Standale Project in Works

August 10, 2007
| By Pete Daly |
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WALKER — The city's Master Plan to spark development of a real, architectural "downtown" in Standale will now be tested to determine if it is "realistic and viable."

Walker City Manager Cathy Vander Meulen announced last week that a "Request for Qualifications" (RFQ) has been extended to potential developers who might be interested in the land — the start of a process, she said, to "test" city officials' theory that Standale could have a traditional, mixed-use, downtown pattern with a "4-Corners" architectural prominence.

"4-Corners" is defined in the RFQ as buildings "at least two stories in height," constructed of brick and glass, with public parking and a rear service drive with access to

Lake Michigan Drive
. City Planner Frank Wash said the building or buildings would be constructed right up to the lot line along
Lake Michigan Drive
. The sidewalk on
Lake Michigan Drive
would also be much wider, like those in other retail areas.

Walker officials have decided on a "design/sale/build" process for development of the vacant property in Master Plan Sub Area 4/A, on the north side of Lake Michigan Drive from Cummings Avenue to Parkside Avenue, including the site of the former fire station. The RFQ invites professional design-build teams to submit a written statement by Sept. 17, detailing their qualifications for financing, planning and construction of the 1.4 acre parcel of land now owned by the Standale Downtown Development Authority.

Interested parties can download the RFQ on the city Web site, www.ci.walker.mi.us, under "News" in the upper right corner of the homepage.

The land, known as the Cummings/4-Corners area, is made up of six properties acquired by the Standale DDA over the past several years on

Parkside Avenue
and
Cummings Avenue
, and on
Lake Michigan Drive
between those two streets.

The RFQ states that "future uses of the building(s) could include retail, office and residential. Senior or student housing could be important parts of the site design. Walkability and landscape architecture refinements should be included in the eventual site plants."

Vander Meulen said after the qualifications of potential developers have been established, there will be a Request for Proposals that will go into the fine details of what city officials expect to see built on the site. The RFQ states that the process will include "extensive DDA, city officials, city staff and public input during the planning and design phase."

The RFQ further states that "design-build teams should also be prepared to test and report on the feasibility of seeking LEED certification of all structures involved with this project as part of the future RFP process. However, respondents to this RFQ should be prepared to provide preliminary feedback on this topic to the City of Walker."

Vander Meulen said this is just the first step of the development process, and it will "test" the Standale market study, preliminary master plan assumptions and zoning code.

"We are anxious to see how many responses we get," said Vander Meulen, citing the current uncertainty in the real estate market.

"I would say a year from now — hopefully — we would have selected somebody (to develop the DDA land) and you'd see some activity," she said.

The Standale Downtown Development Authority was formed in the late 1980s. The old fire station was remodeled using DDA funds, and the bonds for construction of the new fire station, completed this spring, will be paid with captured DDA funds.

Vander Meulen noted that money generated by the Standale DDA sale of publicly owned land "stays in the district to improve the district."     

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