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Fall 2014 Newsletter

By October 11, 2014March 19th, 2015Newsletter

President’s Message


Jim Lagowski

A continuing thanks to a major donor whose support has made it possible to increase our outreach efforts with local communities. This includes participation in five Michigan Township regional seminars, development of a new Scenic Michigan Power Point presentation already in use and additional meetings in Southeast Michigan to seek new opportunities for sign training workshops for local officials, using ourSign Guidebook.

Our new (small) office in Ann Arbor will further strengthen our presence in Southeast Michigan and provide new opportunities for financial support of our mission. Ann Arbor is a prime example of a city that took significant action to ban digital billboards and reduce blight with an effective sign ordinance. Kudos to the City Council.

With the assistance of Public Sector Consultants, we will be introducing an electronic version of our Scenic Michigan newsletter this fall. Please email our office at [email protected] to provide us with your email address so that you don’t miss an issue and can keep up to date on our activities. Our Michigan Sign Guidebook, the best in the nation, is available on CD, at no cost, to anyone with an interest in good signage in their community. This includes our supporting members-you.

Albion College is completing work on an independent research study to confirm initial data that shows that while highway crashes have gone down in Michigan, they have increased near digital billboards. This critical information will be widely distributed as soon as the study is completed and we believe will be integral to limit digital billboards in Michigan.

Scenic Michigan is proud to welcome two new Board Members! Rory Bolger who has had a long career in planning and currently works with the City of Detroit and Megan Olds, also with a background in planning and assisting local government and conservation organizations, will be very strong advocates for Scenic Michigan.

Finally, don’t forget our new endowment fund, established last year, as we work towards long term financial stability. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate indicated a willingness to permit a tax free donation from an IRA to a
501(c)3 tax exempt organization like Scenic Michigan. More to come on this one.

Thank you for your continued interest in and for your financial support of our Mission!

Driven to Distraction

Toronto-based self described “community choreographer” Dave Meslin shares his excellent article about the hazards of digital billboards. Meslin compares the dangers of digital billboards to drivers with the early days of omnipresent cigarette smoke. What we know now is that smoking can kill you. What we also know now is that digital billboards distract drivers. Driver distraction is the number one cause of traffic fatalities. Read on for Dave Meslin’s very persuasive argument to ban digital billboards. Click here to read the full article.

Interview with Jordan Twardy


Jordan Twardy

Q. Can you provide us with an overview of the Eight Mile Boulevard Association and the mission of the association?

The Eight Mile Boulevard Association (8MBA) was founded in 1993 by the cities and counties along Eight Mile between I-275 and I-94, along with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. 8MBA exists to revitalize and promote the Eight Mile corridor by linking the public and private sectors, and we do so through a variety of programs and projects aimed at community and economic development.

Q. How long have you been the Executive Director and what is your background?

I was promoted to 8MBA Executive Director in February 2014. Before that, I was serving as 8MBA’s Director of Programs, a position I took in March 2012. Prior to my time at 8MBA, I worked in constituent service, planning and economic development for the City of Warren. I hold a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a Real Estate Development Certificate from the University of Michigan, along with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and History from Oakland University.

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Eight Mile Corridor and what are some steps you are taking to address them?

Eight Mile’s biggest challenge is its perception as a regional divider and by extension as a difficult place to do business. We actively address this challenge by working with our partners in the public and private sectors to remove barriers to investment, to address blight and to create physical progress on the corridor that people can see and feel. Together with our community partners, 8MBA created a comprehensive set of Design Guidelines to promote best practices in property design, landscaping, business signage and other elements to help raise the aesthetic standards for the corridor. We advance those guidelines through our Façade Improvement Program, which provides competitive cash grants to businesses who implement the guidelines on their property. In addition, we coordinate with local governments and MDOT to successfully deliver services such as consistent mowing and landscaping work for public rights of way. We also work with real estate developers in support of large, catalytic projects. In 2013, we celebrated the successful grand opening of Detroit’s first Meijer store at the Gateway Marketplace development at Eight Mile and Woodward. 8MBA served as a public advocate for the project and helped secure tax incentives to bring a vision that was more than 9 years in the making into reality. By promoting tangible, measurable change on Eight Mile, we are helping to change the corridor’s perception and revealing to the region that Eight Mile is a place where businesses and residents can thrive.

Q. I’m sure the funding issues so prevalent in Michigan these days, also impacts the cities along Eight Mile. How has your organization addressed this issue and are there creative ways to secure funding for community improvement that you could share with our readers?

