GREENVILLE — As the Greenville Downtown Development Authority hones in on an open-air structure downtown, the group has set dates for its trial market and is hopeful for funding thanks to a new grant opportunity.
Board members Tuesday morning scheduled the trial market, which would gauge the level of interest a market-type activity would garner at Lafayette Park, for the last Saturday of each month, beginning June 27 and continuing until possibly October 25.
Board member Deb Huch said Tuesday she has laid the groundwork for guidelines to the market, including the dates, times (from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and costs ($10 per vendor booth). She also said there is already interest from vendors in participating in the event, but setting dates will help in acquiring more.
“We have the date, the time and the place so now I feel like I can go out and talk to vendors and line up some vendors,” she said. “By next month I’ll have a list of vendors, potential vendors and those who said ‘yes, I will do it.’”
DDA members have yet to set specific regulations and requirements for vendors, but mostly felt a market open to farmers, crafters, artists and everyone else would be the best option.
The DDA will also likely team up, at least for now, with the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce for operation and budgeting of the market.
If the market proves successful, the authority could even consider a temporary structure to further test the site and also establish a group to operate it.
“The ultimate goal is to create an entity of sorts, a functional entity, that has some organization and management,” DDA Vice Chairman David Ralph said. “This is just the exploratory part of it.”
City Manager George Bosanic agreed.
“This is a small scale, temporary market that will generate interest and be the stepping stone to something larger and more permanent and more official.”
Once the trial market is complete, there is still plenty of work to do before settling on a structure. A cost estimate must be conducted, as well as financially how the city will pay for it, such as through state grants, local grants and donations, or a combination.
Bosanic said Tuesday a new opportunity for potential grant money has become available from the state of Michigan.
“Apparently there was some leftover funds from other places that has been pooled and as a result has expanded the possibility for applications for projects,” he said. “This is good timing, because this is really kind of a coincidence.”
Applications for the grant are being accepted until fall, Bosanic said.
“We’ve got a few months to put something together and this could potentially, if it all came together, be a project for next year.”
But because the grant is competitive, meaning several municipalities will be seeking it, Bosanic said the more the city can do to strengthen its case for the grant the better the chances. The trial market is a good example of showing action, he said.
“If successful it will provide good information to include in the grant application in the fall,” he said. “If we can show this is how we do it, where we do it and what we do it with, that is a good start and gives the state the confidence this isn’t just a figure of our imagination and we’re actually doing something.”
The DDA has been discussing a downtown catalyst project like this for some time, initially looking into a large, extravagant structure at the corner of M-57 and M-91.
The DDA has evolved away from that concept, factoring in budget concerns and realistic expectations for its use. The shift recently has shifted to the Lafayette Park and the parking lot behind it.