One-way iron bridge floated for Allegan’s next riverfront hotel plan

By: 
Ryan Lewis, editor

The current plan to develop the vacant 101 Brady St. as a hotel involves narrowing a nearby road to provide more space.

Council has not voted on this plan, but they did discuss Monday, June 8, the concept of closing the westbound lane of Second Street and making it a one-way street along with the adjacent iron bridge.

City manager Joel Dye said developer CL Real Estate was in the process of perusing a purchase agreement for the land based on a preliminary design that takes advantage of the widened lot.

“They came up with a five-story hotel, 80 rooms, 26 onsite parking spaces... and a rooftop restaurant,” he said, displaying plans that showed a hotel entrance fronting Brady Street. Off the entry drive was a ramp to an underground parking garage.

That is similar in scope to a shorter, lengthier design floated earlier this year. City voters rejected the plan at a March election, as it hinged on swapping land with Mahan Park next door, displacing the beloved gazebo and terraced amphitheater.

CL Real Estate is the lone developer that showed interest in purchasing the vacant lot, currently a grassy area used during occasional riverfront festivals. In late April, the city signed a second extension of a due diligence agreement with CL Real Estate until June 30. That time was to allow CL Real Estate to form a new plan with the city for the land, planning delayed by all the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Discuss

Dye brought the designs to the city’s planning session Monday as part of a request from council members to be apprised of where plans were headed prior to any formal presentation.

The city is proposing selling the lot for $50,000, an incentive to have it developed, since the city assessor has estimated its value at $91,192 due to its riverfront location.

Dye said the idea for changing Second Street to one-way had its roots in an 8-year-old M-89 corridor study as well as the city’s December 2018 streetscape study. Since CL Real Estate had previously said it was not interested in pursuing a hotel design constrained to a somewhat square lot, the added space from the street opened up design possibilities.

Council member Roger Bird said he favored the plan because it was important to bring in the business.

Council member Peter Hanse opposed closing on lane on the road and bridge since it would increase traffic at other lights leading out of town.

“I don’t see a great reason to do this for a developer,” Hanse said, noting he’d be more open to reducing one lane of Brady Street. “Most cities are removing their one-ways.”

Mayor Pro-tem Delora Andrus disagreed saying the Second Street lane closure also fit council’s vision for its streetscape plan.

Council member Teresa Galloway said the hotel was needed in Allegan and liked the idea that it’s roof seating faced the park to the west.

“I think it improves that viewing area,” she said. “And as far as the bridge, it’s terrible to try to pull onto Marshall Street to go left.”

Council member Dave Redding said the plan made sense.

“It seems that shifting that a little over is a pretty small concession on the part of the city,” Redding said. His main concerns were with making sure the purchase agreement included funds held in escrow or performance bonds to help ensure the city could reset the property for sale if the project falls through before it was complete.

Council member Rachel McKenzie said she recalled a traffic study that showed most traffic at peak hours was headed into the city across that bridge, helping to justify switching it to one-way, eastbound.

She too was interested in making sure any developer there would have to meet milestones with deadlines throughout the project to keep in on schedule.

Mayor Traci Perrigo said she supported a hotel at the site.

“I understand the concerns about Second Street,” she said. “I think we also need to remember the bigger plans at work too. Hubbard Street will become a two-way when MDOT does M-89 in 2022-23; so there will be a change in traffic patterns there as well.

Dye said he had been part of two hotel construction projects in Holland in a regulatory capacity and they tended take 18 to 24 months to complete. Possible timelines could involve closing on the property’s sale by the end of this year with groundbreaking beginning next spring.

Bird asked if architectural firm Abonmarche could help advise how the city could set reasonable milestones for when work should begin and progress; Dye said that would work and he would seek that information this week.

 

No bids

Council members also discussed manner in which the new riverfront restrooms project proceeded—namely, through what city regulations termed a design build. City council members approved the $220,000 project in February but the contractor was chosen as opposed to other city endeavors that involve seeking out competitive bids.

Dye reiterated that the process saved time, since it had been a council priority to have the space up and running in time for the summer riverfront activity. He said it also saved the expense of having an architect prepare schematics for companies to bid on.

The city ordinance permits this for professional services of many types; there is no dollar limit on the size of the project, unlike the other processes outlined in the ordinance book designed specifically to encourage competition.

Dye said the process has been used to support local and trusted businesses, such as when appliances were purchased for the new city hall and when the DPW erected fencing.

Hanse, who has lobbied to have this discussed in the wake of the restroom project, said it would make sense to assign a dollar cap on design build projects.

He also pointed out that having at least one competing bid gives council members a reference point for the price tag they can use to inform their decision on whether or not to greenlight the work.

“Whether it’s $100,000 or $50,000 before we require another bid, we have complete authority on this,” he said. “Staff can still recommend a preferred contractor (due to the quality of their past work, for example). But I’d like to be able to say were doing the best for the city and its money.”

Time ran short on the discussion, so the matter will be on a planning session agenda in early July.

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