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Bil-Mar rebuild makes its way to City Council

Alex Doty • Feb 7, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Developers involved in the Noto’s at the Bil-Mar project laid out their plans for the rebuild of the waterfront restaurant site during a public hearing Monday night to gain input on rezoning the property in order to facilitate the planned work.

Jamie Walter, an architect with Nederveld, discussed details of the changes that will be made at the site, located at 1223 S. Harbor Ave.

“Back in October (2017), the Noto family bought the property with the intent on remodeling the building and opening a restaurant on the site,” he told Grand Haven City Council.

Walter said the original plan was to do an extensive remodel of the existing building. That plan changed once work began and underlying conditions of the old restaurant were revealed, he said.

“It was pretty obvious that the amount of remodeling was pretty significant,” Walter noted.

Instead of a remodel, the old building was razed, making way for a new structure that will sit on the same footprint on both the Harbor Drive and Lake Michigan sides. The new building will also have the same height as the old Bil-Mar.

On the west side, a new deck will be constructed as an extension of the formal dining room, and the existing deck will be rebuilt and be more accessible. The deck will include an outdoor kitchen and restrooms. A new cooler will be built on the south end of the building to replace an existing cooler deemed too small for the structure.

There are no plans for residential units at the site, Walter said.

“It will be solely a restaurant and event space,” he told council.

Members of City Council were supportive of the redevelopment project.

“This is such a difficult site to do anything with,” Councilman Bob Monetza said. “A planned development was a good use of it. I am glad to see something happen that is a positive development.”

Other members of council echoed Monetza’s comments, and noted that they were glad to see a historic use be able to continue on the beach.

“I am excited about the development down there,” Councilman Josh Brugger said. “Where I get hung up is the public/private benefit that has to be a part of it.”

Brugger said he was interested to see if more could be done by the developers to expand on the public benefit for the project.

“Tonight, I’m going to say there’s not enough in the public benefit bucket (to vote yes),” he said. 

In response, Walter noted that there are several options they could consider that would add to the overall public benefit. The options include the installation of bike racks next to the building, installing a Harbor Transit turnaround/pull-off, and adding a boardwalk/sidewalk leading from the beach toward Harbor Drive and the building.

City Council is expected to have a final vote on rezoning the property from “waterfront” to a planned development at its Feb. 19 meeting.

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