This aerial shot shows the empty lot at the southeast end of Allegan’s riverfront. The city hopes to entice developers to build a  restaurant there. (Photo provided)

Allegan council debates development of Brady Street riverfront lot

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

With mixed emotions, Allegan City Council discussed the future of the vacant, city-owned Brady Street lot between 2nd Street Bridge and Mahan Park at their council meeting on Monday, Aug. 27.

While council member Nancy Ingalsbee was against any development more than two stories tall, she also did not want to see the loss of green space for July 3 Jubilee spectators, Bridgefest inflatables and Art in the Park events.

“If there’s a four-plus story building put there it will cut off the view of the boardwalk and people will only see a building, which won’t make them very happy after giving us money to make the boardwalk a recreation area,” she said.

All agreed a restaurant with outdoor seating along the riverfront would be a good fit but will be keeping an open mind to other developments, with parameters, as a pamphlet is developed to market the site to future developers.

As a certified Redevelopment Ready Community through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Allegan is receiving pro-bono predevelopment services through the MEDC as a way to help develop any underutilized city owned sites. Through a workshop provided by the MEDC and the Michigan Municipal League, city staff and a small group of community stakeholders were able to discuss possible uses and developments that could be placed on lot.

After that discussion last week, it was decided the best choice would be a three- or four-story mixed-use development that included a semi-public space.

Using this information, the MEDC and Michigan Municipal League team will be putting together a request for developer qualifications.

That request, along with a completed market research  study, will be available in October.

Prior to being a vacant lot, it is believed that the site was used as an auto repair garage. It is currently zoned C-1 (Central Business District).

The parcel was sold by the city to Grill House and Montage owners Marcia and Dan Wagner for $1 in 2008 to be developed as a restaurant; however, the economy tanked and the lot was sold back to the city for the same price in 2009.

A request-for-quote example produced by the Michigan Municipal League seeking developer plans for a lot in the City of Ypsilanti’s historic east side neighborhood was presented.

A similar process could be used for Allegan’s presentation. The council approved developing a draft for review.

City manager Joel Dye said the draft could specify conformity to the current zoning, which would limit the height of the building and its use. Complementing the existing boardwalk would also be a parameter.

Council member Patrick Morgan said the lot is the city’s last prime real estate on the riverfront; therefore a plan is needed and it should be sold at full market value.

“I’d like to see development, whether it’s a restaurant, mixed-use or housing but not just a private property turning a profit,” he said. “In my mind, the bonding of $500,000 for recreation on the riverfront was for Mahan Park to the Griswold and didn’t include the lot.”

Tripp said he would like to see a parking plan along with any development plans. He also asked if the “clank, clank, chunk, chunk” from traffic over the Second Street Bridge would be conducive for outdoor seating at a restaurant.

Dye said the city is working on a plan to address the bridge decking.

“It used to be asphalt,” he said. “We can mitigate that.”

Although a waterfront restaurant would be a private property, it could still serve as a park-like environment, Dye said.

“A successful riverfront has a restaurant on the water,” he said. “It lets you hear it, touch it and feel it by being right up on it.

“It’s a special place to go to celebrate special events.”

Dye also said the lot’s current use during festivals could be absorbed elsewhere, while a development would be utilized 365 days of the year instead of just a few.

“The MEDC has heavily funded development in downtown Allegan and this project is exciting to them,” Dye said. “We’re not putting a dime into it. It’ll be an interesting document.”

Council members Traci Perrigo and Delora Andrus said they were anxious to see a request for developer qualifications.

“The property used to have a for-sale sign on it at one point and it was zoned (commercial) for a reason,” Perrigo said.

Andrus said she’d like to see a proposal and then decide whether to sell or not.

Ingalsbee said she’d like it to go to a vote of city residents.

Mike Manning said he was up in the air.

“People have talked about an ice skating rink there,” he said. “They’ve also talked about development, so I have no comment until we see what comes in.”

Mayor pro-tem Rachel McKenzie was absent due to the death of her father.

Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at vransbottom@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

 

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