Plans For Downtown Grand Haven

July 26, 2004
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GRAND HAVEN — City and downtown leaders hope two planned redevelopment projects will lead to further investments in Grand Haven’s central business district.

Development groups are planning to redevelop the former Grand Theater and the site of a one-time nightclub into new residential and commercial uses. The city last week received a $700,000 Community Block Development Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to acquire two nearby houses and expand public parking to accommodate the new residential units that developers have planned.

Those two projects are the latest in an emerging wave of new investment that’s occurring in downtown Grand Haven and sets the stage for further developments and redevelopments, said Karen Benson, an executive at Grand Haven Bank who chairs the merchant association Downtown Grand Haven Inc.

“So many people are finally starting to put their vision and their passion to action,” Benson said. “With that comes a gelling and a forward motion.”

The increase in inquiries and investment activity — estimated at some $10 million for recently completed, ongoing and planned projects — comes about a year after the city adopted a vision plan for the central business district and has begun planning for major streetscape improvements. A Grand Rapids engineering firm is calculating cost estimates for improvements to downtown streets, sidewalks, utilities, lighting, landscaping and signage.

The planning and streetscape initiatives are part of a broader effort to revitalize and transform the central business district into a specialty shopping, commercial and residential hub and enable downtown to better meet emerging competition from retail and commercial corridors in the region.

With a new commitment from city hall, a clearly defined plan for the future and planned improvements to upgrade the business district, downtown investment should begin to accelerate, said Brigit Hassig, coordinator for the city’s Central Business District Development Authority.

“I don’t see how it can’t,” Hassig said. “You’ve got all these mechanisms in place to help push re-development.”

In the two major projects now planned, developers intend to tear down the former Lucky 13 nightclub and build a four-story structure with condominiums and professional offices on the upper floors and commercial-retail space on the ground floor.

In the other project, the owner of the nearby Grand Theater, Steve Loftis, will begin formulating plans this fall for the building’s redevelopment, probably for residential and commercial uses.

Loftis, the owner of two restaurants in downtown, and business partner Ross Pope, of Redstone Commercial Investment in Spring Lake, tried unsuccessfully last year to push a massive development covering a two-block area downtown. Their planned project, known as City Place, died amid opposition from some city leaders.

Their intent is to develop a plan that will meet with city goals and objectives for downtown.

“We have a lot of ideas and a lot of opportunities,” Loftis said.

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