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Monroe invests in downtown.

Historic Monroe is a stand alone city, between Detroit and Toledo, on the shores of western Lake Erie. Like many mid-west cities, Michigan's third oldest city has seen the problems of age and changes in its economic base. Monroe has realized the necessity to rebuild its infrastructure and recycle its land and building's.

A goal was established in 1978 to curb and pave every unimproved street in the city. Utilizing a city established revolving loan fund assessments for five-sixths of the cost were paid by benefitting businesses or residents. The city paid the remaining one-sixth. By 1990 all 78 miles of city streets were curbed and paved. That fund has recently been used to assist a developer in creating a new street for sixty-eight home sites.

Using federal revenue-sharing dollars in the late 70's and early 80's, along with local taxes, Monroe invested heavily in capital improvements. Monroe has built a new city hall, two fire stations, a state of the art water treatment plant using ozone, has a sidewalk replacement program, and separated all storm and sanitary sewers. Further, our forestry program exemplifies our name the "Floral City."

Like many downtowns Monroe has had to compete with malls and strip development. Downtown has two phases of streetscape improvements in the 80's paid for by assessments and city revenue. Today an active Downtown Development Authority is working on additional projects. Bonds sold to fund the projects will be paid for by taxes captured from increased property values under Michigan's Tax Increment Financing Act. Our community development department is to work closely with the DDA on projects and development of commercial business. Further, local citizens are raising private dollars for the refurbishing of a 1930's movie theater, as the River Raisin Center for the Arts.

In 1982 Monroe undertook a major adaptive reuse project of a former furniture factory. Using Massachusetts specialists, the Woodcraft Square Project saw the conversion of a brick and timber structure built in 1910 to senior citizen housing. It was the first project of its kind in Michigan.

Recognizing the need for jobs and increased tax base, Monroe is reorganizing its community development department to emphasize retention, expansion and recruitment of industry. By demolishing old industrial buildings, the city plans to recycle the land for future development. Redevelopment is to be done in conjunction with their Local Development Finance Authority. The LDFA handles tax increment finance monies in an industrial district, for infrastructure improvements, much like the DDA does downtown.

With dwindling resources from the state and federal level, Monroe plans to be in a better position to take care of itself. Our cities philosophy has been to target our resources to think in the long term. While the city emphasizes our historic heritage as the home of General Custer and a battle site in the War of 1812, Monroe's 22,902 residents also know the importance or preparing a sound economic base, in a well-maintained city, for our children.
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Title Annotation:Small Cities; Monroe, Michigan
Author:Worrell, Mark G.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 2, 1992
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