Grant allows Division Ave. redevelopment planning

By Kat Meyer

Assoc. Community News Editor

Kentwood officials received a grant allowing them to take a closer look at redeveloping the Division Ave. area.

A Community Development Block Grant of $20,000 will fund a four month coordinated study of the area by two firms; Progressive AE will be the prime consultant and LSL Planning will assist in the survey.

Keith Van Beek, assistant to the Mayor, said, ``The City wants all parts of our community to stay vital, and as an older part of the community, this area could use some attention.''

The beautification effort by the City was initially targeted along 44th Street between Kalamazoo Ave. and Eastern Ave. The median/boulevard was enhanced with landscaping to improve appearances. The redevelopment effort is targeting the Division Ave. area. As part of redevelopment a study is being conducted to form recommendations. One expectation is that ``there will be recommendations and options as to how the City can partner with businesses on Division to generate further private improvements,'' said Van Beek.

Terry Schweitzer of Kentwood's Community Development said, ``We are hopeful that the study puts us in a better position to encourage particular types or designs of private investment. By involving the residents and business community in the study process we should arrive at something that is their idea (or at least in part their idea) and thus more likely to be undertaken.''

One thing that that Van Beek expects to occur is the formation of a Downtown Development Authority (DDA), ``a tool that captures growth in tax dollars to reinvest in the area to stimulate and otherwise encourage redevelopment,'' said Van Beek.

Some other possibilities include: review of existing zoning laws that may provide greater flexibility to redevelop existing plots of land, use state and/or federal grants to improve infrastructure along the corridor and also for individual businesses to use to make improvements to their facilities.

But work will be more than a survey, said Laura Hill, Marketing operations manager for Progressive AE. ``The City has asked us to produce a re-development plan for the business district at the NE corner of Division Ave and 44th St...this is about a four-square-block area.''

The survey is an engineering topographic survey where features are measured and recorded in order to prepare a base plan for future construction drawings for improvements to Division Ave. Hill said that although Progressive AE proposed a time frame of four months to the City of Kentwood to complete the study, ``issues may arise that may require the schedule to be extended.''

Brad Thomas of Progressive estimates at least four weeks of field work, gathering information in regards to the location of property lines, buildings, sidewalks, roadways, streetlights, power poles, manholes, sewers, water mains, valves, hydrants, and other underground utilities, and an additional three weeks of office drafting.

The project is structured around four public meetings, one during each of the four months:

A kick-off meeting where Progressive AE will meet with city staff and area merchants to discuss the project and take a walking tour of the project area. A site analysis by Progressive AE will collect and analyze all background information and document existing conditions.

Two community meetings will allow Progressive to present their analysis and brainstorm with area merchants regarding the future design of the project area. Next, Progressive AE will develop a preliminary concept design with elements including pedestrian and vehicular circulation, parking, lighting, open space opportunities, and landscaping.

A final concept design based on comments and ideas generated at the community meetings will aid in developing a final concept plan. Progressive AE will also provide a cost estimate for the proposed improvements, four building improvement sketches, and an implementation schedule.

And finally a third community meeting will present the final plan to the public and gather any final input. The Progressive team includes an urban designer, a landscape architect, and a traffic engineer. The LSL team will have two urban planners.