The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) voted Dec. 21 to set aside $150,000 in fiscal year 2025 to hire a director. The vote followed a strategic planning session with city staff on Dec. 20.
Authority members also heard an expression of support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and approved updates to lighting in the downtown area. Here’s the meeting’s agenda with links to attachments.
MEDC representative invites DDA to take advantage of the organization’s resources.
Rachel Elsinga, community development manager for MEDC, shared with DDA members the support the organization offers to Michigan communities. She was advocating for a partnership between MEDC and DDA.
The MEDC offers business assistance services and capital programs for business attraction and acceleration. “MEDC works with Michigan businesses and communities of all sizes to deliver the services and support they need to grow and succeed,” the organization’s website says.
Elsigna encouraged the DDA to take advantage of the resources the MEDC offers, including technical assistance from advisers as well as funding opportunities. She emphasized that the MEDC’s intention is to work with communities, so the DDA and organizations like it are involved in the development futures of their respective communities.
“We’ll be asking, is it part of your master plan? Is it part of your five, 10, 20 year vision?” Elsigna said.
DDA discussed the results of strategic planning sessions.
For the remainder of the meeting, the DDA discussed the results of strategic planning sessions with city staff. The Dec. 20 session was the second installment of a “Visioning & Action Planning Workshop” (the first was held Nov. 8). The sessions were designed to “provide an opportunity for board members to express their existing hopes and aspirations for the future of the DDA’s work.”
There were several common goals expressed by members at the workshop, including increased safety in the downtown area, proactive business recruitment, a housing development program, and a more accessible and pedestrian-oriented downtown. But there was only one immediate action taken after the planning session and that was the Dec. 21 vote to set aside $150,000, beginning in FY2025, to provide a salary for a DDA director.
Despite the vote to fund a future director, there are still details to finalize about the position.
“We know what we’re paying for, but what are we getting?” DDA member Bob Aydukovic said.
Although this will be a new position for East Lansing’s DDA, directors are installed in DDAs around the state, including the cities of Grand Haven, Ann Arbor, Jackson and South Lyon.
Before the East Lansing position is posted, DDA members and city staff will work to hammer out whose jurisdiction the position will fall under — the DDA or the city. Up for debate in the new year is who will be responsible for hiring and firing, and, subsequently, where the director’s responsibilities will lean.
The DDA concluded the meeting by approving updates and repairs for string lighting in the 400 and 500 blocks of downtown. The DDA will next meet Jan. 25 in the 300 Room of the Technology Innovation Center, 325 East Grand River Ave.
Correction: The DDA has approved up to $150,000 for the hiring of a director. This story has been corrected.