Oxford’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is getting ready to take another whack at revamping the streetscape along Washington St. (M-24).
Last week, the DDA board voted 8-1 to approve a proposal from the Northville-based Grissim Metz Andriese Associates to design a streetscape plan and apply for a grant to help pay for its construction.
The firm is going to charge the DDA $21,700 to create the streetscape plan, according to the proposal. Preparing the grant application for submittal to the state is extra and it’s anticipated to cost up to $8,000.
DDA officials okayed spending up to $32,000.
The DDA is hoping to use a mix of local and grant monies to have a new downtown streetscape constructed in 2019 when the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is expected to do a complete rebuild of M-24, which will entail tearing out and replacing the road, curbing and sidewalks. Everything is basically going to be taken down to the dirt from storefront to storefront.
Sue Grissim, a principal and vice president at Grissim Metz Andriese Associates, said her firm has worked on downtown streetscapes in about 20 communities and one of the most important things is to make sure the design is unique, not formulaic.
“No matter what you guys decide to do, it’s all about being authentic,” she said.
The plan is to identify what makes Oxford different, such as architectural features, and build on that in the streetscape design.
“We want to make sure that it’s yours,” Grissim said.
She noted the streetscape must be “sustainable,” meaning it should be something that can and will be maintained, so it doesn’t fall into a state of disrepair.
“The last thing we want is to build something you just can’t take care of,” Grissim said.
Grissim indicated it’s also important to have a design that’s timeless, not “trendy.” That way, it doesn’t look “dated” as the years go by, she said.
DDA Board Member Geno Mallia, Jr. asked why only Grissim Metz Andriese Associates was considered to do this job. He wanted to know why there were no proposals from other firms.
“They did the original streetscape (plan for downtown Oxford),” replied DDA Chairperson Sue Bossardet, who’s also the village president. “If we were to start all over again, it would be three times as much (in terms of cost) and take twice as long or longer.”
Grissim Metz Andriese Associates was one of two firms that came up with the DDA’s previous streetscape plan in 2012. The estimated cost for that project was $4.7 million and nothing was ever done because the DDA could not afford it. The DDA paid $52,500 for the previous plan’s development.
Grissim explained the $4.7 million plan was so costly because the DDA board back then never put any constraints on it.
“We were more about dreaming the big vision,” she said. “We weren’t charged with keeping it to a limited budget.”
She noted this time around, the DDA is looking at a streetscape budget of approximately $1.2 million.
Many of the items that were part of the old $4.7 million plan are now going to be handled and paid for by MDOT as part of its M-24 rebuild, according to Grissim.
MDOT is going to do the nuts and bolts, while the streetscape is basically going to encompass items considered to be the “icing on the cake,” she said. The goal of the new streetscape would be to improve downtown’s appearance and enhance its walkability.
To help pay for a new streetscape, the DDA is hoping to get a majority of the funding from the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).
TAP is a competitive grant program that uses federal transportation funds. Traffic-calming measures and safety improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists are some of what’s eligible for TAP funding.
Approximately $24 million is available to Michigan for TAP on an annual basis. Of this, $17 million is available through a competitive grant process administered by MDOT’s Office of Economic Development. TAP grants require matching funds of at least 20 percent. Additional consideration is given to projects where the match offered exceeds 20 percent.
Oxford hopes to have its TAP grant application submitted no later than August.