Harrison Township seeks to transform downtown into a walkable destination

Harrison Township is seeking to improve its downtown through a series of studies, public meetings, and new zoning districts made possible by grants awarded by the MDEQ Office of the Great Lakes Coastal Zone Management Program. The goal is for a more walkable and vibrant downtown that takes advantage of its position along Lake St. Clair which they hope will, in turn, draw new development to the lakefront community.

Thanks to a grant awarded in 2013, a series of public forums and vision meetings identified that the intersection of Crocker and Jefferson was the optimal place to center redevelopment efforts. A plan was then developed, followed by a TIFF district and a downtown development district. A Downtown Development Authority board was named in 2014.

"We want to focus redevelopment efforts around our shoreline," says Amanda Oparka, a member of the Harrison Township DDA. "A lot of shoreline in Macomb County is private land and we have a unique opportunity to allow for more public access."

A second grant, awarded in October 2016, is helping the DDA to do two things: Establish an overlay zoning district for the downtown development area and develop a complete streets program.

The overlay zoning district allows the DDA to have its own zoning regulations within its district, separate from that of the township's own zoning regulations. This will allow the DDA to be more flexible with potential developers while also giving the DDA some control over the look and feel of the district.

Complete streets programming -- which encourages urban planning concepts like accessibility and walkability -- is especially important, says Oparka.

"We want to create a nightlife downtown and a destination for people to come to and a complete streets design is essential to this happening," she says. "There's not a lot of sidewalk right now and we need to increase pedestrian safety and walkability."

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