This conceptual drawing shows how a proposed addition to a building along the riverfront will house a set of public restrooms and a concession area beneath a deck for a restaurant under development. (Graphic provided)

Allegan's riverfront restroom designs approved

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Design plans will move forward for the City of Allegan to build a restroom, storage and concession facility at a building facing the riverfront.

After much discussion and comments from the public during the Monday, Nov, 26 city council meeting, a request for services was unanimously approved in an amount not to exceed $25,750 by Abonmarche, the firm that helped design the riverfront, to design the facility as well.

The issue was tabled at the last council meeting by a 4-3 vote out of concerns for the addition of a permanent concession stand for the sale of beer at outdoor events.

Concerns were raised at this week’s meeting over entering into a lease agreement with a private business for the location.

The structure would be located at property currently owned by JML Real Estate as well as property currently owned by the City of Allegan. The mechanical and storage will be located inside the current building at 217 Hubbard St. The restrooms and concession stand would be built below a deck that extends out over city property.

Council member Charles Tripp who previously opposed the addition of a concession stand in the design said he had a change of heart after discovering the deck above it is not part of the concession stand and the city is not paying to have it built.

“The cost would be minimal because it’s just a bump-out with electrical outlets,” he said.

 A draft form of the lease with JML Real Estate has been developed by the city attorney. Council members were not asked to approve the lease at the meeting.

A few Hubbard Street building owners questioned the arrangement.

“I have concerns about the new toilet proposal and I hope the city doesn’t get into a royal flush,” said John Watts. “You’re going to pay $25,000 for the design but what if the developer changes their mind—is that money just wasted?”

 Watts said it seemed a rush to judgment and asked if any other places or proposals were looked at.

Peter Hanse also opposed approving the design expense before a lease was approved and building a $200,000 facility he said the city won’t own in the end.

Hanse also said the concession stand would be in competition with his father’s Boardwalk Ice Cream business.

As a new resident and “Rollin on the River” volunteer, Debra Adams supported the restrooms and service counter (she didn’t like the term concession stand.)

“The riverfront is a gem and the city is on the cusp of greatness with a beautiful view, waterpark and the momentum of getting people down here is incredible,” she said. “Restrooms are needed and after people come to riverfront venues and drink a beer they patronize the local establishments afterwards.”  

City manager Joel Dye said the concession stand and storage area would reduce staff time and costs for setting up and tearing down after events by 60 percent. The restrooms are a necessity for usage at the new splash pad and other riverfront events. He said an independent structure was looked at.

“But I shot that down because the riverfront is a jewel and it shouldn’t be crowded out with structures that block the view,” he said. “We looked at one location behind the stage completely on private property but the flow didn’t work so we reached out to JML who is giving of their company time to help out with events and discussed ‘what ifs.’”

Council member Nancy Ingalsbee was against taxpayers paying for a concession stand and wanted to know how much could be saved if it was taken out of the design.

Dye said the majority of the cost of a building lies in the foundation, the flooring, the walls, the support beams and the roof. In discussing this project with other engineering firms and builders, the restrooms and concession stand are just rooms within the structure and the only way to significantly reduce the cost is to reduce the size of the structure.

Tony McGhee of Abonmarche said not building a restroom facility would be a deterrent for people visiting the riverfront. He said it should be looked at as a quality-of-life issue and an investment for bringing tax dollars to downtown—not as a cost to taxpayers.

“We should work together with people for leverage,” he said, adding that the city is taking advantage of already having water and sewer installed for the facility.

Council member Mike Manning asked what risk there was if JML Real Estate changed their mind before being locked into a lease.

Jim Liggett of JML Real Estate was there to answer.

“I’ve already spent $25,000 on my own design plan,” he said. “We need bathrooms and its our vision along with the city.”

Liggett said he is developing a restaurant and Air B&Bs above the restaurant that will also be accessing the riverfront.

After investing $6 million in Allegan properties, including Allegan Event and the zipline, Liggett said he is also trying to make Allegan his home and bathrooms are a need for the community. Plus rent is only $1. Other than that, Liggett said he’s not getting a penny out of the deal.

Tripp said Liggett could have invested anywhere in the world; however, he chose Allegan so he didn’t think a partnership would be risky.

Manning said the council would have more specifics when the design plans are presented.

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