Village of Lexington shares update on harbor redevelopment plans

As part of its comprehensive, 150-page Master Plan, the Village of Lexington is looking at its infrastructure and ways to redevelop the harbor area. We spoke with village staff who shared their insight into the project's progress and how the proposed plans will benefit both residents and tourists.

The village recruited SmithGroup, out of Detroit, to engage in a planning and developmental study to help formulate the plan. A big part of the 2018 analysis focused on how to redevelop the waterfront area and how to better connect the waterfront to the village, says James Van Dyke, Lexington Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Co-Chair.

Van Dyke says there are several different stakeholders working together towards the redevelopment.

“It’s pretty exciting when you think about the total impact of not only the village piece, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) piece, but there’s also a part that the federal government is playing in the repairs and restoration of breakwater,” he says. “All told, it’s about $21 million in investment into the harbor if you add up the three components, so it’s a big impact.”

One aspect of the Village of Lexington’s 2020 Master Plan is the reimagining of Lexington State Harbor.

In addition to the plan’s study with Smithgroup, the DNR conducted an additional study with Edgewater Resources looking at the aging facility in the harbor and how it could be redesigned. Both studies became part of a combined plan in 2019 which Van Dyke says was a great collaboration.

“There are so many aspects of what happens at the harbor that really affect and relate to what happens in the upland,” Van Dyke says. “The very technical aspect of that is where to put the fuel tanks and where to put the resources you need to operate a harbor. But more of an elegant, urban-planning aspect comes down to things like where you actually locate the main pier out into the water so that it then relates to the streetscapes of the village. It’s that kind of more functional, urban planning related coordination all the way through to the technical.”

Van Dyke says after public input meetings, Edgewater chose a design which has several positive attributes which includes allowing for a pedestrian and visual connection back into the village.

“It focused around a central pier that essentially continues Huron Avenue, then comes down the hill through the business section of the village,” Van Dyke says. “It would continue out, from a pedestrian standpoint, to the harbor itself. People really locked onto that visual and walking connection between the two.”

The plan also expands the harbor itself, including areas that are currently run by the private arena. Van Dyke says this is an opportunity to operate the harbor as a cohesive operation, connecting all of the public resources along the waterfront.

Lexington Beach along Lake Huron is located adjacent to Lexington State Harbor.

“All the way from the public beach on the north side of the harbor, we’re creating a boardwalk that gets you from there, through the marina, and across what is currently private property in front of the Windjammer,” Van Dyke says. “That’s going to be dedicated as a public walkway all the way down to the boat launch to the south, and the South Beach beyond that which is also available for public access.”

Since the plan was drafted, both the village and the DNR have been seeking funding to further their projects.

“The DNR has been successful in allocating some of its own funds, but has also been awarded some grant dollars to pursue its part of the project,” Van Dyke says. “The village was awarded through special legislation this last year for an enhancement grant of $8 million through the State of Michigan Legislature to support its part of the project.”

$8.6 million also came in the form of federal government allocations via Senator Stabenow’s office which will be used to improve the breakwater.

“All three components have come together this year so that launched into a more robust design process taking what was a schematic plan during the Master Plan phases, and putting it all the way through to construction documentation,” Van Dyke says.

He hopes by the end of the year, both the DNR and the village will have documents sufficient to begin the bidding portion of the project next year which is when they hope construction could begin.

Cynthia Cutright, Projects Manager for the Village of Lexington.Cynthia Cutright, Projects Manager for the Village of Lexington, says the village awarded the design and engineering contract to Edgewater Resources, too.

“We are extremely happy working with Edgewater Resources because they have been part of this entire Master Plan, leading all the way up to the point we are at now,” she says. “What’s really exciting about working with Edgewater is there is still a very robust community input, village and local Steering Committee-led effort to really make sure that once we’re getting into the nitty gritty of this design, that it still is reflective of what the residents and the community want to see.”

Cutright says the Steering Committee will begin in early June, followed by public input meetings.

“That will take us through fall of this year where, at that point, we should start being able to look at going to bid for construction,” she says.

Tierney Park, located next to Lexington State Harbor, offers a variety of opportunities to enjoy the coastal community with amenities including a children's playground, a picnic area, an outdoor venue, and much more.

The redevelopment also focuses on Tierney Park and upland improvements.

“There’s a lot of space down there, but it’s not set up right now for its best use,” Cutright says. “We’re completely redesigning that space and looking at it with fresh eyes. We’re making sure we have enough green space for folks to come down, enjoy a day in Lexington, set up picnics, and have areas for concerts in the park.”

Only a short walk away from Lexington State Harbor is the village's business district which is home to several eateries, shops, and other opportunities to enjoy downtown.Van Dyke says ultimately, the redevelopment plans will help further Lexington and its harbor as an economic driver.

“The new plan will allow for increased seasonal dockage so more people can keep their boats there all summer,” he says. “It also expands the amount and type of transient dockage, allowing for docking larger ships, taller ships, and some of the larger yachts we’ve seen travel up and down the coast.”

“It also allows for day dockage, which is not usually possible right now, so people can come from Port Sanilac or Port Huron and visit Lexington for the day, go to lunch, enjoy the shops, get back in their boat, and return to their homeport,” Van Dyke says. “It’s really just recognizing the port as an economic driver and a point of connectivity to the region, and making use of it in that way more possible.”

To learn more about the Village or Lexington and its Master Plan, visit
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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing resident, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at