CALUMET – Leah Polzien, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and president of Main Street Calumet, led what she called a “High level presentation” Thursday evening via Gotomeeting.com.
The purpose of the presentation was to educate the audience on the importance of a downtown neighborhood to the vitality of a community, and how the DDA and Main Calumet Street exist to help restore that vitality to the village.
During a recent village budget hearing, many comments were made by the public regarding interactions between the DDA and Main Street Calumet, she said. But while the purpose of the presentation was not to answer them, she said she wanted the audience to know that questions are being considered and answers sought, so that everyone can move forward in the best possible way. and do justice. taxpayers and all stakeholders.
“It also turned out, in my mind,” she said, “That we really need a review as a community on these two organizations, and why downtown areas are important.”
The goal, she said, was to explain what a downtown is, why a community needs a DDA, and what Main Street Calumet is, and their respective programs.
Downtowns, she said, are important to having a strong community, as they provide a centralized location for community events, restaurants, in addition to fun activities.
“It’s an improvement in your life”, she said.
City centers are an attraction for visitors, with historic structures, and their quaintness is what brings visitors to Calumet, she said. It is therefore important that the city center looks healthy.
Downtown neighborhoods across the county, for 50 to 60 years, have been largely neglected and abandoned, Polzien said, as there was a growing trend towards linear shopping malls, suburbs and development in more low density. In Calumet, the decline of the city center was due more to the closure of the mine and the loss of population, than a trend towards the construction of linear shopping centers outside the city center.
“But the effect is the same” she said, “In that we have properties that are not as well maintained, we have lost businesses downtown, and in the 1980s there was an effort to rebuild the traditional downtown because they have a important and unique role in our economic and social development of our community.
City centers really are where the critical mass of business, cultural and civic activity takes place, Polzien said, and she believes that is still happening in Calumet to a large extent.
“So it’s a great thing to be able to support our downtown area and make it look really good”, she said, adding that this can be a major stimulator of economic growth, as well as an important revenue generator for local government.
For a number of years, the downtown district has experienced a decline in commercial property value, but 2020 was the first year they have gained in value, she said.
“And we need tax revenue – I think that’s a very – maybe a little boring thing, but very realistic.”
The community, she pointed out, has a lot of infrastructure to maintain, and with a persistent lack of income, it will not be possible to maintain infrastructure, such as rebuilding roads, repairing sidewalks and provision of essential services, such as snow. moving, police and firefighters, all those things that the Village juggles with a limited budget.
“We could really improve tax revenues for the village, for our community”, she said, “By improving our city center, and our city center is the image of the character of our village, it is the image we give to the rest of the world, so what does our city center look like, its state, c t is a visible representation of the health of our community that everyone sees.
It is therefore, she continued, important to have a healthy downtown area that has businesses that have buildings in good repair, and Calumet town center has great cultural significance, not only for residents. local, but Calumet is of national importance.
“We have a very important industrial heritage for the United States”, she said, “So we owe it to the rest of the country to take care of it and keep it. “
Polzien added that the community knows its members need to support local businesses, redevelop the building stock.
“Some of the things that need to happen in order to redevelop this building stock”, she suggested, “We have to start enforcing our orders, we have to attract and support the developers when they come, make sure our policies and orders are enforced and up to date, because that makes it so much easier. “
Editor’s Note: The next installment will cover the importance and role that DDA and Main Street Calumet play in helping the village of Calumet as a whole.