Boardwalk Ice Cream is the new proposal for Allegan’s Riverfront Plaza public restrooms.

Allegan riverfront restrooms shuffle to new spot

Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Faced with another scenario for constructing Riverfront Restrooms, the Allegan City Council directed staff to move forward with a new location at the May 13 pre-session meeting.

Last year, the council directed staff to work with JML Real Estate to install three riverfront restrooms along the back and inside the basement of 217 Hubbard  St., along with a concession window and storage area.

JML, aka Jim and Michelle Liggett of Ropes Courses International and Allegan Events, was planning to build a patio on top of the facility; however, before the project went to bid, JML pulled out of the project saying they were not in a position to begin their portion of the development at that time and asked the city to seek another option.

With the splash pad poised to open with warmer weather and an increased number of events along the riverfront, the need for restrooms will also be increased, according to city staff; however, it doesn’t look like that will happen this summer. The closest public restrooms are in the Welcome Center at 134 Brady Street.

City manager Joel Dye said the best option available so far has been to work with One Enterprises, owned by investors Ben Otis and his father Mike Otis.

One Enterprises, who are currently investing in 136 Brady Street, has recently secured a signed purchase agreement to buy 223 Hubbard St, which houses Boardwalk Ice Cream Restaurant on the riverfront side, owned by John Hanse. 

Aware of the city’s need for restrooms and storage along the riverfront, Otis is proposing to develop the old Boardwalk Ice Cream shop into five to six public restrooms with storage and then sell this unit to the city for approximately $200,000. The rest of the building will be a proposed condominium.

The council was not asked to approve the proposal, but discussed moving forward with construction of riverfront restrooms. A more formal proposal will be brought to the council at a later date.

Dye said the previous plans for restrooms at 217 Hubbard were pushing $224,000 to $240,000 to finish. The new scenario would be cheaper, finished with more restrooms and the ability to use the outdoor ice cream shop area as a plaza area. While it would no longer be feasible to have a cutout service window because of the design of the building, the city’s service cart could easily be rolled out.

Council member Mike Manning said when the original plan for restrooms was presented to the council, he brought up the issue of ‘what if’ there was an issue.

“I was assured there would not be an issue and now we’ve wasted $25,000 on a design plan,” he said.

Dye said the city spent about $19,000, in architectural design and drawings plan.

“We were going to bid the next day when JML pulled out so we called Abonmarche immediately to stop the plans,” he said. “Sometimes this happens in the business world.”

He said Abonmarche is now doing some pro bono work to help alleviate the pain. In this new agreement, which had not previously been an available option, the city would purchase a finished product.

Council member Nancy Ingalsbee said she hated the thought of spending $200,000 or that $19,000 was wasted.

“But we need restrooms,” she said. “We need to bite the bullet on this. “It’s just not feasible for people to get down there then go up to the Welcome Center.”

Council member Delora Andrus said the concession/service area was a bone of contention to begin with and some council members preferred more restrooms.

“Maybe this will make people more comfortable with it since it will have a few more restrooms,” she said.

Mayor Rachel McKenzie said it was a necessity not a priority.

In the meantime, Ben Otis is launching a concession stand from the basement of Weichert Realty at 243 Hubbard St. Due to only a partial basement, that location is not feasible for restrooms. The back of the building is next to the splash pad.

“I’ll be glad if I just break even,” he said. “I just want something for families to keep them here instead of leaving town to find something else down the road.

“It’s just something to get the ball rolling—if someone else wants to do something then that’s fine with me.”

Called the “Bumble Patch” the concession stand will sell already packaged products, such as water, soda, chips, nuts, and prepackaged Love’s Ice Cream. The ice cream is made at Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

The seasonal Bumble Patch will not have restrooms but it will have a colorful flower mural and will open Memorial Day weekend.

A donation by Kugelaard Construction was accepted by the city for supplying sunscreen dispensers for the splash pad, which is expected to open within a few weeks.

Another donation by Bridge City Builders (aka Jim Liggett of JML Real Estate) was also accepted for an iron bridge he built at the Allegan Mountain Bike Trail.


Realtor for city hall(s)

The council approved Ben Otis of Weichert Realtors to provide realtor services to sell the current city hall at 112 Locust St. and lease space at the new city hall at 231 Trowbridge St.

Earlier this year the city council directed staff to request proposals from realtors and two proposals were submitted with the fee they would charge the city to list, market and secure a buyer for the old city hall and a lessee(s) for the new city hall, which has about 10,000 square feet of rental space.

A proposal was submitted by Carol Sneller of Sneller Real Estate and a proposal was submitted by Ben Otis of Weichert Realtors. Both firms are qualified to provide the service.

Otis gave the low bid at a commission rate of 3 percent plus $1 and lease 231 Trowbridge St., at a commission rate of 6 percent of the total lease.

Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at or at (269) 673-5534.


Editor' note: This story fixed a detail about the suncreen dispenser at the splash pad that printed incorrectly in the paper. The Allegan County News regrets the error.


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