GH Developers Want City Support

November 27, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — Three businessmen behind an ambitious development proposal for downtown Grand Haven say they hope to get city leaders’ support for their concept by February, or they may abandon the project.

As directors of a downtown merchant association voted to support their project, the developers of the proposed $20 million to $25 million Grand Haven City Place said they don’t want to see a prolonged debate on their broader vision.

“We have a timeline,” said Ross Pope, the owner of Spring Lake-based Redstone Development Group and a partner in the project.

Getting city leaders behind their concept would allow developers to move forward and work with the city, downtown businesses and residents to refine plans for City Place. But before any of the “micro” issues are addressed, such as parking and traffic, the developers need to have some kind of consent from the Grand Haven City Council for the overall idea.

“It’s right now in the philosophical arena,” said Steve Loftis, one of the project’s partners and the owner of two downtown restaurants. “It’s our hope that people feel it’s the right thing for Grand Haven and we can go forward.”

Loftis, Pope and Ira Green, a real estate developer and broker from Petoskey who has undertaken similar ventures in Mackinaw City and Frankenmuth, are behind Grand Haven City Place.

As envisioned, the development would re-create a two-block area of the central business district with a hotel and conference center, a pedestrian mall with boutique retail stores, professional office space and upper-floor condominiums.

Support and cooperation from city leaders is needed for City Place to ever come to fruition. To accommodate the project, the developers are asking the city to vacate a one-block portion of First Street, allow the use of two existing public parking lots that they promise to replace with underground parking, and undertake a downtown streetscape project.

The proposal, already supported by The Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Have-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau, picked up more backing recently when the board of directors for Downtown Grand Haven Inc. voted to support it.

The merchant association “is excited at the possibilities and welcomes the opportunities presented for all residents of the City of Grand Haven by the Grand Haven City Place.”

“We support the concept and our constituents look forward to working with the developers and the City of Grand Haven to accommodate the needs and wants of all involved,” the organization said in a position statement. “We feel that this project offers the City of Grand Haven a rare opportunity to improve the infrastructure of the ‘heart’ of Grand Haven and accent one of our most prized possessions, the waterfront.”

The developers believe the project could provide a major spark to the central business district and better tie downtown to the city’s popular waterfront.

The biggest challenge right now is getting a handle on how City Council members feel about City Place, Loftis said, although he and his partners welcome a recent council decision to hire an outside planning consultant help analyze the proposal.

“The council’s got some serious questions they need answered,” interim City Manager Bob Huff said.

In welcoming the council’s decision to hire a planning consultant, Pope said that he, Green and Loftis hope to show “our project fits with the needs of downtown.”

“If it doesn’t feel right, if it doesn’t look right, if it doesn’t work for this community, we’re gone,” Pope said.           

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