Key Millennium Park Vote Coming

January 7, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — In the very near future, KentCounty commissioners will make a decision that will greatly impact the further development of MillenniumPark

Board members will be asked to ratify a contract with Schultz & Williams Inc., a Philadelphia-based planning and consulting firm, to develop a strategic business plan for the 1,500-acre park on the county’s northwest side.

The agreement is not to exceed $45,000 and would have Schultz & Williams identify revenue opportunities, fund-raising strategies, operational costs, staffing requirements, and long-term financial strategies and projections.

The county’s Finance and Physical Resources Committee ratified the contract last week, which includes up to $5,550 to cover four visits by Schultz & Williams staffers above the $39,450 the county would pay for the plan. Money for the study would come from the county’s MillenniumPark capital improvement fund.

Kent is familiar with the work of Schultz & Williams, which also has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The firm created the business plan for the proposed wildlife park that went down to defeat at the polls in August and is working with the county to develop a new plan for the John Ball Zoo.

“The county will benefit from S&W’s familiarity with KentCounty and (from) cost savings through an economy of scale by coordinating the MillenniumPark planning study with their work with the zoo,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller.

The contract vote follows a recent land purchase the county made for the park. Last month, commissioners agreed to spend $2.5 million on 111 acres north of the park’s beach that opened in July 2003. Fifty of those acres are water.

That transaction, which should close in about a month, gives the county nearly 80 percent of the park’s total property. The money will come from two county sources: $1 million from the undesignated fund and $1.5 million from the park’s account.

County Parks Director Roger Sabine added that Kent would get an $850,000 grant from the state Department of Natural Resources once it closes on the property.

“Ultimately, we will connect the two lakes together — the one where the beach is at and this one. It will also allow us in the future, at some point, to connect east of Maynard. Then we will use the water and the land for an access site to the water for non-motorized boating,” he said.

Delabbio told the Business Journal last fall that some of the dollars from the bonds the county issued in September would go toward the purchase of more park property. UniversalForest Products Chairman Peter Secchia added that it was more difficult now to buy parcels for the park because asking prices from nearby property owners were higher than the parcels were worth.

Secchia chairs the Millennium Park Commission, which is raising money for the project from the private sector. The commission was to have raised $2 million for the park, but Secchia hinted the final figure would be closer to $8 million. The total cost of the park project has been estimated at costing $25 million.

The plan to develop and build MillenniumPark was revealed in 2000. When completed, the park will run through portions of Grand Rapids, Walker, Wyoming and Grandville, and will incorporate JohnBallPark and JohnsonPark into its design.    

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