City spaces purchased by proposed sports bar
A request from JML Real Estate to purchase six municipal parking spaces from the City of Allegan was unanimously approved Monday, Oct. 22, after a public hearing.
JML Real Estate recently purchased the building previously known as Montage Market at 137 Brady St. The parking spaces face the building and are positioned on the slant of a hill that descends to the riverfront. JML Real Estate (Jim and Michelle Liggett who own Allegan Event and Rope Courses Inc.) submitted concept designs to develop a sports bar and grill with an outside patio on the parcel being purchased. The city agreed to sell the property for $1.
The deed includes a provision allowing the city to repurchase the parcel from JML for $1 if the buyer does not complete construction of the outdoor restaurant deck with a public access ramp to the riverfront within 18 months from the date of closing.
Council member Patrick Morgan questioned how the $1 price tag was decided and said the city recently spent money to repave the parking spaces only to throw it away, which had been done in the past and doesn’t sit well with the community.
City manager Joel Dye said the city looked at the investment JML was bringing to the table and the current benefit. He said one year ago the spaces were repaved as part of a USDA grant but the focus was the entranceway and the parking spaces behind the buildings. He said the city did not need those spaces.
“They are the six most dangerous parking spaces in the city at such a steep angle that gravity helps you get out of your car,” he said. “We looked at the cost to build an outside deck and what the parking space value was to the city, which didn’t have much value and brought in no taxes
“This will bring a tax increase.”
A sports bar with outdoor seating also lines up with the city’s vision for downtown, bringing activity and creating something to do downtown, Dye said.
Morgan also questioned if the city would allow other bars to build patios on city property for $1; however, Dye said he didn’t believe in precedence.
“The council should look at each request on a case-by-case basis,” he said, adding that a parking space study was recently completed that counted every parking space in the city during its busiest time and 40 percent (about 400) of the spaces were vacant.
“I’m not that concerned about six spaces now, but if development continues we’ll have to be concerned—six months from now the response will be JML was here first,” he said.
Council member Nancy Ingalsbee said JML’s construction manager told the council it could take five years before they build.
“That’s another downtown building that will be vacant for five years and sold for $1, which is not helping what we want to be doing downtown,” Ingalsbee said. “This is the second restaurant they were supposed to do—they said they were going to do a restaurant on Hubbard Street and that didn’t happen.”
Dye said that in his discussions with JML, the five years was for all six or seven buildings the Liggetts have purchased to be developed. The agreement for the sports bar and grill has an 18-month time frame or else it can revert back to the city.
“Their other businesses were growing—Allegan Event opened at the old Rockwell plant and business work orders changed a bit, the Ropes Courses business doubled in the past year and they had to purchase the old Hascall Steel on Lincoln Road—so other business industries started growing and employing more Allegan residents,” Dye said. “That’s one reason why 217 Hubbard was pushed back but they’ve gutted the building and removed the back patio so they are making some progress on that.”
Downtown business owner Phil Siegler was the only person commenting during the public hearing. He said he keeps hearing about a downtown parking problem and he couldn’t wait until Allegan had one.
“What a marvelous problem to have but I fail to see a problem now,” Siegler said. “Anywhere they go other than Allegan they don’t expect to park in front of where they walk in.
“For years I’ve heard we want change; I’ve seen change coming; I’ve seen change come and go; I see change and we say that’s not really the change we want. he said. “I’m thrilled to be here and see this going on. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for years. Embrace the change because change is happening.”
Council members approved the purchase agreement by a 6-0 vote with Mayor Pro-Tem Rachel McKenzie absent.
A license agreement with JML was also approved for balcony overhangs on city owned property.
Council member Charles Tripps said with 18 new downtown apartments being constructed in the next six months, the DDA and Planning Commission are developing a parking program to designate where downtown residents can park, while creating regulations to prevent non-downtown residents from leaving their cars overnight in these spaces. The two municipal parking lots being designated for overnight parking are the lot adjacent to Chestnut, Cutler, and Water streets and the lot adjacent to Water Street between the Perrigo Outlet Store and Myers Bumper to Bumper.