Funding is definitely a prevalent issue, but 8MBA and our partners have become adept at leveraging our collective strength to do more with less. By coordinating our efforts and aligning plans wherever possible, we achieve results that would not have been possible alone. As we set our strategic priorities we make a point of identifying the goals and activities of our partners, focusing on areas of overlapping interests where we can partner. For example, 8MBA made it a priority in 2014 to support the revitalization of parks on or near Eight Mile. With a shoestring budget but lots of partners, we were able to align our efforts with the interests of the City of Detroit, the companies Tom’s of Maine and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, and the Michigan Nonprofit Association, allowing us to assemble $80K to revitalize two Detroit parks off Eight Mile Road. In this effort we combined two companies’ passion for positive change with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Adopt-a-Park Program and the efforts of two very dedicated nonprofit partners, along with residents in the neighborhood surrounding the park.


Q. I understand that the Eight Mile Boulevard Association is a public/private partnership of people working together to improve the look and quality of life along the Boulevard. What are some examples of the partnership in action?

8MBA couldn’t achieve its mission without collaboration between our diverse family of public and private stakeholders. As we pursue that mission, we often find that the greatest success is achieved when numerous stakeholders come together in ways they might not have previously done so before. The revitalization of Knudsen Park – currently under way for fall 2014 – brought together the City of Detroit, the company Tom’s of Maine, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and a group of residents. By leveraging the combined strength of business, community and government, 8MBA and our partners transformed a great idea into what is unfolding as a great project. Our public/private partnership acts in other ways to achieve success. Our Façade Improvement Program unites property owners with local planners and grant funders to facilitate private investment in the corridor. With every façade project we also inspire other businesses to get involved as word spreads about our program’s ability to improve property design while saving time and money. We also like to connect business and government with grassroots efforts to improve quality of life. Our annual “Clean the D” event unites students, corporations, church groups and businesses to remove blight, tend gardens and beautify the corridor.

Q. Scenic Michigan has long been focused on eliminating billboard blight and improving signage in communities. What is your sense as to how Scenic Michigan and the Eight Mile Boulevard Association can best work together?

8MBA has demonstrated a knack for finding ways to solve problems through partnership with stakeholders on all sides of an issue. Given our mutual interest in eliminating blight and improving signage, 8MBA and Scenic Michigan could bring stakeholders together, from municipalities to property owners, residents and billboard companies themselves, to come up with win-win solutions that achieve our shared goals.

Q. How can our readers learn more about the Eight Mile Boulevard Association? Are there Volunteer opportunities?

To learn more about 8MBA, visit us on the web at In addition to our annual Clean the D event held each May, we are always recruiting volunteers for projects throughout the corridor. You can contact us through our website if you would like to get involved!

Scenic Michigan Invites You to Support the new Endowment Fund

In 2013 a generous donor established the Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund with the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. The Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund will strengthen our organization while also offering our generous donors an opportunity to support our important mission for generations to come. The Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund is a simple and efficient way to build income for our organization. Our donors can be sure they are providing a source of lasting, permanent support.

A Solid Partner with the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation

The Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund is part of the Community Foundation’s pool of endowed assets. Thus, The Community Foundation’s economies of scale provide our organization the benefits of a diverse investment portfolio that typically come only with larger funds. The Community Foundation’s staff works closely with our staff and donors to help develop planned giving programs to assist our donors with bequest giving, gifts of stock or other assets which will benefit our fund and add to the long-term growth of our organization.

Every spring, the Community Foundation lets the club know what income we have available (market conditions permitting). The Community Foundation handles all the investment and administrative details – including investment management, donor acknowledgements, and quarterly reports. This gives us the time to do what we do best…to preserve, protect, and enhance Michigan’s scenic resources.

Ways you can support the Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund at the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation:

  • Cash: You can make a gift by check in any amount, or encourage your donors to contribute to your fund for a special occasion, such as a birthday or holiday. We offer easy-to-use, online giving by credit card, also.
  • Securities: Donate appreciated stock or bonds and avoid capital gains taxes. Your donors may claim a charitable tax deduction for the securities’ current market value. We request that donors call us before making this type of gift.
  • Estate Planning: Your supporters can leave a legacy to your organization by including your fund with the Community Foundation in their will or trust. They may also name your organization as a beneficiary of retirement assets or insurance policies. Your supporters can also accomplish their charitable goals with a Charitable Gift Annuity – a gift that provides income for them or a loved one for life.

Contact us to learn how you can support the Scenic Michigan Endowment Fund

Abby Dart, Executive Director, Scenic Michigan | (231) 881-6266 or [email protected]
David Jones, Executive Director, Community Foundation | (231) 348-5820 or [email protected]