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Improvement Authority Proposed For MLK Drive Corridor

A business block on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.  Photo courtesy City of Jackson.

(July 6, 2020 9:39 AM) Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies and Vice Mayor Arlene Robinson are proposing the creation of the MLK Corridor Improvement Authority.  A Corridor Improvement Authority is an economic development tool created by the State of Michigan in 2018 designed to assist communities with funding improvements in commercial corridors outside of their main downtown area.  The area proposed for the Authority is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive commercial district.

A Corridor Improvement Authority allows the use of tax increment financing to make capital improvements within an established commercial district. It allows communities that already have Downtown Development Authorities to extend similar benefits to aging commercial corridors outside the DDA district or that extend through more than one municipality.   Once created, a Corridor Improvement Authority may hire a director, establish a tax increment financing plan, levy special assessments and issue revenue bonds and notes.

A resolution that initiates the creation of the corridor improvement authority is going before the Jackson City Council for consideration at its next meeting on Tuesday, July 14. Before the council votes on the resolution the Mayor and Vice Mayor are holding a virtual town hall meeting to inform residents about the proposed improvement authority and answer questions. The virtual meeting is taking place on Wednesday, July 8 at 7 p.m. on the online Zoom platform. Information on how to join the meeting is posted on the City website. It will also be livestreamed on the City’s Facebook page.

The main goal of the proposed MLK Corridor Improvement Authority is to promote the revitalization and redevelopment of the MLK Drive commercial corridor through the City’s south side neighborhood. This will be done through the creation of a nine member board. The board will oversee and implement the use of tax dollars from the authority district to revitalize the area. Boundaries of the proposed improvement authority are S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from E. Mason Street in Downtown Jackson to the City Limits at E. South Street. It would also encompass existing business districts intersecting MLK Drive.

Vice Mayor Arlene Robinson, who represents this neighborhood on the City Council, says while there are existing businesses open along the corridor, more needs to be done to connect the area. “Our current businesses and residents will benefit from a more dense commercial district. New businesses, employment opportunities, safe housing and beautification are all things we could see from the creation of the improvement authority,” Vice Mayor Robinson said.

In Feb. 2019, Francis Street was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive by the City Council to honor the civil rights leader and the African American residents who advocated for the name change for more than 40 years. Since that renaming, Mayor Derek Dobies says City leaders have been dedicated to revitalizing the newly renamed MLK corridor. “So far this year, we’ve seen a new public park created along MLK Drive and a $2.5 million road construction project underway. That will be just the start of good things to come for the south side neighborhood if we move forward with the improvement authority,” Mayor Dobies said.

If the resolution is approved by the council, the next step is establishing a public hearing at the Aug. 11 council meeting.

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