The City Council last week reviewed plans from contractor Abonmarche that would entail reimagined gathering spaces, accessible pathways and greenspace on the sloping lawn to the waterfront off of Harbor Drive.
A $1.6 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will support the city’s Riverwatch project, which includes an overlook plaza, accessible sidewalks and other improvements. The Board of Light & Power electrical lines along that stretch of Harbor Drive — between Washington and Franklin avenues — will also be buried underground.
Abonmarche architect Kathy Burczak presented four possible configurations for the open space with different awning configurations, from pivoting sails to a fixed gazebo. These designs were compared to the sail structure at nearby Waterfront Stadium.
Mike Fritz said it’s important to preserve the benches with the names of donors on them currently at the site. He said he’s not in favor of large structures and doesn’t see the need for shading.
“This is a beach town,” he said. “Sunlight is not a problem for us.”
Councilmen Bob Monetza and Dennis Scott both preferred the options with the smaller awning options covering picnic tables.
Josh Brugger was the only council member in favor of a gazebo, which he said is a popular type of structure in other lakeshore communities. He said visitors could use the shelter from the sun.
The project will include removal of a row of pine trees that is hiding the waterfront view from the sidewalk and road, and to replace the existing concrete wall with sloping sidewalks that are no more than a 5 degree angle.
A 2014 assessment of the seawall at the location revealed a storm pipe that could also be replaced through the project, city officials said.
City Manager Pat McGinnis said the scope of the project will be refined with the council’s feedback, to be approved by the MEDC. Underground line work could begin this fall, he said, while the landscaping and structural improvements could begin spring 2020.