giffels Webster, the company that created an exhaustive improvement plan for the township in 2008, to the next Board of Trustees meeting to discuss what other communities have done and how Grand Blanc Township might adopt some of their tried-and-true initiatives.

“We can make some pretty good progress on this in a very short time, so we could see some wins in early 2022,” he said.