BIG By Chuck Eckenstahler
How Edwardsburg and Ontwa Township are
coming together to turn three area focal points into a
“walkable destination” for residents and visitors,
reviving the town square as a public gathering place.
Left to Right:
President Jim Robinson,
CIA member Tony
MAY/JUNE 2010 THE REVIEW 23
“If you Improvement Authority Act, passed in VILLAGE-TOWNSHIP COOPERATION
don’t dream, 2005, provides communities a means to Due to encouragement by several busi-
you never fund public improvements such as new ness leaders seeking a public-private
Edwardsburg, get anything streets, lighting, and sidewalks, without partnership, the joint CIA was formed
Ontwa Township done.” This raising taxes. in July 2009 by action of the village
is a quote Under the Act, a municipality must of Edwardsburg and Ontwa Township.
by Ontwa agree to expedite local permitting and There were several people responsible
Township Supervisor John Brielmaier, inspections, and modify its master plan for the formation of the CIA—the hard
but it’s also the underlying vision of a to provide for walkable, non-motorized working people who first created the
cooperative project by two municipali- interconnections, including sidewalks Edwardsburg Uptown Improvement
ties located near the Michigan-Indiana and streetscapes throughout the area. A Association, which was instrumental
border. Dreaming big and then making corridor improvement authority is cre- in the eventual formation of the joint
it happen is the mantra of the Uptown ated and operated in a manner similar Uptown CIA.
“We want to create a destination where our residents and visitors will
WANT TO SHOP AND ENGAGE IN OTHER SOCIAL ACTIVITIES.”
—Tony Leininger, local businessman and CIA boardmember
Corridor Improvement Authority run to a downtown development author- The intent of the CIA is to carry
jointly by the village of Edwardsburg ity. Once created, it can establish a tax out a program of public and private
and Ontwa Township. The two com- increment finance plan, levy a special improvements, laying the foundation
munities are working together to form assessment, and issue revenue bonds for a compact, walkable, landscaped
a commercial town center that would and notes. The Act requires a munici- shopping and social gathering center.
serve not only as a resident and visitor pality to determine that it is “necessary The CIA’s vision of an improved local
shopping venue, but also to become the for the best interests of the public to job base within an attractive landscaped
focal point for the entire Edwardsburg redevelop its commercial corridors and setting was accepted as an achievable
community. to promote economic growth.” The Act vision that would promote and unite
The basic purpose of a corridor provides a means to make change hap- regional cooperation throughout the
improvement authority is to allow older pen and is especially useful when the greater community.
communities with business areas in business district spans two governmen- According to local businessman
need of restoration to obtain the eco- tal jurisdictions. architect Tony Leininger who sponsored
nomic development tools to make the the organizational effort and now serves
necessary improvements. The Corridor as a CIA member, “recognizing that
Steps to Forming a Joint CIA
1. Resolution of Intent 4. Public Hearing Notice 8. Formation Ordinance
An adopted formal statement that both Newspaper publication of public Ordinance adopted no sooner than 60
governments will consider forming and hearing—two times. days after the public hearing by both
establishing a public hearing date. governments establishing the CIA.
5. Public Hearing Posting Affidavit
2. Joint Agreement Posting at 20 places giving notice of 9. Letter to Secretary of State Office of
An adopted agreement between two public hearing. the Great Seal
governments addressing organization, Letter notifying the Office of the Great
6. Notice to Taxing Entities
membership, and appointment Seal of the formation of the authority.
Letter informing each entity whose
procedures between the two
taxes could be affected of the public
sponsoring governments. Note: steps 2 and 3 only required for a
3. Notice to Treasury
7. Notice to Property Owners
A letter giving notice to the Michigan
Letter to each property owner within
Department of Treasury of the intent to
the proposed CIA district informing
form a joint CIA.
them of the public hearing.
24 THE REVIEW MAY/JUNE 2010
The Uptown CIA has plans to link
three foundational buildings to
create the type of public space that
becomes a walkable destination.
Ultimately, the library, school,
and post office will form a “town
square,” anchored by a clock tower
and kiosk. Photos by Darleen’s
What is truly spe- The ambitious plan calls for over $8
cial about this effort is million of infrastructure, streetscaping,
the unique cooperation building façade improvements including
between the village and a yet to be designed clock tower funded
township, particularly by CIA-TIF funds, grants, private dona-
because only five of tions and local budget allocations.
the 138 parcels of land “We have been told that we are a
over 50 percent of our residents are in the CIA are located in the township. little unusual with this type of village-
employed and routinely shop in Elkhart There was never a question of the need township cooperation,” notes Brielmaier.
Indiana, we want to create a destina- for cooperation or the need to create The Uptown CIA plans to accomplish its
tion where our residents and visitors communitywide commitment. Guided goal of making downtown Edwardsburg
will want to shop and engage in other by Village President Jim Robinson and a walkable destination with these tools:
social activities.” He adds that “going to Township Supervisor John Brielmaier,
the village and township with the idea with funds advanced to the CIA by the PHYSICAL STREETSCAPE
of a cooperative joint CIA naturally fit township board, the CIA was formed and IMPROVEMENTS
our goal of a public-private means to the Development TIF Plan adopted in 8,610 lineal feet of streetscape
accomplish this goal.” less than a year. improvements including installation
of streetlights, sidewalks, street land-
scaping and decorative benches, brick
“WE DON’T THINK THIS COOPERATION IS UNUSUAL,
we just do what’s right for the community.”
—Jim Robinson, Edwardsburg Village President
MAY/JUNE 2010 THE REVIEW 25
planters, banners, decorative concrete MARKETING Successful corridor planning is
stamping, and underground location of Joint funding with existing businesses more than pretty pictures; it’s a function
utilities, where required. located within the CIA district enabled of creating a vision supported by a real-
a promotional campaign that included istic financing strategy that becomes a
BUILDING FAÇADE IMPROVEMENTS advertising, marketing, and prepara- driving force for change.
Funding paint and supplies to private tion of promotional brochures. The CIA
property owners for approximately six has budgeted $10,000 for marketing STRONG LEADERSHIP
buildings in the district, and providing purposes. While leadership seems self-evident as
design and implementation funds for an important factor, it can’t be taken for
façade and building renovation grants CASS COUNTY GATEWAY granted. Both civic and political lead-
and loans designed to obtain a unified ENTRY FEATURE ers visibly displayed a willingness to
architectural appearance in the CIA An entryway feature including sig- come together and discuss a bold vision
district, including renovation of the mill nage at four locations entering the that would become a driver of change.
façade. CIA District. The plan, based on sound Without this leadership and vision, the
community planning principles, was effort would have been unable to move
M-62/US-12 INTERSECTION prepared under the watchful eyes of beyond the parochialism, conflict, and
ENHANCEMENTS strong political and civil leadership with inertia which continue to weigh upon
Addition of crosswalks and streetscape the understanding that they are all in many similar projects.
improvements including retaining walls, this together, and something needs to
plantings, signage and lighting. be done now to ensure future commu-
CLOCK TOWER nitywide economic success. Chuck Eckenstahler is a consultant to
The construction of a clock tower with We don’t think this cooperation is McKenna Associates, and teaches economic
a kiosk below it in the central business unusual, “we just do what’s right for the development subjects in the Graduate
district. The clock tower will be the community” notes Jim Robinson. School of Business at Purdue North
“anchor” of the downtown improvement Central. He can be reached at
plan. 219-861-2077 or email@example.com.
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26 THE REVIEW MAY/JUNE 2010