Old Town's Revitalization Up for National Award

By: Rachel Thomas Email
By: Rachel Thomas Email

For 20 years, business owners and investors have been trying to transform Old Town.

"To me, the struggle in the last 10 years has been changing what people thought Old Town was because 20 or 30 years ago it was a bit of a sketchy place," said Old Town director Summer Schriner.

"When people first came to Old Town the buildings were all old and boarded up and vacant," said another Old Town director Shannon Rolley.

Now Old Town is proud to be one of the 10 semi-finalists out of 2,200 cities across the country for the Great American Main Street Award.

"They're kind of the Oscars for downtowns around the country. So being recognized is quite an honor," said Joseph Borgstrom of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Revitalization Strategy Division.

The Michigan Housing Development Authority has worked closely with more than three dozen cities across the state providing development resources.

"We are the personal trainer and they have done all the heavy lifting
for downtowns. All the hard work and heavy lifting is done by the volunteers and business owners. We're there to coach adn provide resources," said Borgstrom.

The leaders of Old Town say their success stems from the Main Street Program's grassroot approach working with thousands of volunteers.

"Under each committee there are tons of volunteers. All of those volunteers, those committees, and the board working toward the same goal is what makes it so effective," said Rolley.

Five winners will be announced by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in May. Though the award offers no monetary prize, leaders say the national recognition for a job well done is pretigious enough.

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