New developments take root in Grand Haven

Flowers are not all that’s budding this spring in Grand Haven. New developments are taking root as well, some of which will prove beneficial to downtown retailers.
Jeremy Swiftney is the Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority director.
Warm-weather season guarantees a boon of tourists frequenting downtown — pandemic notwithstanding — but it’s year-round residents that provide consistent foot traffic to the city’s shops and restaurants.

“The more people living in downtown, the more people we have year-round to support our shops,” says Jeremy Swiftney, Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority director. “So we’re looking for year-round residents, which is huge for downtown. Our summers are super busy, but during off-seasons, that’s when shops need local residents to keep the lights on. The more people living there. the more success they will have, and we will be able to nurture new businesses opening.”

Breaking ground

Set to begin construction is downtown’s largest residential project. Peerless Flats — bounded by Jackson, Fulton, First, and Second streets — broke ground on  March 26. The 148,341-square-foot development will feature 124 rental apartments, ranging from studio apartments to three-bedroom units; nine owner-occupied townhome/condominiums along Second Street; four apartment buildings; and an amenities building with a conference room, fitness center, gathering area, kitchen, and terrace.

Studio apartments will be 550 square feet; one-bedroom units will be 700-800 square feet, 950-1,150 square feet for two bedrooms, and 1,700 square feet for three bedrooms.

Peerless Flats is scheduled for completion in the spring or summer of 2022. 

Former Tribune office

Another residential project once housed the Grand Haven Tribune, at 101 N. Third St. Plans call for 35 on-site parking spaces on the first floor and four floors that contain 39 apartment units. The Planning Commission and City Council approved Grand Haven developer Denny Cherette’s (aka the Cherette Group) plans. The former newspaper building will be razed.

“There are art deco elements worked into (the building’s design) and it settles into history of that building,” Swiftney says. 

Then there’s a jewelry store that’s been shuttered since the early 1990s, the renovation of which Swiftney deems “one of our highest priorities.” The two-story building on Washington Avenue is in the heart of downtown Grand Haven. Once renovations are completed, the main floor will be a mix of retail space in the front and office space in the back. The upstairs will feature offices and seven townhome-style condos.

“It’s going to look like it always belonged on the downtown main street,” Swiftney says.

The diesel plant

Another development is still in the early planning stages and geographically is not located downtown.

In fall 2020, Grand Haven Board of Light & Power sought proposals to redevelop the property commonly known as the diesel plant, at 518 S Harbor Drive. In November, the Planning Commission, Economic Development Corp., Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and Historic Conservation Commission reviewed the plans. The City Council then received public input online on the proposals.

The takeaways from that input were: residents do not want the former diesel plant razed, rather kept intact; the bid to purchase the building would need to be $1 million or higher; and there was a preference to see a restaurant go into it, but a developer would get to determine its use.

Plans that ‘fit’ downtown

“When we see plans that it fits with downtown, that it brings more than a development for the sake of a development, we want it to match,” Swiftney says. “We’ll need to see plans that fit with downtown. We’re very early on in those stages. They (public survey) are not saying condos or apartments.”

Last year, the Chinook Pier buildings were razed due to mold. Ideas for that space also are in the early discussion stages, he says. It’s clear residents want the waterfront space to be something along the lines of a farmers market or incubator-style shops.

“That’s something that will be coming up for development in a year or so,” Swiftney says. “It depends on how quickly the city is going to move on it. The community spoke loudly. They want something to maintain its community use and not necessarily where people live.”

Read more articles by Paul R. Kopenkoskey.