Approximately 120 to 130 residents gathered on Wednesday evening at A.G. Schmidt Middle School to share their vision of Fenton in 2018. Ideas included improving walkability, demolishing the old Topps fruit market building off Caroline Street, a trolley loop, and an improved or new library.
City council members led six groups in brainstorming ideas, as Mayor Sue Osborn, City Manager Lynn Markland and facilitator Dr. Lew Bender circulated. City employees helped record the ideas, and then Bender asked for each group's top picks.
Many people mentioned demolishing the vacant fruit market building and adding a parking structure or another feature there. Layne Schupbach, of Fenton, said it could become home to an ice rink. She also suggested reopening the movie theater in the industrial park.
A new or improved library was on almost every group’s list, said Bobbie Sweetman, who is on the board for the Jack R. Winegarden Library. The current facility attracts 10,000 to 12,000 a month, and then patrons go out into the community and visit businesses, Sweetman said. People shouldn’t underestimate what the library does for Fenton’s business community, she said.
Resident Sean Orzol, also planning commission chairman, said while retail and restaurants are important, safe streets, good schools, good libraries and activities for children are the first things families look for when they’re talking with a real estate agent.
Roy Width, of Fenton, said Fenton has recreation facilities at including a baseball diamond. He urged the city to use what it has and build on it.
“The money is pretty thin,” Width said.
The Fenton Community & Cultural Center he said. And residents can attend the summer Concerts in the Park.
“Take advantage of your city,” he said. “You’d be surprised. There’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Improving accessibility key to growing business
Troy Husted said the city could create more business downtown by improving accessibility through the river walk. Tying areas together is important, Husted said. With more businesses drawn in, it would help residents stay in Fenton to shop, eat and be entertained.
He likes the natural surroundings, with the lakes.
“It’s just a beautiful area,” Husted said.
Osborn said she’s been on city council since 1985, and Fenton has always planned ahead and saved. The city is in good but not great financial shape, with one factor being employees' concessions on health care, she said.
Council will have a meeting in January to discuss the vision for Fenton, and it will keep people informed.
“We will try to make this plan come about,” Osborn said.
The visions are for five years, Bender said, so people shouldn’t “look for instant pudding.” He will compile the ideas for council to discuss, and then Markland and his staff will work on budgeting and time frames.
“They have your contact information,” he added. “They may call you for help.”
Carl Jones, a recent Fenton resident who is originally from Philadelphia, said he enjoyed Jinglefest Saturday.
“The last parade I went to, my Mom’s pocketbook got stolen, so this is really a great experience,” he said.
Jones said he found out about the vision session by following Fenton Patch on Twitter. The city's greatest attraction is its people, he believes.
On the vision session, he concluded, “All these things are great, but stay the same.”
More ideas from the session
- Better sidewalks
- A two-story library by the Shiawassee River, accessible by walkways or bike paths
- More parking
- Better local roads
- More ordinances to remove blight
- Redeveloping the Shiawassee River area
- A larger band shelter downtown
- Emphasizing the North Leroy Street business district
- A fiscally responsive community
- A seafood restaurant, such as Red Lobster
- A commitment to support the schools
- A community college
- Street striping for bike paths; a bike path connecting Fenton, Linden and Holly
- More youth programs and recreation
- More specialty retail stores and restaurants; specialty grocers
- A dog park
- A pedestrian mall where people walk through it outdoors
- A water fountain
- Opening the community center more to smaller groups