Still looking for a market

ESCANABA – The Escanaba Downtown Development Authority (DDA) continues to consider purchasing a vacant building downtown and renovating the structure into a farmers market.

The DDA is looking at the old Upper Peninsula Power Co., building on the 100 block of Stephenson Avenue as a potential site for an indoor/outdoor farmers market, business incubator and meeting space.

“We’re just considering it at this time,” said DDA Director Judy Schroeder after Wednesday’s regular board meeting at city hall.

She explained the agency has made three offers on the property and the owner has reduced the price considerably by more than two-thirds the original asking price.

No decisions have been made by the DDA, said Schroeder, which wants to get the project moving along so the agency can apply for economic development monies currently available from the state.

DDA representatives plan to meet with an official from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., to find out how the project can take advantage of current funding by meeting grant requirements in the site plan proposal, she said.

Development of the DDA’s farmers market has been an ongoing priority for the authority. The DDA has also looked into building a new indoor/outdoor facility at its present location at 115 N. 9th St.

In addition, the board is considering hiring a project manager to develop the farmers market because of the lack of qualified applicants received for the DDA directorship. The DDA is seeking candidates with experience in community planning and project management to oversee the agency’s current and future projects.

The DDA is looking for a new director because Schroeder would like to step down to a part-time position within the agency.

In other business Wednesday, Kevin Cook, an energy management consultant, recommended the DDA participate in an energy optimization program and energy audits for downtown business owners by applying for funding to make buildings more energy efficient.

Regarding the DDA’s facade program, the board approved a draft Wednesday for the request for proposal (RFP) of design services and preliminary costs for the 2013-14 grant season. Business owners who are approved for the project can receive state funding to pay for a portion of costs to renovate building exteriors.

The board also agreed to submit a resolution of support for the downtown to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places for recognition purposes and tax incentives.

The authority was informed the lighting will be improved on the overhead welcome sign on Ludington Street at Lincoln Avenue sometime this month.

The DDA board’s next regular meeting is Oct. 2.