Rethinking Manistee: DDA presents final downtown conceptual designs

 

MANISTEE — Manistee residents were able to view future conceptual designs of the downtown area, during the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) final Michigan State University Extension project presentation at the Vogue Theatre this week.

The Sustainable Built Environment Initiative (SBEI) aims to assist communities with planning, design and land use issues, as well as address challenging sustainability concerns.

Public input was collected in past sessions, and graphic images were generated featuring many focal points of the downtown area. Other recommendations were also made by SBEI professionals.

Tyler Leppanen, DDA executive and economic development director, said the public had plenty of critical and creative input, which could be used in the future. The event on Monday night, which boasted free popcorn at the Vogue, was marked a success.

“I thought that was a great turn out for this type of event,” Leppanen said. “Now that we have a vision of what some of our downtown areas could look like, we can start to work on solidifying the exact designs of some of the elements, work on obtaining costs, prioritize projects and identify how we will fund them.

“I hope that we can improve some of our public spaces in the most cost effective way.”

The project’s scope was the River Street streetscape and Riverwalk from Maple Street to Cypress Street, as well as the intersection of River Street and Cypress Street (U.S. 31) within downtown Manistee.

Two previous public input sessions took place for the project, in which Wayne Beyea, outreach specialist with the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction, said many areas of focus and features were highlighted.

The first meeting shed light on what residents were proud of downtown, and what they wish would change. Many people said they were proud of riverfront property, the Vogue, historic architecture and new business.

However, residents concluded that empty or aged buildings and the U.S. 31/River Street intersection needs improvement.

“We took the words and ideas that we heard and put that into images,” said Beyeah. “We tried to build consensus in a vision, so there are a lot of parts here.

“While what we hope what we are showing tonight is realistic and can be implemented through short-term and long-term opportunities, it’s not at a point where (the designs) are ready to go out.”

During the second meeting, the public had a chance to weigh in on several designs with features like signage, landscaping and possible projects like bike racks or downtown maps.

Many residents were attracted to a clean landscape on the Riverwalk, lighting, improvements on the back facades of buildings, greenery and more “connectivity” downtown.

Warren Rauhe, with the MSU SBEI project, revealed the final concepts, which all were re-designed from the original versions based on public critique.

“This is not a final design, but we need to be consistent throughout the downtown. It needs to be fresh, and by fresh I do not mean contemporary and modern, but reflective of the (Victorian era) history — done in a tasteful way,” said Rauhe.

After presenting final designs, Beyeah asked the audience if they were “feeling inspired.” A collective vote of approval spread throughout the audience, which consisted of more than 60 people all seated in the main theater.

The final SBEI project report will soon be available to the public when completed.

“Manistee is a beautiful place that you want to visit, but what’s happening with its connection to people,” said Beyeah. “Our goal here is to be able to identify what we heard, what are our thoughts on where this could be and then make sure it’s grounded in realism.

“The good news is there’s a lot of good foundations in place in Manistee to make this all work.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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