EVART -- Evart Downtown Development Authority (DDA) director Bryan Tiedt expects 2020 to be a very busy year for the organization as they move forward with their Michigan Main Street (MMS) strategy.

"The main focus right now is getting benches and bike racks in the downtown area, an initiative that came from community meetings in 2018, where residents expressed the the idea that Evart needed to be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly," Tiedt said.

The DDA has been developing a plan for locating benches and bike racks along Main Street, and had a bike lane put in along the sidewalk, he said.

In addition, the DDA is working on a plan to add way-find signage throughout the city to assist visitors. Way-find signage includes informational signs throughout the city that will let visitors know what direction and how far it is to certain points of interest.

"Way-find signage will bring people from the Rails to Trails to our downtown area and will assist visitors in finding our Main Street," Tiedt said.

City Manager Sarah Dvoracek said the Evart City Council is hoping to start implementing the way-find signage within the year.

"The branding process provided by MMS will allow us to start gathering quotes for signs now, rather than later, because the design is now out of the way," she said.

Helping entrepreneurs

Teidt said they are very excited about the pop-up project they are getting off the ground, as well.

The DDA recently purchased a vacant building at 211 N. Main St. with the intent of starting a pop-up program, and are working on renovations and developing an application process for the program, he added.

The basis of the program, he said, is to allow potential business owners the opportunity to see if their business will work before committing to purchasing or renting a building, purchasing inventory and incurring other expenses associated with opening a business.

"We are currently working on getting quotes for the renovations of the building," he said. "Our goal is to have it ready by spring.

"We will have some vendors going into the space, and if things go well, hope to develop entrepreneurs into brick and mortar businesses."

The application process will involve pitching the business idea to a committee, and the committee will choose a business to move into the pop-up.

The potential business owner will be given a couple of weeks to move in and get set up, then they will operate their business from the pop-up space for a determined time period -- possibly three months.

They will be expected to hold routine business hours and pay a nominal fee for rent and utilities. At the end of the trial period, they can determine if the business would potentially be profitable and if they want to continue, Teidt said.

"After the trial period, we hope they would consider a storefront in Evart," he said.

In addition, Teidt said, he hopes the pop-up idea will encourage other building owners on Main Street to look at ways to make use of their property that will improve the downtown business district.

The DDA will also be focusing on the summer concert series and events connected with the Farmers Market.

"Our farmers market has expanded over the past two years and has become a significant draw for the community," Tiedt said. "We want to further this by hosting other events in conjunction with the farmers market."

Michigan Main Street Program

In 2018, Evart became a selected city for the Michigan Main Street program, a program administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to assist communities in revitalizing and preserving their traditional downtown commercial districts.

"The MMS program has opened many state level resources to the city," Dvoracek said. "The program has made the DDA board re-evaluate their direction and start thinking about economic development in a more strategic way."

The DDA recently hosted a presentation by marketing and branding expert Bob Muldrow, who works with MMS program participants to develop and refine their branding. Muldrow's presentation included a re-tooling of the city logo along with the logos of other various entities that are part of the city, including the DDA and the Chamber of Commerce.

"The branding project will enable the community to see the progress we are making," Dvoracek said. "The timing is perfect for the new year and we are excited to start the process."