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Posted: 10/10/12

Above, Jason Arnott, Downtown Development Authority board member, shows the Romeo DDA some proposed plans for the northeast quadrant business outdoor walking areas.
Below, the Romeo DDA's sketch of a proposed kiosk that would be placed in the northeast quadrant to direct downtown visitors to noted businesses and events.

(Observer photos by Marianne Weiss)

DDA talks about changes
to the northeast quadrant

Observer Special Writer
      Bringing more people into downtown Romeo is no walk in the park for the Downtown Development Authority, but that's exactly what they want to transform the northeast quadrant into.
       During the October meeting, the DDA outlined its continuing goals and some new plans for "going green" in the outside alleyways near the Uptown Buscemi's store and Pamela's Catering. Romeo's village has seen many improvements, yet attracting more visitors downtown to walk around and see the stores is an ongoing challenge, mainly because of traffic and parking issues.
       Getting to the tentative details proposed for the northeast quadrant, DDA Director Jason Arnott talked with a visual map for the area, unofficially termed as "Taylor Alley." The DDA will request that the Village Planning Commission name this parcel officially.
       Ideas include some attractive brick or concrete work and creative landscaping for people to walk through and shop.
       "We want to allow people to enter from two separate ways," said Arnott, as he pointed to the map. He talked about the possibility of a statue or some outside art to mark Romeo's heritage and one idea was that the statue could portray noted people in Romeo's history.
       Suggestions from the neighborhood businesses has brought about another new idea in relation to St. Clair Street. The thought is to clearly mark out bike routes that could be incorporated with the Macomb Orchard Trail.
       "Our goal is to pull more people to the downtown area," said Arnott.
       Additionally, the construction of a kiosk with a downtown directory would help direct people about town. This kiosk would be placed in the northeast quadrant and could possibly have a touchpad digital display system and could post current events.
       Arnott also mentioned that it would be nice to offer some bistro seating outside businesses in the northeast quadrant.  Within the downtown area, the plans are to integrate all four quadrants together with similar aesthetic outdoor themes.
       Before this, Treasurer Carol Humphrey's reported that there was $44,008.96 in the bank and she had just received a check for $11,500 in the mail from the Village of Romeo on the consent agreement.
       Additional items on the agenda last Thursday included approving $500 funding for the R-W-B Parks and Recreation's upcoming Halloween event downtown and following this they discussed two competing bids to decorate the village for Christmas.
       One company, the LeClerc Display Company based in Ann Arbor, sent its representative, Shawn Bailey, who came to answer questions and explain its services.
       "We can offer a two-year contract to install the Christmas decorations, lights and live green garland," said Bailey, adding that the contract also included any maintenance costs.
       The board requested the contract be written with an "opt-out" clause if they were not satisfied after the first year. Bailey agreed to the term.
       The other company, the Matthew Joseph Electrical Company, did not have a representative at the meeting, but since his company was used in the past the board wanted to give it an opportunity to also bid for the village's decoration contract.
       The LeClerc Display Company's bid was much less, but the board voted to wait until members spoke to the Romeo-based Matthew Joseph Electrical Company to be fair. They made plans to hold a special meeting next week to be able to hear both bids. The date and time has yet to be set.
       Kim Hale, DDA executive director, gave her report and gave the board a recap of the meeting held with the Macomb County Planning & Economic Development and the Michigan Economic and Development Corporation (MEDC) regarding possible grant and funding opportunities. The project the DDA is looking at right now for grant money is the northeast quadrant improvements.
       "The question we really have now is do we have a project on the books in the planning that we would like to pursue<or would we rather wait and roll our money in for next year, then approve some additional money so we can go after a larger grant next year?" Hale asked.
       The deadlines to apply for grants usually happen twice a year, April and October.
       "The more money you come to the table with, it puts you in a better position for grants," DDA Chairman Merrick Maris said.
       He suggested that the board re-visit the master plan and the Romeo Blueprint plans and come to the next meeting with three ideas as to how each member thinks they should proceed.
       Hale also said the bike racks in the downtown area are ready to go and that the fall decorations are up with thanks to the help of SERVE.
       There has also been a good response to the fall plant sale, she said. The DDA made $199, due in part to promoting it on the Facebook page. She said that there was no progress made in reference to putting a large sign or billboard up on M-53 yet.
       Hale said she attended the Romeo Village Council meeting which awarded $2,000 for Romeo's 175th Anniversary Celebration.  She said she will go next month to ask for additional funds for the downtown parks.
       Hale also said that Humphreys was doing a great job getting the Harvest Day event organized with many new events planned all over town. Harvest Day is planned for Saturday, Oct.13, and the next regular board meeting for the Romeo DDA will be Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Morton Street Romeo Community Center.

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