Vision for Filer Township corridor becomes clearer

A design studio was held Thursday at the Filer Township Hall in order to generate public input and define plans for the future of the U.S. 31 corridor that runs through the township, with the goal of making it more "livable" and "development ready." (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

A design studio was held Thursday at the Filer Township Hall in order to generate public input and define plans for the future of the U.S. 31 corridor that runs through the township, with the goal of making it more “livable” and “development ready.” (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

FILER TWP. — At a public input session last month, Filer Township residents constructed a plan for their U.S. 31 corridor in the mind’s eye.

This week, that vision was put to paper for a more tangible blueprint of the future possibilities.

“What we tried to do here is define some improvements and opportunities based on the input we received from the public kickoff meeting,” said Scot A. Lautzenheiser, the landscape architect from Wade Trim that helped facilitate Thursday’s design studio at Filer Township Hall. “We took all those ideas and came up with some big-picture possibilities for the (U.S. 31) corridor (that runs through Filer Township).”

With the guidance of the Alliance for Economic Success, Filer’s Downtown Development Authority has committed to improve its U.S. 31 commercial corridor, which stretches between Red Apple Road and 12th Street, making it a “livable” and “developmental ready” stretch of road.

After a pair of lengthy and productive public brainstorming sessions in mid-January, residents were invited back Thursday to help translate those ideas to physical maps.

“One of the key things that we try to do is identify locations where we could add in gateways to really let people know that you’ve arrived to Filer Township,” Lautzenheiser said. “We’ve identified those on the plans and the most critical one is at the south end, at the corner of Red Apple and U.S. 31.

“We’ve also identified some other ones: a western gateway, a northern gateway as people come from Manistee.”

Through much discussion, connectivity to businesses and residential areas, especially for the walking public has emerged as perhaps the most essential need for the corridor.

“The big missing link — not only from the neighborhoods to the corridor but along the corridor itself — is there’s not much sidewalk,” Lautzenheiser said. “One of the biggest things is access along the roadway on both sides of the street, so that people have a clear route to go.”

More than 30 people visited throughout the four-hour session, each with the opportunity to provide input and take a visual survey of the character features they would like to see take shape in Filer Township.

“We haven’t looked at the results yet, but hopefully that will give us an idea of the character direction that we’re headed,” Lautzenheiser said. “The survey was to find the beautification elements that people would like to see added to the corridor.”

Other visions that were brought up and diagrammed were the possible relocation of the town hall itself to make it more centralized, and the addition of parks for recreation, farmer’s markets or dog parks.

While nothing is scheduled yet, Lautzenheiser said communication will continue.

“The next step is getting together and trying to refine some ideas off the results of the surveys,” he said. “We want to kind of get that in front of people and say, ‘This is really what the community wants.’ … It’s a continual process that we’ll keep moving forward.”

Terry Walker, township supervisor, said with the plans materializing the next phase will be to prioritize.

“This isn’t going to all happen at one time. It’s going to be step by step,” he said. “We’ll look at which phases we want to start with, that sort of thing. … It’s going to take time and it’s going to be costly.

“So, we’re looking at trying to get that money where we can, most likely (through matching grants).”

Walker said from being involved in the recent sessions he sees safety and better access for pedestrians topping the list.

“Improving traffic flow, walk-ability and safety — those kind of things — I think are the biggest priority,” he said. “Certainly there’s been a lot of interest in the landscape too, but it’s going to be about prioritizing all these things.”

So far, the supervisor has been impressed with the interest he’s seen in these early stages of the process.

“We’ve had a real good turnout and the people that came in had a lot of ideas and generated a lot of discussion with enthusiasm,” he said. “In general, this has had a real positive buzz.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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