By Rosemary K. Otzman
Sometime in late February, the Belleville Downtown Development Authority, in conjunction with New Tech at Belleville High School, will put on a special Belleville Soup Project.
At its regular meeting Jan. 15, the Belleville DDA voted unanimously to guarantee $1,000 (from its fund balance) to support the project.
DDA member Denise Baker explained the project which will include members of the community paying to eat together and listen to four business proposals by the BHS New Tech students.
Then the diners will vote to select the best proposal and that proposal will win a grant of at least $500 to get started.
This is a new project and so it is unclear how many people will come to participate. That’s why the DDA chipped in to make sure it will succeed.
If more than 100 people participate, the DDA’s financial participation would be less than minimal, Baker said.
“But, the first time around is tough and we need support from the DDA,” she said.
The Soup Committee would like to use the BHS cafeteria, but the details are still in the preliminary stages.
She said the meal would be catered and would include soup, salad, dessert, and beverage.
The committee estimated cost would be $10 per person, including $8 worth of food and room rental of $200.
So, admission will be $15 for one person or $25 for two. The committee will invite a potential guest list of 250, plus ticket sales to the public. Advance tickets will be sold.
The committee was formed at the Nov. 20 DDA meeting after DDA Coordinator Carol Thompson provided copies to DDA members and the audience of an article in the July/August issue of The Michigan Municipal League’s magazine, The Review, that tells of Jonesville Soup, which was based on Detroit Soup.
It amounted to local people cooperating by paying for a light lunch of soup and salad that has been donated. The proceeds of the lunch tabs go to fund a group effort to improve the community. The lunchers vote on the proposals after brief presentations and then give the winners the money to follow their plan.
In discussion on another new event, DDA member Rosemary Loria explained the idea of turning Belleville into “Booville” during the month of October each year.
She said back in October she met up with Bill Wolters, president of the Belleville Central Business Community (CBC), in the Fourth Street Square when 50 witches met at Eagan’s Pub.
Others came to see the witches, all in costume, and it was a fun-filled time.
Loria said she and Wolters talked about expanding the Halloween theme and, “Belleville would become Booville for the month of October.”
She said there could be activities, contests, fund raisers and other events and the CBC is interested in getting involved.
She said this would not infringe on Harvest Fest or the Scarecrow Contest of the Trick or Treating on Halloween, but would expand it all into month.
“A big part of Belleville’s charm is the events that go on in the city,” said DDA member Brian Copsey in support of the idea.
Loria said they would encourage people to be in costume throughout the month and more than on Halloween.
DDA chairman John Hoops said he would put it on the DDA follow-up list and discuss it again after a committee meeting.
Economic Impact Study
Barbara Miller was present in the audience to ask the DDA to get an Economic Impact study on what would be the results of moving the library building out of the city onto the selected site across the Belleville Bridge.
Miller, an attorney in Belleville, said she is extremely disappointed that the library plans to move out of town and she recalled when this DDA passed a resolution in support of keeping the library in Belleville.
She asked the DDA to support and fund an Economic Impact Study that could offer information for the citizens on the impact of the move when they are asked to vote on the bond issue for construction.
She said the study would consider the impact on the city. She said some 25,000 cars a month come to the city and park so people can go to the library. Then, they do other shopping while in town.
She said without a library to draw the people to town, in the future she sees no drugstore, no hardware store, and other stores would be gone.
(Apologizing for digressing, Miller said an exception would be the antique shop which draws people from all over the area and has active business, especially on weekends.)
She recalled when she, Belleville Mayor Glenn Silvenis, and City Manager Bob Herron went to see an attorney when the county wanted to close the Belleville Bridge for a year to rebuild it. The attorney told them they needed an Economic Impact Study which they got and the bridge stayed open during construction.
She told the DDA, “The city depends on your leadership.”
DDA Chairman Hoops said he would put the issue of an Economic Impact Study on the agenda of the next DDA meeting on Feb. 19.
In other business at the 35-minute Jan. 15 meeting, the DDA:
• Heard a report on Winter Fest from Randy Brown of the Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce. He said it is estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people turned out to enjoy it and he thanked the DDA for their contribution. He said the Chamber made $891 in profit. He said the Chamber is open to any suggestions for improving the event for next year and, around October, if anyone has a parade theme to suggest, it would be welcome;
• Accepted the trophy the city won for Best Float for a Municipality in the Winter Fest parade. Brown said there was a mistake in judging at first, but the city did win;
• Re-elected the same officers for the coming year: John Hoops, chairman; Gary Snarski, vice chairman; Jim Higgerson, secretary; and Sabrina Richardson Williams, treasurer. The DDA will continue to meet at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month;
• Heard Thompson report that in March a committee will review and select seven outdoor sculptures for display in the downtown area for a year. She said she had two more sponsors;
• Heard Miller suggest the Mural Committee meet with Hubert Massey, a renowned muralist she serves with on the Wayne County Art Authority. She said Massey sets up discussion groups to find out how the community feels before doing public murals. He is on retain to Meijer for store murals. Miller said he would come out and meet with the committee, if invited;
• Removed an item from the agenda concerning the MDNR Grand Project Engineering Proposal for Spicer Group;
By Rosemary K. Otzman