20Acre Development Is Gateway

September 5, 2006
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GRAND HAVEN — By next spring Grand Haven will have a new gateway, thanks to a new $70 million resort, retail and residential development, Grand Landing.

After a year of planning by development company Grand Landing LLC and 10 years of planning by the city, a celebratory “groundbreaking” took place on Aug. 29 that included raising the sail on a recommissioned sail boat that represented the reclaimed brownfield site and honored the partnerships between the private investors, the community, the city and the state.

Grand Landing President Craig Adams said the sailboat used in the ceremony is a symbol of the recommissioned property, and the sailboat’s former name, Three Desperados, represents him and his two partners: Don Knapp, executive vice president of Grand Landing, and architect Art Miller. The new name of the boat is All 4-1, in appreciation of the partners in the project and the attitude toward the development.

“Today we set sail on a journey that has been many months and years in the planning,” he said.

The development, which covers 20 acres along the South Channel to Lake Michigan and is bordered by

Jackson Street
and U.S. 31, will include various residential options as well as a hotel and convention center, an amphitheater/ice rink, and a variety of shops and restaurants.

There will also be two new streets in the development, named for Adams and Miller.

Adams said he hopes the development will bring a new dimension to Grand Haven, attracting more people to the area during the autumn and winter months.

“We’re about to change the face of the community forever, but we will never forget the things that make Grand Haven great,” he said.

As the architect for the project, Miller said the project’s location was a challenge to work with.

“This site has as many problems as any I’ve ever worked on,” Miller said.

When considering a way to create a gateway to the city, as well as showcase the Grand River channel and other natural attributes, Miller said he wanted to have a tall, highly visible landmark, an inviting urban environment, obvious boat activity, and a strong connection to the downtown.

“From day one, creating a quality place which satisfied the objectives I just listed here has been our primary goal,” he said.

With a rooftop sky lounge, two new streets, wide sidewalks, boardwalk and landscaping, as well as the structural amenities, Miller said the effect would be obvious.

“Something special is happening right here,” he said.

Miller also addressed the city council, requesting that they do their part to add amenities to nearby HarborIsland, further embellishing the development.

Grand Haven Mayor Roger Bergman said the project is a long time coming.

“This is a great day for Grand Haven,” he said. “These people have come forward with a vision for tomorrow.”

Bergman praised the 600-plus jobs that would be created by the project.

“For our economy, it will be a shot in the arm,” he said.

The project has taught the city a lot about brownfield sites as well as partnerships with the state and private entities. The property, which the city acquired and prepared for sale with help from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. funding, was a long lesson in patience that is finally coming to fruition.

“I anticipate a time in the very near future when people are going to live on this property, work on this property and recreate on this property,” Bergman said.

“This project really will accentuate the gateway to Grand Haven,” said Joy Gaasch, president of The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, SpringLake and Ferrysburg.

Gaasch said she believes Grand Landing will complement the other attributes that the area has and will set the tone for other projects.

Pat McGinnis, Grand Haven city manager, said he came to his position in 2003 when the city was well into the project. The property had been purchased by the city but a developer had not yet been found. McGinnis said he jogged by the property his first Christmas in town and asked Santa for a developer.

“I finally got that wish,” he said.

Though he admits the $6 million purchase of the property was a huge risk for a city with a $9 million general fund, McGinnis said he believes the risk is now paying off — just in the nick of time.

The city was given $1 million in grants and a $1 million loan to clean up the property, as well as an $800,000 grant to acquire the property from the state, which they would not be granted until they had a buyer for the property. Following numerous extensions, McGinnis said the agreement with Grand Landing came within days of the state’s final deadline. The city has also received a $12.4 million Michigan Economic Growth Authority grant to help redevelop the property.

Adams said it is now looking like the development will be a success — 70 percent of the retail space already is spoken for. He said they will begin releasing those names in about 45 days.    

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