By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Casting the city as a “livable bedroom community” through green space development, talent retention and attraction, downtown development and enhancement of transportation and infrastructure will help it build its brand.
The Economic Development Strategy, developed by Michigan State University students in the Urban and Regional Planning Program, will help Melvindale update its master plan, which was last revised in 1965. A new master plan will help the city become “redevelopment ready,” a step crucial to obtaining government grants and private investment.
The green development recommendations encourages the development of additional green spaces, especially using vacant land for community gardens.
The study said the city’s strong school system can be leveraged to help retain and attract a young, educated population. It recommends the building of connections between college students, young professionals and local businesses to foster connections to the city’s talent pool.
Developing the downtown by revitalizing underutilized properties, enhancing the streetscape, and the improving walkability are key to sustaining and attracting local businesses.
Melvindale’s dependence on personal automobiles provides an opportunity to introduce a bus route to make public transportation available. The implementation of bike sharing, which Dearborn and Detroit have implemented, is another opportunity to explore.
Currently, Melvindale does not have any routes or stops in the city with the Wayne County’s Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation buses.
A retail market analysis shows that “leakage,” or money spent by residents outside of the city, is most prominent in grocery shopping, as the city does not have a major store within the city.
The study identified the city’s strengths, with its location being an important asset. It is close to downtown Detroit, Dearborn and Allen Park, and is only eight miles from Detroit Metropolitan Airport. It also has easy access to I-94 and I-75, which are major interstate corridors.
Low housing costs, with 90 percent of houses costing less than $100,000, can be leveraged to attract young professionals and college students looking for starter homes, which in turn can increase the city’s talent pool. However, one-third of all homes were built between 1950 and 1959, which are associated with increased home maintenance costs.
Melvindale also can leverage its strong sense of community, demonstrated by its street fairs and other community events.
The city needs to work on building its positive image. By creating a defined downtown that is a destination for dining, shopping and entertainment, it can improve the image of its livability.
The city has Norfolk Southern rail lines that are used primarily for freight, but could be used to add a commuter rail line to connect Melvindale to Detroit and Dearborn, which provide access to job opportunities.
In redevelopment of the downtown, the stretch of Allen Road between Gough and Oakwood has 11 unoccupied parcels, a mix of empty buildings and parking lots. Mixed use establishments, based on citizen need surveys, can build occupancy in the area.
The Slovene Club could be transformed into a market and eatery, and utilized for small, short-term community events.
Undeveloped parcels along the west strip of Allen Road could be developed into coffee shops, small scale clothing stores and dine-in restaurants.
For improved mass transit, a SMART route during peak commuter hours could be proposed, with stops at Allen and Oakwood, and Dix and Oakwood. In addition to proposing an alternative route for existing SMART service, the city should look at the creation of safe, ADA-compliant stops, repair sidewalks and curbs, and improve lighting at the proposed bus stops.
To improve the city’s image, a Neighborhood Watch program to decrease property crimes can be implemented in cooperation with the Police Department.
Establishing a connection with Habitat for Humanity can jumpstart volunteer-based building and home rehabilitation.
LED lighting at the underpass on Dix below the railroad tracks will provide improved night time visibility.
Additional murals, like the cardinal paintings at the library, could also help beautify the city.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)