Holland Weighs Island Development

June 21, 2002
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HOLLAND — The ultimate decision on a new proposal to redevelop a portion of Windmill Island into a residential and commercial district will hinge on upcoming analyses from both the City of Holland and the developer.

Like any real estate deal, the numbers have to make sense for both parties, City Manager Soren Wolff said. If not, the city will have to weigh abandoning its long-held vision of redeveloping the tourist attraction into a Dutch-style village of homes, professional offices and retail stores and begin exploring other options, Wolff said.

“We’ll either move full speed ahead or terminate the project,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any options in between.”

The project, first envisioned in the mid-1990s when Windmill Island’s annual attendance began to slide, stalled in recent years as the city was unable to secure enough interest in the commercial aspects even after scaling back its plan.

On the table right now for city leaders is a proposal from Paul Heule of Eenhoorn LLC to develop 18 to 25 single-family homes, 45 condominium units, 40 office/residential units and seven commercial buildings.

City leaders, with no other option to keep the project alive, are willing to work with Heule to further analyze his proposal, as they near an August deadline for using $2.3 million in state grant money to help pay for the estimated $8.5 million in public infrastructure costs.

“There is no question this is the most optimistic opportunity we’ve had since we started this project, but it’s not a slam dunk at this point,” Wolff said. “If the numbers don’t make sense, he’s not going to proceed and we’re not going to proceed.”

Heule is working with Triangle Construction and GMB Architects and Engineers to complete design drawings for the project, which is contingent on securing firm pricing from contractors. The Dutch-born Heule would like to develop Windmill Island “into a vibrant community that will tell the story of the heritage of western Michigan’s Dutch settlers,” according to a statement Eenhoorn LLC issued.

Eenhoorn next month will seek to confirm more than 80 reservations the city received a few years back for residential units and work to sign new reservations. The company’s goal is to make the residential and commercial space as affordable as possible.

Residential condominiums would start at $112,900, with single-family homes beginning at about $289,000. Office and retail condominiums would start at $199,000.

“While the unique setting and architecture makes this project quite exclusive, it is our goal to make Windmill Island affordable to a wide segment of western Michigan’s population,” Eenhoorn stated.

Driving the city’s desire to have Windmill Island redeveloped into a Dutch-style village is the tourist attraction’s declining attendance that now has the city subsidizing its operations by $125,000 to $130,000 annually. Attendance last year was 60,000, up from 55,000 in 2000 but less than half the peak of 122,500 in 1988.

If the Eenhoorn proposal doesn’t work out, the city will have to look at other changes for the island, Wolff said. The tourist attraction simply can’t survive in its present form or operating model, he said.

“The status quo isn’t acceptable in the long run,” Wolff said. “We need to change that model. If we don’t do this, I don’t think we continue with Windmill Island in its status quo.”           

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