Lights shine on Allegan's first riverfront redevelopment
The first visible signs of the redevelopment of Allegan’s riverfront plaza are in place.
Work on Allegan’s Veterans Memorial began in April with several trees coming out and wrapped up in June. While somewhat separate from the riverfront effort, the approximately $90,000 project was accounted for in the overall design process.
The redesign added a small fishing balcony, bench, and more sidewalk and paved areas.
Much more recently, in time to shine for the holiday season, were the lights installed on the city’s historic Second Street Bridge. The lights are part of a $61,200 LED lighting and software package approved by city council members in June.
In August, the 41-foot tall bridge got a new coat of black paint. By October, installation of lights had begun and took several weeks with intermittent bridge closures.
City manager Rob Hillard said the lights are now fully functional, and council has authorized they be turned on for Friday evenings starting at dusk. They were first activated Halloween night.
Apparently, the 32 8-foot strips of LED lighting will only require the same energy consumption as a couple of home incandescent light bulbs.
Hillard said the lights will be officially celebrated as part of the upcoming holidays during the city’s Festive Fridays effort.
On the first of those Fridays, Dec. 5, the city will offer its Christmas parade, which will step off at 7 p.m. and begin and end at Mahan Park.
Santa Claus will be on hand for the tree lighting and then the bridge lighting.
While the veterans’ memorial was city funded, money for the lighting system came from a special $500,000 sinking fund approved by voters in November 2013.
The rest of the project awaits word on several grants.
Taking the lead developing the designs and applying for grants is the architectural firm Abonmarche, of Benton Harbor, hired for precisely that purpose. The firm was selected by the city in July after a competitive process.
The city hopes to hear in the next month or so whether or not it is in the running for $300,000 from two grants, one from the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund and the other from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Either or both would construct a handicap-accessible canoe and kayak launch in place of the
current dock behind the library at the west end of the riverfront boardwalk. They would also repave and redesign the library parking lot and add a public restroom to the lower level of Griswold Auditorium.
If either are received, the city would provide matching funds of $100,000, to come from the new sinking fund.
The city has also applied for money to build a performance area on the plaza.
The first request, made in July, is from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, for $250,000 from its Core Communities Fund. Abonmarche has estimated a $175,000 city match to be competitive.
It would place a stage, facing west, approximately where the pedestrian alley with its red awning outlets onto the plaza. In front of it would be areas of pavers and lawn. It could accommodate an estimated 400 people.
In September, city council members approved applying for a $81,000 grant from the state office of arts and cultural affairs, to be matched with an equal amount from the sinking fund. This grant will specifically augment funds for the stage lighting and sound systems, allowing the MEDC money to go farther on other aspects of the project.
If each grant comes through, that would commit approximately $425,000 of the $500,000 sinking fund towards $987,000 in riverfront projects.
The riverfront effort is part of the effort to rebuild the economy in town, and the city was recently honored for its overall efforts in that area in September.
Michigan Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Michael Finney showed up to personally present the city with its certification in a voluntary economic development program known as Redevelopment Ready Communities.
Allegan signed on to the effort in May 2013. The certification is free; 31 other communities were admitted to the program before or at the same time as Allegan and are still working to achieve the certification.
It qualified at essentially the same time as another city, Roseville.
The process involved honing the cities’ planning, zoning and its development, policies and practices. It is also meant to help the cities cement into policy a transparent and easy-to-navigate process for developers to invest in town.