2017-04-27 / News

St. Anthony’s Park Project Pushed Back; Work Starts Soon Near Arena

By Jacob A. Ball

Several projects orchestrated by the St. Ignace Downtown Development Authority (DDA) are moving forward. To comply with a City Council request, construction for the St. Anthony’s Rock Park will be postponed until after the summer. The Little Bear East Park project and the installation of new downtown streetlights will both get underway during the summertime. Building Inspector Brian Olsen attended the DDA meeting Thursday, April 20, to provide information to the board regarding these projects. In addition, DDA Director Deb Evashevski sought input from the board on the city’s strategic plan as part of the Redevelopment Ready Community initiative. The DDA also approved recommendations from the Zoning Committee to City Council regarding updates to the sign ordinance.

St. Anthony’s Rock Park

Construction on the St. Anthony’s Rock Park was slated to begin this spring, but owing to congestion concerns downtown, it will be postponed until after Labor Day. Mr. Olsen said that the project would require a minimum of two to three parking spots each day for workers, in addition to the occasional backhoe or cement truck. The project might also include the installation of a drain to the curb, which would require additional equipment to be brought in.

He estimates the project will take 60 days, which will allow time for completion before winter if started after Labor Day. DDA Board Chairman Jim North asked if there is any kind of work that could be done to make the space look more appealing during the summer, but nothing permanent can be put in until the footings have been dug for the picnic tables and retaining wall. A suggestion is being considered to paint the rear wall of the space and place several potted plants at the sidewalk to make the space more appealing.

Contractors constructing the park, although they are not yet chosen, will be asked to clean up the space prior to every weekend, and possibly work only in the mornings on Fridays, because downtown is busy with tourists throughout the fall.

Little Bear East Park

Construction for the new outdoor sports and activities park at Little Bear East Arena will begin sometime after July 4. Mr. Olsen estimates this project will take 90 days to complete. The St. Ignace Recreation Department will be in charge of the project, and will oversee the operation of the park. The DDA is providing financial management and ensuring the project follows parameters specified by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to receive funding. These specifications include handicap accessibility, LED lighting, and tables and benches made from recycled material.

Construction is in the planning stages, and Mrs. Evashevski presented a possible design for a concession stand with an awning. The board does not expect that the park will inconvenience snowmobile riders using the trail adjacent to the property.

Streetlights

Installing new streetlights downtown will involve replacing all 93 fixtures there with high-efficiency LED lighting. The DDA will now select two to three designs to be installed on a trial basis before making their final choice.

The DDA discussed design options provided by electrical distributors. The board hopes to settle on a design that will discourage nesting by birds and shine down at the sidewalk instead of out toward store windows and drivers’ eyes.

Mrs. Evashevski said that it should be possible for the entire project to be paid for through an installment purchase contract. She added that, so far, the electrical distributors contacted have not been especially interested in providing such a contract, but that the companies who may install the lights have been more receptive. The contract would finance the light fixtures, any additional materials, and the labor. The board is interested in financing the project through one contract to simplify the bidding process. Potentially, the original contractor for the project would also be able to enter an agreement for future maintenance and repair work.

Mr. Olson pointed out that each company produces slightly different designs, and that flexibility on the exact design of new streetlights should help keep costs in order. He also explained that the color of the light emitted does not change the voltage, and when comparing different products it would be important to examine the quality of craftsmanship. Mrs. Evashevski received quotes on four options.

Mr. North suggested the new lights should be an acorn shape, a metal cap on top, and the other board members were receptive to this idea. Mayor Connie Litzner added that the lights should not be all glass, because of concerns about fragility. The board will select a few design options to test on a trial basis. Mrs. Evashevski said the lights would be tested for brightness, angle, and design to determine which option fits best downtown.

Other Business

Mrs. Evashevski wanted to receive input from the board regarding the city strategic plan as part of the Redevelopment Ready Community initiative. The city has identified several points to focus on to improve the business environment in St. Ignace. The DDA contributes to this effort through their work in improving the downtown area and assisting with professional development opportunities.

The plan includes efforts to fill empty storefronts downtown, and to “create an attractive downtown for residents, visitors, and developers through public improvement.” The board identified increased opportunities for professional development through the Recreation Department, the Chamber of Commerce, or other public organization such as Michigan Works as a potential focus for the DDA.

The Board approved recommendations from the Zoning Committee to the City Council on current efforts to revise the municipal sign ordinances. The DDA’s recommendations included limiting business properties to one sandwich board, supporting the need to develop regulations for freestanding signs downtown, and increased restrictions on off-premise signs downtown.

The board also will begin to devise a strategy for evaluating candidates for the new DDA director, and drafting a job posting to be advertised online and in local newspapers.

Mrs. Evashevski announced that Bill McNamee and his wife have purchased the former Chee Peng Chinese Restaurant at 416 North State Street and plan to open a new Chinese restaurant there by the end of the year.

Another new restaurant will open shortly, according to the owner Jermaine Harrison. Located in the former Pizza Hut building, it is expected to be open by the middle of May. The new restaurant, Harrison’s Diner, will serve traditional American fare with international options, including Jamaican cuisine.

“I want to bring a fresh and healthy choice to St. Ignace… there will be fresh vegetables, gluten-free options, and a smoothie machine,” Mr. Harrison said.

He is planning to hire 10 employees.

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