2010 GAMSA Semifinalist Ferndale, Michigan

Ferndale has reached two key milestones and they are integral to each other. Within 10 years, the public perception of downtown Ferndale has completely changed; and its strong, successful economy continues to grow despite global depression. Ten years ago when this program first started, Ferndale was facing a 30 percent vacancy rate and the moniker, “Fashionable Ferndale,” was a well-known joke. People stopped coming to this Detroit suburb, assuming that nothing of value was to be found there. The Main Street Four Point Approach® armed Ferndale with the tools to transform downtown from a lost cause to the idolized district it is today. With more than 160 building improvements, an all-time low vacancy rate for four consecutive years, and greater public awareness of downtown businesses, Ferndale is now one of Michigan’s top communities, known for its diversity, creative class, progressive attitude, and rapid rate of change.  

The Numbers

Population: 21,000
Net number of new jobs: 699
Net number of new businesses: 33
Number of building rehabilitations: 163
Number of new buildings: 12
Vacancy rate when the program began: 30%
Vacancy rate today: 6%
Dollar amount of public investment: $4,881,785
Dollar amount of private investment: $35,182,705

In Their Own Words

It is hard to imagine that any other city could come so far so fast in a region so threatened by a long-ailing economy. We have maintained our inherently positive attitude, and our downtown has flourished. Our stellar record of reinvestment and new employment makes us the place people want to be. While downtown Ferndale has embraced its heritage, it has also had some history to overcome and it has. It’s made the most of what was good, shed what wasn’t and moved on to create a whole new chapter. With careful cultivation, we keep changing for the better. Today, Ferndale is everything you need a town to be and more. As the first suburb north of Detroit, downtown Ferndale sets a new suburban standard: while the middle class disappears across America, it thrives in our community. Those who love it call it a microcosm of the bigger world. Within its 3.9 linear miles is everything you could want for a full and interesting life. Positioned as a safe, open-minded community, Ferndale enthusiastically welcomes all cultures. Stakeholders love it the way it is and feel empowered by a consistent, steady program of revitalization that allows them to make things happen, which is exactly what they do. We demonstrate to others that you can triumph over urban sprawl. We are a role model – neighboring communities can see that real action creates real progress and believe it’s possible because of our success.