Allegan riverfront design meetings draw crowds, ideas
By Ryan Lewis
When Warren Rauhe returns to town in March, he hopes to bring with him detailed plans for redesigning the City of Allegan’s riverfront area.
That plan will be an attempt to distill hundreds of sticky notes and comments collected during several days of recent meetings with area residents.
The Michigan State University associate professor said the community had shown a great deal of interest in the project.
Rauhe said, “It’s just been a great conversation. There are all sorts of ideas. I think people have really appreciated the process.”
Allegan is one of five cities statewide to receive approximately $30,000 in in-kind services from state agencies to come up with a comprehensive improvement plan for its riverfront. The city matched it with $5,000.
The grant was through a program called PlacePlans, which brings together expertise from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Municipal League and MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction.
An informational session in December drew 125. The public was invited back Jan. 10-12 to provide more feedback.
Rauhe and several students set up shop on the lower level of Griswold Auditorium to facilitate the input sessions. They posted picture examples of various design elements, included two broad design ideas of the riverfront area and armed visitors with pads of sticky notes and pencils.
“This was just our first pass at translating the input into a design,” Rauhe said. “It’s very preliminary.”
The project area includes all of the downtown riverfront properties adjacent to M-89, the 1886 historical Second Street Bridge, riverfront parking areas, Griswold Auditorium and Allegan District Library.
One design focused more on green spaces, like a park. The other used the space as more like a downtown plaza.
From a list of hundreds of suggestions Rauhe’s team received, they incorporated several big-ticket items into the designs.
A “splash pad” was much talked-about; this would be an area with ground-level water fountains for children to play among. The space could double as a recreational ice rink in the winter.
A clock tower was also featured in several sketches.
Rauhe said approximately a dozen guiding principals were at work. The design, he said, should honor and take into account Allegan’s rich history; be an effort to “green” the space; create a focal point for the community; and beautify the area.
Increased access to the water and creating multi-purpose spaces drove many aspects of the project.
Both broad designs relocated the current Veterans Memorial; the city already has a $90,000 grant to reconstruct the memorial.
Rauhe said more than 100 individuals had stopped in to provide input on Thursday and Friday. More than 80 attended a summary session on Saturday, Jan. 12.
“We’ll take all these (notes) back and focus it down to a single concept,” he said. “We’ll be back in late winter/early spring to do a formal ‘ta-dah!’ fun event.”
City manager Rob Hillard said the group was overwhelmed by the participation.
“We’re so appreciative of the input we’ve received so far,” Hillard said. “We also know that this project is not just about the downtown residents. We recognize it means a lot to anyone who affiliates with the area.”
Input is still welcome, he said. He intends to post Saturday’s PowerPoint presentation to www.cityofallegan.org and invited the public to continue to send in ideas and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org through Jan. 31.
Contact Ryan Lewis at email@example.com or (269) 673-5534.