Since the Downtown Allegan Riverfront Development PlacePlan was released in July 2013, the city of Allegan has made great strides enhancing its historic downtown and riverfront; indeed, it serves as a great example for placemaking and its possibilities for the entire state.
Allegan’s riverfront redevelopment project involved both a design concept and accompanying urban planning strategies for the Kalamazoo Riverfront that borders Downtown Allegan along Hubbard Street. The city of Allegan, the Allegan Downtown Development Authority, and local stakeholders envisioned transforming the riverfront site into a quality destination space recognized throughout the region.
From Community Vision to Action
Allegan’s city manager and administration leveraged their capacity for civic engagement from the beginning of the PlacePlans process. Leadership also included an active Downtown Development Authority, committed local business owners and Chamber of Commerce, Allegan County Community Foundation, and a virtual army of fraternal organizations, all focused on regional economic success.
In November 2013, Allegan voters overwhelmingly approved taking $500,000 from the city’s $3 million sinking fund to use as grant-matching money to start up the projects. In all, nearly $1 million in riverfront redevelopment projects will connect the central business district with the Kalamazoo River.
Since then, there have been myriad accomplishments: in 2014, $90,000 in city funds were used to re-landscape and redesign Veterans Memorial Park, a key spot on the chain of riverfront parks; the same year, a $61,200 LED lighting and software package was installed on the Second Street Bridge, allowing this key gateway to downtown Allegan to be lit in a variety of creative and beautiful ways. In 2015, a $250,000 Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) grant and matching funds converted an underused parking area into an 11,600 square foot events plaza and stage that can accommodate an audience of 400 people. Ground was broken in June 2015, and the project was officially opened on October 10, 2015, for the city’s Oktoberfest celebration.
Phase 2: Welcome Center and Canoe Launch
Allegan was awarded a PlacePlans Implementation Grant in early 2015 that provided matching funds to rehabilitate a city-owned one story building on Brady Street, immediately opposite the entrance to the events plaza. The rehabilitated building will house a Welcome Center featuring a desk, information kiosks, ADA-compliant drinking fountains, three unisex restrooms (two of which will be ADA-compliant), and storage. Construction began in fall 2015, and the grand opening was held on June 2, 2016.
The city also secured $300,000 in grants from the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to construct a handicap-accessible canoe and kayak launch, also opening in June 2016.
Activating Vacant Storefronts with Pop-up Retail
In December 2015, MML brought its PlacePOP tactical placemaking service to Allegan to organize four “pop-up” retail stores in vacant downtown buildings in conjunction with the city’s Festive Fridays series of holiday-themed events throughout the downtown. With the streets of downtown filled with people for these events, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight available storefronts to potential tenants and introduce entrepreneurs to new customers. Pop-up retail has typically been used in larger cities, but Allegan’s experience shows how it can work in small towns and offers lessons for other communities looking to try it out.
In 2016 and beyond, Allegan will continue to seek out groups willing to support projects such as public art, a clock tower, and additional landscaping. Entrepreneurs are already looking at redeveloping riverfront buildings with a new orientation that replaces rear parking lots and loading docks with back porches facing out onto the water. One such proposal would combine three buildings into condominiums above street-level office space. Allegan’s successes and bright future prove that “Positively Allegan”—the tagline of the city’s public relations and marketing campaign launched in conjunction with the PlacePlan—will happen when people work together to support and celebrate the place they call home.
Downtown Riverfront Development Presentation
PlacePlans: A Community Collaboration
At its core, placemaking is an economic development strategy that offers a new way to define and design our communities for the people who live in them. Research shows that a city’s prosperity and future growth are linked to the quality of human experience it provides.
In this report, learn about Allegan’s experience going through the PlacePlans process and the progress it is making to implement those plans.
In the News
- Allegan, Kalamazoo in line for improvement grants – WIN 98.5, June 29, 2015
- Allegan awarded $250,000 state grant to support riverfront events plaza project – Dec. 4, 2014
- MEDC announces first communities to receive certification through statewide Redevelopment Ready Communities program – August 28, 2014
- Riverfront Gets Colorful Preview from Michigan Municipal League – August 10, 2013
- Riverfront funding proposal goes on ballot – July 24, 2013
- Final design presented for Allegan riverfront – July 3, 2013
- Final riverfront design to be shown – June 12, 2013
- Riverfront redesign could make it a ‘third place’ – April 17, 2013
- Detailed concept to be unveiled for Allegan riverfront redesign – April 3,2013
- City of Allegan seeking public input on potential riverfront improvements – November 21, 2012
- ‘PlacePlans’ grant will redesign Allegan riverfront – October 10, 2012