GRAND HAVEN — The West Michigan lakeshore town is experiencing a boom in economic development interest as three key properties around the city’s core are eyed for new projects.
Grand Haven is going through a large-scale master plan update for its Grand River waterfront, as well as determining the future of a decommissioned diesel plant on city-owned property. The city also just approved a planned 124-unit housing development on the former Stanco Metal property near downtown.
Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce President Joy Gaasch looks at the most recent redevelopments as a critical way to draw visitors to and retain talent in the community — and something that will help with a post-pandemic economic recovery, she said.
“This has been a year to do some good planning,” Gaasch said. “It’s been important that we’ve been able to engage people in the discussions, and certainly city staff has been phenomenal in keeping on top of these projects and making sure that people are informed and engaged.”
The city is going through a master planning process to redevelop its waterfront along the Chinook Pier and beyond, with a goal of increasing the connectivity between downtown and the riverfront. The municipality gathered public feedback over the summer about redevelopment concepts for the waterfront, which include constructing an all-seasons farmers market area, green space, play structures and shops.
Despite the pandemic, city staff gathered public comment on the waterfront master plan concepts by setting up outdoor town hall meetings and displays outside where people could leave comments, said City Manger Pat McGinnis.
“Now we’re looking at how feasible this plan is, how likely it is and we’ll do some additional design work and see about engaging with private partners,” McGinnis said.
Mold to master planning
The waterfront redevelopment process surfaced after mold was discovered in late 2019 in the structure that housed the shops along Chinook Pier. High water levels caused the mold, leading shops to be demolished and tenants moved into the Grand Trunk Depot on Harbor Drive. A couple of shops also moved into storefronts downtown.
“It was something beyond our control,” McGinnis said. “We had to tear it down and start from scratch and decided to find out what the community wanted to see there.”
The planning project was propelled by a $1.5 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to fund the planning and design process for redeveloping the waterfront.
“The redevelopment of that piece of the waterfront is a critical part of the draw to the waterfront in the Grand Haven area,” Gaasch said. “It’s always been a really vital part of attracting visitors and it’s really a vital part of the continued renewal of our community and of placemaking.”
An attractive downtown with updated waterfront amenities will help market Grand Haven, Gaasch said.
“Moving forward, as we look at things that can bring a vibrancy to the waterfront that will impact the economic vitality of the community, everyone’s focused in that direction,” Gaasch said. “It’s refreshing this plan can take that into consideration.”
The master plan includes details about an all-seasons structure that could house the farmers market, as well as opportunities for public-private partnerships to occur that will result in revenue generating businesses or facilities to help the city pay for the cost of maintaining the waterfront, Gaasch said.
“We pride ourselves in being a year-round economy because we have a very strong manufacturing base,” Gaasch said. “Our goal is not to have a seasonal downtown, so it all really ties together as you’re developing a plan and supporting those local businesses.”
Developing vacant properties
Redevelopment of a couple vacant properties is also in the works with the planned 124-unit Peerless Flats apartment project, which was recently approved by the city. The project is planned at the former Stanco Metal Property at 105 Fulton St. The development received a Michigan Community Revitalization Program loan for $4.75 million along with $1.38 million in brownfield incentives.
The city is also wrapping up a public input process to determine redevelopment plans for city-owned property at 518 Harbor Drive, less than a mile west from the Stanco property along the Grand River. The building on the site was previously used by the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power, and the bid solicitation process started in fall 2020.
Proposals for redeveloping the decommissioned diesel plant site include a mixed-use event center, housing and a hotel.
“The building itself is historical in its design with the brickwork, the windows, the cornice around the windows and the style itself is historical from over 80 years ago,” said Liza Dora, chair of the City of Grand Haven Historical Conservation District Commission.
The building is also historically significant because it used to power the city at one point, Dora said. The commission supports diesel plant redevelopment plans that keep the structure intact, she said.
Illinois-based CL Real EState Development LLC is proposing to buy the property for $400,000 and turn the site into a mixed-use space with a restaurant, event and meeting space, and offices. The proposed three-floor structure would be 5,500 square feet with a seating capacity of around 300 people. The project’s taxable value would be $3.35 million with eligible brownfield costs of $450,000.
Melching Inc. and its associate company, Phoenix Reclamation LLC, proposed to purchase the property for up to $1 million. The team is proposing to preserve the original character of the diesel plant structure and create five townhouses in the southeast corner of the site. The project would have a taxable value of $3.75 million with eligible brownfield costs of $786,500.
Capstone Real Estate LLC is proposing to purchase the property for more than $1.5 million and demolish the diesel plant structure to build eight, double-unit residential townhome-style buildings. Each unit will have about 2,000 square feet of space with three bedrooms. The project would have a taxable value of $5.5 million and eligible brownfield costs of $650,000.
Sylvan Lake-based hotel development and management company Elite Hospitality Group is proposing to purchase the site for up to $1 million and demolish the existing structure for the development of a mixed-use-90-room hotel and retail space with ground-floor retail.
The Grand Haven City Council is expected to consider a recommendation from the Board of Light and Power for the future use of the site later this month.
“We’re really glad the city is taking our input into consideration when they’re making changes,” Dora said. “It’s something new that’s come about in recent years, and we’re grateful for that.”