More development expected in village

Marie Havenga • Jan 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM

SPRING LAKE — Kim VanKampen's redevelopment plans for downtown Spring Lake appear to be creating a symbiotic energy with other local development interests.

Village Manager Chris Burns said several trusted developers are following VanKampen's lead to reinvent the village.

“We look at this as a huge win,” Burns said. “Some are starting fresh, some are redeveloping what's already there and working with structures that are already intact.”

VanKampen has invested $3 million to date purchasing downtown buildings.

“I have been getting calls from some other known quantities that have done development for us in the past,” Burns said. “They would like to be a part of this. It's becoming much bigger than just Kim. We're trying to work through some ideas that they have. The people I have been talking to have a proven track record in the village and in Northwest Ottawa County.”

Burns said she is not at liberty to discuss details at this time, because there are still contracts to be signed, but new projects could kick off on both the north and south sides of Savidge Street. After negotiations and contracts are complete, the village manager said the projects could move quickly.

“If it actually happens, you would see movement in the next 2-4 months, with completion probably in the next year,” Burns said. “But until there's ink on paper, it's not a done deal.”

Burns said all the proposed development is targeted for the core downtown area. These projects are separate from VanKampen's plans, which will begin with the vacant buildings west of Village Hall.

VanKampen, a Florida resident who summers in Spring Lake, plans to create a “landmark restaurant” in the two-story building immediately west of Village Hall. The other buildings, including the former Phoenix Deli Cafe, would feature condominiums on their upper level and retail and a cafe on the main level. She envisions an upscale kitchen supply store with cooking classes, similar to Sur La Table.

VanKampen is in the process of purchasing several other village buildings, which she also plans to redevelop with the help of a local architect and construction company. At least two of the buildings have sat vacant for years. The Phoenix Deli Cafe has been empty for 15 years.

VanKampen 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.

VanKampen, who describes herself as a historian and not a developer, said it is her hope that her plans would ignite interest for other redevelopment projects.

“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.”

VanKampen said she envisions storefronts facing south instead of facing 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.

She said she wants to retain the vintage charm of the small-town village, in theme and architecture.

“It's really a gift — I don't even know what else to call it,” Burns said. “It takes somebody like Kim to have this vision for other people to get onboard. Fingers crossed, there's a lot more to come.”

Lou Draeger, chairman of the Spring Lake Downtown Development Authority, said he's pleased to see developer interest in the village.

“I'm excited that something is happening,” he said. “The exciting thing is somebody thinks this town is worth something and I'm happy to see that.”

Draeger said that, when he's out and about, he runs into a lot of people who moved here from other parts of the state.

“They move to this area because they see something they like,” he said.

Draeger has high hopes for VanKampen's project.

“In my lifetime, those three buildings next to Village Hall, they've always been kind of marginal businesses,” he said. “I certainly hope that Kim gets rid of the marginalization down there and brings something very positive.”

Draeger noted how places like The Village Baker and the Seven Steps Up concert venue have become popular village attractions.

“I hope we can say the same thing about Kim in two or three years,” he said. “These are positive people making positive things happen.”

Michelle Dixon, owner of Gem Source Fine Jewelry at 301 W. Savidge St., said she's a person who likes change.

“I'm so excited about the proposed changes coming up,” she said. “It will be more than just a drive-through community. We want to serve people in our community and we also want to bring people out to the Lakeshore to take advantage of all that the Tri-Cities has to offer. If the businesses in the community do well, everyone in the community does well.”

Dixon said Spring Lake isn't a tourist destination like Grand Haven, but it has a lot to offer locals.

“It's great to do business with people in our local community, people you see on a daily basis at the grocery store and at the bank,” she said. “I think that's what we all embrace about living in a small community like this.”

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