City of Howell leaders came together to share visions for the future of the downtown area.

Howell City Council, the Downtown Development Authority, and Howell Main Street, Inc. boards came together for a joint meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday evening. DDA Director and Main Street Chief Operating Officer Cathleen Edgerly said this is a valuable way to get everyone on the same page. She said, “Now that have been named one of the top downtowns in the U.S., where do we go from here? All eyes are on us, and understandably so. People want to know what’s next.”

The three boards spent 90 minutes sharing ideas on how to better make downtown Howell a destination for residents and visitors. Two areas focused on were the restaurant mix and the business mix. A survey conducted last fall showed that people were interested in more family-friendly, affordable, but quality restaurants. While many liked the variety of cuisine downtown, Mayor Nick Proctor questioned if the price point wasn’t beyond the city’s low-to-moderate income demographic.

The business mix downtown was also considered, with the survey showing a demand for more youth based activity businesses, a bookstore, a deli, and a grocery store. Edgerly believed, as an example list of youth-based businesses was read, that Howell had or has had several of them, but perhaps they need to find a way to better help them.

A disconnect between residents and the downtown that was brought up was also discussed. It was suggested that an aging population has seen Howell change over the years and doesn’t believe there is stuff for them downtown any longer. Mayor Proctor said that a lot of people may be clinging to the past, but the reality is that economics have changed. Trying to find ways of welcoming the older crowd back, while appealing to a younger generation so that the city continues to grow, is one of challenges officials will continue to tackle.

An informal agreement to hold another joint session was made. It will likely take place in the fall, after the summer event season has concluded. (MK)