DDA to Purchase the Monroe Optical Building
(Monroe, MI) – The Monroe Downtown Development Authority has signed a Purchase Agreement to take ownership of the property at 13 West Front Street. The L-Shaped building is perhaps better known to the local community as the former “Monroe Optical Building,” with a more prominent storefront at 36 South Monroe Street in addition to the one on West Front.
The unanimous DDA Board decision to purchase the property was due to clear evidence that with over 30 years of abandonment and deterioration, past and present owners as well as potential private investors were not financially motivated or capable of taking on a renovation project of the magnitude the DDA envisions.
By definition, a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is designed to be a catalyst in the development of a community's downtown district. The “Monroe Optical Building” has long been an eyesore and the indicator of Downtown’s perceived renovation efforts - factual or not. “We believe that the renovation of this property will be the catalyst that will bring new investors as well as a new wave of other renovation efforts to Downtown Monroe,” explained DDA Chairman William Slicker.
“Mayor Clark and the City Council have appointed to the DDA Board a highly energized and committed group of individuals. All members on the Board are either downtown business or building owners, or residents. They understand the positive impact that the DDA can make by leading the effort to renovate and revitalize buildings that have for far too long been left to deteriorate through the years,” Slicker continued.
The DDA’s near-term goals with the property are to conduct an Environmental Assessment, determine remediation efforts, and to update energy services (gas and electric). From there the project will begin roof and façade renovations, with the plan to update both facades, keeping within City and Historic District codes. This initial stage will not only greatly improve the “curb appeal” of the downtown district, but the hopes to then find a suitable investor to purchase the property and finalize its complete renovation. Although actual timelines will be dependent on interest, budget allocations and supply chain conditions, this is the Number One project on the DDA’s upcoming fiscal years’ budgets.
“Another determining factor of the DDA purchasing the property is that it can control “purposing” of the building: controlling the type of business or businesses that will occupy the first floors. We plan on obtaining input from existing Downtown merchants, businesses, residents and the public to help us determine what will best work with or complement existing services and improve meeting residential needs, while still attracting more visitors to Downtown Monroe,” said Slicker.
Although the DDA will continue to manage other downtown improvement efforts, its upcoming budget will be adjusted so as to focus on this project. The public is encouraged as well to share their thoughts and ideas. Monthly DDA Board meetings are open to the public and held at 8:30am on the third Wednesday at City Hall. You can also visit the DDA website at http://www.downtownmonroemi.com where you can leave your comments or send an email.