DDAs and Economic Development

January 3, 2013

Not everyone is aware of downtown development authorities (DDA), or why they are important. Many cities have one, and Michigan has 35 of them. Prein&Newhof often works with DDAs on projects related to streetscapes and downtown infrastructure.

Downtown is considered the heart of the city. It is an expanse of a few streets that are pedestrian-oriented and often show the historical aspect of the community.  It is an important driver for commerce, a stage for public events, and a representation of the city’s identity.

Many cities’ development has focused on suburbs and subdivisions in the last 60 years. This pattern stems from the invention of cars and streetcars.  Streetcar suburbs are now often the main thoroughfares of major cities, since we build where transportation is available. Although downtown living has been abandoned in the past century, the resurgence in the last ten years has been significant. We still value our downtowns and direct special funds and efforts to keep them vibrant.

DDAs use incremental property taxes from downtown property owners to make public improvements, which encourage private investment. DDAs are formed by the municipal government after public hearing and approval, and are given boundaries as a district.

Place-based economic development has become a popular issue in response to the economic recession of the last few years. Michigan cities have seen that local identity can drive local commerce, which stabilizes local economies.

Prein&Newhof was happy to be involved with the design of Greenville’s streetscape for M-91, which built the character and identity of Greenville’s downtown and was partially funded by Greenville’s DDA.

Do you think downtowns are worth our investment?


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