City passes over chance to acquire waterfront parking lot

Becky Vargo • May 19, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Grand Haven City Council passed up a chance to purchase a one-time city-owned waterfront parking lot with a 5-0 vote Monday night.

The lot at 1 S. Harbor Ave., at the west end of Franklin Avenue, will instead be purchased by the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, said City Manager Pat McGinnis. 

The funds for the purchase are being made available through the Loutit Foundation and the Marion A. and Ruth K. Sherwood Fund, the local community foundation’s president said.

“When the city was unable to acquire the money to purchase the parking lot, we were brought into the conversation,” GHACF President Holly Johnson said.

The Loutit Foundation has a long funding history in the acquisition of space along the waterfront for public use, Johnson said.

City officials applied for a grant last year to purchase the lot, believing that all tenants in the building were OK with the change, McGinnis said. The grant amount was $375,000 and the purchase price for the parking lot was $500,000.

“But some tenants didn’t want a public lot, so we withdrew our application,” McGinnis said.

The community foundation wants to maintain the parking lot as it is today, which is good for the city, McGinnis said.

“It’s a property that pays us taxes, but it’s open to the public on weekends and evenings,” he said. “The city benefits because the community foundation is an essential community partner in all local improvements. For nearly 50 years, everything the community foundation has done has put the community first, and I expect that will continue for good, forever.”

The city sold the parking lot in 1983 to the 1 S. Harbor Group. The contract required a first right of refusal for the city, McGinnis said. Seven years remain on that part of the contract.

Several council members expressed a desire to extend the right to be the first entity approached if the community foundation ever decides to sell the parking lot.

Mayor Geri McCaleb said the alternative is that if someone else buys it, they could build something there that blocks the view.

McGinnis said he will request a 40-year extension to the right of refusal be added to the contract with the foundation’s purchase.

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