The City of Wayne has many things going for it: A strong business community, Wayne State College with an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, and an overall civic-minded population who are proud of every part of their town.
In 2008, city leaders decided that the historic downtown district could look a lot more welcoming and attractive. With this in mind, they began to investigate ways to improve the area. They applied for and received $30,000 in CDBG funding to support a Downtown Revitalization Program. A study completed in November 2008 not only details more than a dozen downtown areas for the city to focus improvement efforts on, but also suggests potential funding sources for each activity. This type of planning is invaluable for rural communities looking to improve the places where they live, work, shop, and play. Many of Wayne’s ideas are equally applicable in other communities throughout the state.
An initial, low-cost suggestion for improving the downtown’s appearance and promoting tourism is to improve the quality and quantity of signage in the area.
Another suggestion is to update building facades in the area, some upwards of 100- years-old.
Another recommendation is to increase green space and connect existing trail systems to create a city-wide trail system. Not unlike many rural downtowns, Wayne’s deteriorating sidewalks and alleys are becoming a safety concern and no longer compliant with the Americans with Disability Act.
One of Wayne’s biggest assets is the local college. An informal offshoot study of the Downtown study reported that many college students were not staying in Wayne during breaks and weekends. This became an even greater problem when a local movie theatre closed its doors. The study suggested ways that the community could work to keep college students in town on weekends, including offering reduced rental rates for the community auditorium, building more downtown housing and parking, and providing downtown wide wireless Internet service for downtown residents, businesses, and customers.
Because many Wayne business owners also are nearing retirement, the Wayne Downtown Revitalization plan incorporated ways in which the city could help successful business owners with issues, such as business succession, retention, expansion, and marketing.
With the initial planning stage completed, Wayne is now moving toward implementing some ideas in the plan. For example, in 2008, the city applied for and received $250,000 in CDBG funding to update ADA accessibility and for commercial rehabilitation. The city also matched the grant money by replacing a large section of the dilapidated downtown sidewalk. With a strong downtown revitalization plan in place, Wayne officials are well on their way to energizing and improving the downtown area and overall city.