The Van Kampen Team plans an Epicurian Village for three buildings immediately west of the Village Hall. They will present the site plans and architectural drawings at Barber School on Sept. 25.
But you don't have to wait that long to get a sense of Van Kampen’s vision. Her development team created a website (www.epicureanvillage.com) that features project drawings, floor plans and an old postcard theme, promising that this multi-million-dollar project will blend the past with the present.
The Epicurian Village will seek to rekindle the golden era, according to the website, when people flocked to Spring Lake to soak up the healing powers of the natural spring water, and when neighbors gathered as a community.
Van Kampen plans to maintain the facade of the building immediately west of the Village Hall, which most recently housed a consignment shop and, prior to that, Renegade River. That building will become a two-story restaurant with rooftop dining.
The next two buildings to the west, including the former Phoenix Deli Cafe/Braak's Bakery building, will be razed. Van Kampen will rebuild more modern-looking structures that will likely house a cafe and stores, with condominiums above.
Should the Planning Commission give its blessings on a few minor items — such as a special use permit for residential and a variance for the height of one of the buildings — the team’s plans are to raze the buildings over the winter and start new construction in the spring. The target opening date is 2020.
Village Manager Chris Burns said she is thrilled with the development plans.
“It's a huge shot in the arm for downtown because her investment is substantial and her vision is pretty incredible,” Burns said. “It's going to be amazing.”
Burns said she doesn't believe any restaurants or retail stores are under contract yet for the space.
“She's doing a lot of work behind the scenes,” the village manager said.
Van Kampen has spent more than $3 million on property acquisition. She has also purchased the former Citgo gas station, Bilz Pool and Spas, and the Haight Building. Those buildings are expected to be redeveloped and or/repurposed after the Epicurian Village development is completed.
Burns said Van Kampen also has a vision for the parking lot behind the Epicurian Village and in front of Dollar General and French Academy of Cosmetology.
“She has a vision for that area to make it more walkable and attractive,” Burns said. “We're hoping there will be some outdoor dining in that little pocket park. We will be working on landscaping there to make it more usable and attractive.”
Burns said Van Kampen’s team is “very qualified” to create the project.
“They're extremely knowledgeable and they're all tried and true,” she said. “They're all names we recognize and will work just fine with. I'm excited for her to get started on this.”
Burns said she has no idea how much tax revenue the project will bring to village coffers because Van Kampen hasn't pulled building permits yet or declared construction value. Any tax money from the project will go to the downtown development association to be used for other downtown projects, such as new street lights, banners and flowers.
“That should be exciting to the rest of the downtown business owners,” Burns said.
Van Kampen has said she wants Spring Lake to become a destination instead of a drive-through town by people going to Grand Haven.
“We've been working on that for years, unsuccessfully,” Burns said. “If she can pull this off, which I think she will, we're going to put Spring Lake on the map. She wants to cater to the people who live here, to be a place where people can go spend a couple of hours to dine, shop or share a cup of coffee with a friend.”
The key to the project is the restaurant, according to Burns.
“After that I think is when you're going to start seeing the vision come together and come to life,” she said.
Van Kampen, a Florida resident who has spent the summer months in Spring Lake for years, envisions a “landmark restaurant” in the building next to the Village Hall and an upscale kitchen supply store with cooking classes, similar to Sur La Table, in the former Phoenix Deli Cafe, which has been empty for 15 years. Van Kampen said she's driven by the vacant buildings for years, hoping someone would breathe new life into them. She recently decided that person would be her.
Van Kampen envisions storefronts facing south instead of Savidge Street, with a “town center” in the core blocks of downtown between Savidge and Exchange streets. She said the “town center” could host festivals, a covered farmers market and more. Some residential homes could transition into boutiques.
Van Kampen describes herself as a historian and not a developer, and said it is her hope that her plans would ignite interest for other redevelopment projects. She wants to retain the small-town village vintage charm in theme and architecture.
“I think that was her intent, and it's certainly done that,” Burns said. “We have the potential for some really great things. Kim has a lot of buildings on her plate right now. These are completely different projects. They're not looking to compete with Kim. With her vision and her investment, their investment would stand to be successful and profitable, as well.”