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July 2023

Behind the scenes of the

Birmingham Shopping District

Downtowns are the heart and soul of a community. The strength of a community is primarily defined by this core area of commerce and life, and when it is strong, the rest of the city thrives. That is why comprehensive downtown management is essential to every community throughout Michigan.

It takes a village to raise and sustain a community, including businesses, residents, property owners, volunteers, key stakeholders, community leaders, and city government and its various departments. Have you ever wondered how it all works? Over the course of this next year, I will take you behind the scenes of managing and growing a downtown, and the important role that the Birmingham Shopping District plays in shaping the future of Downtown Birmingham.

First, let me start off by introducing myself. I am the new(er) Executive Director for the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD), officially starting last fall part-time as I transitioned positions, but now full-time since December. With over 20 years of downtown management experience in Ferndale and Dearborn, as well as consulting for numerous downtowns across Michigan and serving as the chairperson of the Michigan Downtown Association, I bring a wealth of knowledge and best practices to Downtown Birmingham. I have always admired the quality of Downtown Birmingham, and I feel honored to be able to serve this community.

My role is to help guide the BSD Board of Directors in setting and implementing goals and objectives needed to economically grow and sustain the high-quality environment downtown. The BSD plans, promotes and supports a vibrant Downtown Birmingham experience for the community and visitors by engaging and leading a convergence of thriving businesses, property owners and residents. Our focus is to grow the economy by broadening the appeal of Downtown Birmingham that attracts and retains businesses and residents. It does this through business recruitment and retention, marketing and promotion of the district, and maintaining and enhancing the downtown environment. The BSD Board, appointed by the Birmingham City Commission, is made up of businesses, property owners and residents both within the district and adjacent to the downtown to provide a diverse representation and perspectives necessary to shape policies and initiatives for the downtown. They have been doing this for over 30 years, remaining nimble as the market has shifted over those decades.

Ultimately, we aspire to have a downtown that is vibrant both day and night with a variety of businesses in a well-maintained environment with signature events and activities that grow the regional draw and local frequency. This past winter, the BSD board, committees (of which there are five) and stakeholders embarked on establishing the next five-year strategy, which was adopted in April by the BSD. Key areas of need include the downtown business mix, accessibility, business and resident engagement, and sustaining the board and committees. This resulted in the following key goals:

• Increasing local frequency

• Expanding regional attraction and extending stays

• Increasing the BSD value and return on investment

• Sustaining services and appeal

Balancing and diversifying the business and product mix downtown, as well as improving the ease of access and connectivity are pivotal in achieving these goals. Now that our path is defined, we are ready to hit the ground running. Local residents and businesses are needed to be a part of this marathon. Again, as the saying goes, it takes a village and many hands make light work. This is your downtown, make it what you want.

To learn more about the strategic plan and how to get involved with the BSD at or call 248-530-1200 and email

Cristina Sheppard-Decius, CMSM, is the BSD Executive Director.


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