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Manistee Harbor. (PHOTO: JOE BOOMGAARD) Manistee Harbor. (PHOTO: JOE BOOMGAARD)

Backed by $850K federal grant, Manistee plans upgrades to downtown riverwalk

BY Tuesday, September 06, 2022 04:56pm

MANISTEE — The city of Manistee is receiving $850,000 to upgrade the city’s downtown riverwalk, the latest development in a string of investments for the lakeshore city in recent years.

The funding comes via a grant program from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), and local partners will match the grant with an additional $240,000 investment. 

The city estimates the project will create or retain nearly 50 jobs and generate $178,500 in private investment.

“The riverwalk is an amazing and unique asset for the city of Manistee,” said Marc Miller, director of economic development for the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “There are not that many communities that have the width or the length of a boardwalk next to a large river. This (funding) will help us build a more resilient economy based on a growing segment of tourism.”

The project will provide safety upgrades and improve access and walkability on the south riverwalk. The EDA investment will be matched with $240,000 in local funds and is expected to generate $178,500 in private investment, according to estimates.

The project will boost accessibility and increase environmental controls to make it safer to use, Miller added. As well, the funding and expected tourism benefits from upgrading the riverwalk will build on a handful of other projects that are underway in the city’s downtown, Miller said. 

“This is going to be a really good upgrade for a unique asset,” Miller told MiBiz. “Motorists that have driven by Manistee for years are now starting to see how beautiful our downtown is. It’s very difficult right now for a new business to start up and find new space downtown. We have nearly full capacity for our downtown shops. Investment already in downtown is signaling to others that there is opportunity here and you see buildings being purchased and redeveloped.”

That said, Manistee’s downtown still has blighted buildings, which could provide developers with opportunities to create new projects for housing and retail, Miller added.

Recent redevelopment projects in downtown Manistee include a $5 million renovation of a vacant building downtown for the Manistee Downtown Education Center, which includes offices and meeting rooms for West Shore Community College, the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Works!. Developers also are moving forward with a pair of hotel projects, including a 99-room project near the entrance of downtown and a Hampton Inn along the lakeshore.

The riverwalk project is being funded through the EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program. The EDA awarded $510 million via the grant program to communities in every state as of the end of 2021. The program is aimed at accelerating the economic recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors. 

In a statement, Whitmer praised the new grant funding. 

“This investment to upgrade Manistee’s downtown riverwalk will support the local economy and create or retain 50 good-paying jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement. “In the last year, we have worked across the aisle in Michigan to make the largest one-time investment in state and local parks in Michigan history, supporting local tourism and recreation driven economies across our great state.”

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Read 1058 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 September 2022 14:09
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