Ferndale downtown wins national 'main street' award

Revitalization efforts, pedestrian-friendly feel noted as worthy aspects of downtown area

FERNDALE - Downtown Ferndale gained national recognition on May 4 when it was named winner of the Great American Main Street Award at the National Main Street Conference in Oklahoma City.

Recognized for its extended revitalization effort and efforts to create a sustainable business district, the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority is the first Main Street Oakland County program participant to bring home the GAMSA, and the third in the state to be honored since the award began in 1995. The other two include Bay City in 1999 and Holland in 1997.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm praised the Ferndale DDA leadership, its volunteers and its community partners in her letter supporting the district's GAMSA-winning effort. "Downtown Ferndale is a beacon of hope in this challenging economy," she wrote, "and is a prime example for cities across Michigan desiring to revitalize their own downtowns."

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who initiated the Main Street Oakland County program 10 years ago, also issued a letter of support. "Through the leadership of the Ferndale DDA, its volunteers and community partners, downtown Ferndale has transformed into a strong, creative, economic center in our county," he wrote.

GAMSA judges cited downtown Ferndale's statistics in their decision, including $35 million in reinvestment over the last nine years and its turnaround vacancy rate, from 30 percent 10 years ago to 6 percent currently. Also noted was the DDA's utilization of the program to save a downtown once considered destitute, as well as a 1998 decision to narrow Nine Mile Road and slow traffic for a more pedestrian-friendly feel.

"The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority's story is about not quitting when everyone has," said Doug Loescher, director of the National Trust Main Street Center. "From the quirky twist that it has put on its events to its commitment to sustainability projects ... it is a true national model for revitalization."

Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey noted that the national recognition confirms what "those here already know: that Ferndale is the coolest place around. We have shown that we have a new way of doing things and that new way works. By bringing together key elements such as walkability, diversity, eco-friendliness, the city and the DDA together have built a downtown that people are proud to invest in - emotionally and financially."

Ferndale DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius, applauded the volunteers that help run DDA committees, as well as put on events. "Our volunteers have had a huge impact on downtown Ferndale and are integral to our success story," she said. "They are hard working, visionary and dedicated. We would not have received this great honor without their continued support and determination to keep moving ahead.

"There is a special synergy in Downtown Ferndale - our key stakeholders, investors, businesses and consumers all have a sense of ownership as stewards of the downtown. They love their downtown and it is that bond that spurs their relentless hard work to make it a better place."

The Ferndale DDA is comprised of approximately 400 businesses, located in 3.9 linear miles extending from the Woodward & Nine Mile intersection. For more information on the DDA, visit http://www.downtownferndale.com or call 248-546-1632.

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