Home Business Groundbreaking to mark North Whittaker Street Redevelopment’s Phase One

Groundbreaking to mark North Whittaker Street Redevelopment’s Phase One

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Shovels will finally be in the ground to mark the beginning of New Buffalo’s North Whittaker Street Redevelopment project.

At the Downtown Development Authority’s monthly Thursday, Feb. 9 meeting, Chair Robert Kemper announced that there will be a groundbreaking event marking the start of the Phase 1 portion of the project Friday, Feb. 24., at 1 p.m.

Kemper said the groundbreaking is significant in that it shows residents and visitors that the downtown project is “actually happening.”

At the Downtown Development Authority’s monthly Thursday, Feb. 9 meeting, Chair Robert Kemper announced that there will be a groundbreaking event marking the start of the Phase 1 portion of the project Friday, Feb. 24., at 1 p.m. Kemper said the groundbreaking is significant in that it shows residents and visitors that the downtown project is “actually happening.”

“It’s a great event for New Buffalo to spread the word that we’re doing something good downtown and support our elected officials,” he said, adding that they will be attempting to get local press as well as state legislators to attend.

Phase 1 of the project involves redeveloping the City side streets Barton and Mechanic. Recently, the City approved New Buffalo construction company PayJay’s low bid for the Phase 1 portion.

The other bidder was Selge Construction in Niles, Michigan. Kemper said that Payjay’s bid, in the amount of $1,160,704.65, was around 30 percent lower than Selge’s.

With regards to Phase 2 of the project, which involves the redevelopment of North Whittaker Street itself, Kemper said they are still on track to begin it this September. He added that Abonmarche, the project’s official engineering firm, was planning to bring a site plan to the DDA’s Design/Visual Impact subcommittee by either the first or second week of March. All streetscape decisions, he said, needed to be made by June 1 so the City could go out to bid on that portion of the project.

Also at the meeting, Board members Karen Gear and Pete Rahm were reappointed to the Board.

Board members agreed to make Kemper the Chairperson and Secretary and Gear the Vice President and Treasurer. Per their bylaws, Kemper said that this needs to be done annually.

Kemper told Board members to submit the list of people on their subcommittees to City Deputy Clerk Mary Lynn.

In light of the upcoming groundbreaking, communications subcommittee chair Joe Lindsay said they could now start the communications process up again with residents, as they now had something “concrete” to report on. He said he continues to urge people to either attend meetings or submit something in writing to be read at the meetings. While he was in charge of the DDA’s official blog and Facebook page, he said he felt he couldn’t speak for the entire Board with regards to questions, and that he’d prefer residents address the Board directly. He did say that they were always “open to criticism.”

Regarding subcommittees, Economic Business Development subcommittee chair Doug Roch said that three subcommittees had been formed to take a closer look at parking recommendations. The subcommittees will research and formalize recommendations before presenting them to the City. Currently, he said that the City’s ordinances weren’t all that “defined” in terms of parking.

Kemper gave an update on the subcommittee with regards to downtown parking policies. Enforcement was a major issue, as Kemper said everyone agreed there should be a year-round policy as opposed to the current Memorial Day through Labor Day policy. Kemper said they discussed implementing three-hour parking year-round, with enforcement taking place between mid-June through the end of August, as well as weekend enforcement in the fall and spring. He said he had considered the idea that there be a two-week period before enforcement was in place during which they would issue people warnings as opposed to writing actual tickets. Signs will clearly state that there is three-hour parking limit year-round. Streets affected by the time limit will include Whittaker, Thompson, Mechanic and Merchant Streets from Buffalo and Mechanic Streets.

Also with regards to the North Whittaker Redevelopment Phase One, Streets Superintendent Tony Ashbaugh requested that they consider putting up temporary signage for the businesses affected by construction on Merchant and Barton Streets. Kemper said he was interested in assisting the businesses, who will be impacted by the project for the next three to four months.

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Francesca Sagala

Francesca Sagala has been a Staff Reporter/Proofreader/Photographer for the New Buffalo Times since March 2012. A graduate of Valparaiso University who majored in English, she currently resides in New Buffalo, Michigan.