A former car dealership will be transformed into a community center and farmers market. Courtesy City of Hudsonville
As urban blight continues to impact small towns across Michigan, Hudsonville is poised to revitalize its downtown.
City officials hope to see construction begin on approximately $5 million worth of projects this summer after years of planning. Imagine Hudsonville 2030 includes a community center and farmers market, a beautification of Chicago Drive and a “living street” project on Harvey Street.
“It’s a painful circumstance for cities to confront,” Hudsonville Mayor Mark Northrup said regarding dying downtowns. “We want to bring back a vibrant, walkable downtown.”
Northrup said Hudsonville, which has one of the lowest millage rates in the state, will not raise its taxes for the projects. He said the projects likely will be funded through 20-year bonds, but there is sufficient cash in the city’s general fund for the developments.
The first part of the project will likely be the $1.9 million Terra Square project, which will include a farmers market and community center at the site of the former Hartman Chevrolet building.
During the community survey process, 91.7 percent of responses indicated a farmers market was at least “somewhat important” to the community.
The indoor/outdoor farmers market is scheduled to open at 3380 Chicago Drive in June 2017 if all goes according to plan. The building is planned to include space for a permanent food vendor or coffee shop, along with approximately 6,000 square feet of a banquet-type facility and co-working office space.
The Harvey Street “living street” project will likely begin in 2017. The project would extend Harvey Street to the east to intersect with Terra Square and create a walkable, pedestrian-friendly street. It would include seating areas, bike racks and other family-friendly areas.
Imagine Hudsonville 2030 will hopefully bring more retailers to the area.
“We really want to brighten up the downtown,” Northrup said. “We are painfully aware we need to create more opportunities for people to come in and enjoy the downtown.”
The Chicago Drive beautification would likely begin in 2018, lining the north side of the road with pine trees to screen the railroad tracks.
Landscaping on the median and south side of the street would help slow traffic and draw interest to Hudsonville’s business district.
Northrup said Chicago Drive essentially bisects the downtown area and creates an impassable divider.
Along with slowing traffic down on Chicago Drive, the plan would make more of the streets interconnected for non-motorized routes to promote mobility.
The city of Hudsonville will work with Michigan Department of Transportation and CSX Rail to improve connections across Chicago Drive and railroad tracks to help pedestrians cross the street.
The 2030 plan also has aspirations for a downtown village green, which would require land acquisitions, private-sector collaboration, and designing and constructing new streets. Other ideas include an amphitheater. Public art would be installed throughout civic spaces, parks and plazas to help the city’s aesthetic.
The entire Imagine Hudsonville 2030 plan has taken more than 12 years to come together and is the work of the city government during the terms of several mayors. The plan was awarded the Michigan Association of Planning’s Daniel H. Burnham Award in 2015.
Now is a good time to implement the projects, Northrup said, as younger generations want the vibrant downtown these projects will create.
“There have been lots of plans that have come and gone,” he said. “Don Van Doeselaar and Jim Holtrop (former Hudsonville mayors) have carried a lot of water, and I just happen to be mayor as it starts. This isn’t something that just happened.”