Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

March 1, 2014

Kalkaska gets $750,000 grant for downtown improvements

KALKASKA — Kalkaska’s downtown corridor is set for a major facelift, thanks to a $750,000 state grant.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation on Friday announced approval for $7.6 million for public infrastructure projects in 14 communities, including Kalkaska and Boyne City.

Kalkaska plans to complete major streetscape improvements along Cedar Street by the end of the summer.

Village President Jeff Sieting hopes the project will completely change visitors’ first impressions of downtown Kalkaska as they pull up to the Third Street stop light and drive up to Fifth Street.

“That’s a big deal,” he said.

Kalkaska Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cash Cook said the project aims to improve the walkability and visibility of the downtown’s core, the 300 block of Cedar Street. Plans call for a stamped pattern on the sidewalks, new curbs and gutters, energy-efficient lights, landscaping and additional parking.

“It will encompass two complete blocks of the core historic downtown,” Cook said. “We’re just looking at a complete revitalization of the downtown.”

Other low-to-moderate income communities across Michigan had similar projects and goals. State officials approved Kalkaska’s project out of 45 applications, and made clear the money doesn’t come without some strings attached.

“They know they have to demonstrate they have matching funds to even qualify for a grant,” said MEDC spokeswoman Kathy Fagan.

Kalkaska plans to pony up the necessary $672,000 in matching funds through its Downtown Development Authority, which Sieting said sits on a cash surplus of about $1 million from tax increment financing.

“When you do project this size, it really isn’t that much,” he said.

Sieting said manual labor will start as soon as the ground thaws. He said officials aim for late-summer end date.

“It’s hard to say what the weather is going to hold for us,” he said.

Cook said the village’s recent purchase of the former Erb Lumber building -- a large chunk of the downtown corridor -- helped set ideas for streetscape improvements into motion. He said the village is reaching out to the Michigan Main Street Center for assistance on other projects.

“We’ll see where this inertia takes us in the redevelopment of downtown,” he said.

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