The City Council voted unanimously Monday to pursue a state Community Development Block Grant for an array of upgrades on the west side of Harbor Drive between Franklin and Washington avenues.
Funding would help bury overhead power lines, create an overlook deck area, install electrical car-charging stations and build two walkways leading to the Grand River boardwalk.
The city will request $750,000 to cover nearly half of the project’s estimated cost, which is more than $1.5 million, according to City Manager Pat McGinnis. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has shown interest in these kinds of improvements, McGinnis said, and is likely to support the project.
The Board of Light & Power has committed up to $300,000 toward the project, while the city is matching $150,000 from its general fund.
McGinnis said the city has received positive public feedback on the proposed improvements in the past, but council members agreed that a public hearing should be held before the plans are set in stone. A public hearing will be scheduled to address the proposed changes, in addition to a potential request for a special assessment.
City officials identified a bottleneck of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk along Harbor Drive, and a concrete formation and spruce trees block views of the river between Franklin and Washington.
The city’s proposal to the MEDC states burying power lines would enhance safety and reliability, while new green spaces, drainage systems, a living wall and car-charging stations would appeal to the environmentally friendly.
Pedestrian congestion could also be alleviated with new benches and a deck to allow people to stop, as well as break up traffic flow.
The city sees an influx of 2.1 million people each summer, according to city officials.
“I see a lot of benefits to this,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said. “You’ve got to start somewhere and put the pieces together. I appreciate all the different pieces of this to be put together as one big project.”
Power and fiber lines would be buried from Columbus Avenue to Howard Avenue, while new streetlights and underground connections for summertime vendors would be installed. An ADA-accessible ramp would take pedestrians from the Harbor Drive sidewalk to the boardwalk through Bicentennial Park.