Another idea brought in the waterfront plan is shoreline stablization wall that would also serve as seating and provide access to the water. (Pages excerpted from: HARBOR SPRINGS MUNICIPAL PARK:OPEN SPACE PROPOSAL
Terrane Landscape Architecture, LLC, Anne Vaterlaus, RLA, ASLA
Next Design, Laura Love Rose, AIA
Downtown Development Authority of Harbor Springs, MI)
Jessica Evans News Manager
The Harbor Springs Downtown Development Authority (DDA) moved forward in pursuing a revised plan for the city's waterfront area during a special meeting that took place on Thursday morning, August 8.
DDA board members were presented with a conceptual waterfront design proposal from the DDA design committee, which was unanimously approved by all members present (Jeff Graham and Al Dika were absent). The board agreed to go forward in recommending the design concept and layout to the City Council, Planning Commission and Harbor Commission.
The DDA Design Committee is made up of 20 members of various backgrounds, including design professionals Laura Love Rose and Ann Vaterlaus, who helped create the basis for the plan. Design Committee chairman and DDA chairman Rob Mossburg led the discussion and explanation of the waterfront design proposal.
"Our primary area of focus was the space between State and Gardner Streets, and we've reached a consensus on the primary key elements and that's why we're here today," Mossburg said.
The proposed design plan would incorporate several elements that have been discussed recently, including parking, relocation of the downtown tennis courts and creating more green space with benches and picnic benches along the waterfront area. According to Mossburg, 85-percent of the city waterfront is made up of impervious space, which includes buildings, sidewalks, parking and the tennis courts.
"Another way to think about it, is that only 15-percent of the waterfront area is currently made up of green space," Mossburg clarified.
The proposed plan suggests several ways to incorporate more green space and to create an appealing waterfront area. Relocation of the tennis courts is one major component of the design, and the committee's plan suggests they be moved to Shay Park (across from Irish Boat Shop and Ford Park), Jean Jardine Park next to City Hall or the area on Hoyt Street near the skate park.
The plan would also involve relocation and construction of a new Harbormaster building next to the Pier Restaurant, concentrating the buildings together, along with parking, allowing for a more open area of green space. Suggestions for the new Harbormaster building include laundry facilities, a porch with a fireplace (to increase the building's year round use), a concession window, and possibly a roof deck for lounging.
"The new Harbormaster facility will be the newest on the Great Lakes and will increase the attractiveness of the community and also the appeal to boaters," Mossburg said.
Other creative ideas have also come into play. The plan also suggests the possibility of building a multi purpose "seat wall," that would act as stairsteps down to the water and wrap around a portion of the waterfront near where the current Harbormaster building and courtesy dock are located. According to Mossburg, the wall would act as a way to protect the shoreline and provide a place for individuals to sit and easily access the water. A boardwalk promenade of sorts was another component of the design plan that could potentially be integrated and flowing from a porch at the new Harbormaster building along the waterfront to the east.
"We see this boardwalk as a good way to promote access to the water, yet tie into the area above the bluff, too," Mossburg said. "This could possibly tie into some sort of urban trail system in the future."
Parking was another topic addressed in the waterfront plan. The design currently suggests a portion of the parking be concentrated near the new Harbormaster building and the Pier Restaurant. The plan also calls for Bay Street to be widened to introduce angled parking, which would provide an efficient way to create numerous parking spaces in a small area, Mossburg said. The plan suggests that additional parking could be maintained in new areas, near the north end of Spring Street at the base of the bluff, which the City owns, and also at Shay Park, which would not result in any loss of total downtown parking spaces, overall. Additionally, the plan proposes that if the tennis courts are relocated to Jardine Park near City Hall, there would be additional parking available there, as well, actually increasing the amount available within the city.
The design also suggests a possible extension of the current city courtesy dock with a platform portion of it serving as an occasional performance venue.
"When looking at this design, we didn't want to suggest a waterfront like any other," he explained. "We didn't want anything trendy, for a lack of a better word. We wanted it to be authentic, just like Harbor Springs--we definitely do not want a cookie cutter approach here. Our goal is to increase the amount of green space, enhance the waterfront's overall flexibility, improve access to the waterfront and water for the entire community and visitors alike."
According to plan designer, Laura Love Rose, who has a background in architecture and urban design and is a longtime Harbor Springs resident, the new design would increase the usability of the waterfront. She suggested it could serve as a space for the farmer's market or other festivals and events.
Rose noted, like Mossburg, that the majority of the space at the waterfront is currently made up of cement and buildings, which obstructs the view of the water.
"I didn't even realize it myself at first, but when I really started to look at the waterfront, especially the view coming down State Street, everything at eye level is concrete and parking," she stated. "Not everyone processes that because we all know the water is out there, but those who are new to the area are seeing a lot of concrete. The area down to State Street is a big access area, but right now it ends in garbage cans."
The reaction to the design plan from DDA board members was largely positive.
"I think this is best I've seen so far, because it's the most simple," said DDA board member Josh Baker. "I like the idea of moving the tennis courts to Shay or City Hall, because it keeps recreation downtown."
DDA board member Mary Ellen Hughes agreed.
"I like the simpleness of all the ideas and that there's not a lot of bells and whistles," she said. "I'm very pleased with the concept and with the flexibility of the plan."
DDA vice-chair, Kathie Breighner, noted she also liked the simple nature of the plan.
"This is the community's plan with the input of a large committee, and the topics and thought that came up last summer from the Wade Trim firm who were trying to pull in all sorts of ideas," Breighner said. "This is a concentrated look at what we really want and need. All the ideas and rumors we've heard of the zipline across to the Point and the ferris wheel on the end of the dock were not what we wanted. This is the community's first attempt to look at what we want, and this plan says so much about who Harbor Springs is: very simple and very elegant."
There were some concerns from board members regarding various topics, including adding a designated bike path throughout the downtown area, along with dinghy storage and hesitation about the potential platform off the courtesy dock, among others. Mossburg noted that this plan is merely conceptual and is open to suggestions and modifications.
The next step in moving forward with the design is for the plan to be presented to the Planning Commission and also Harbor Commission. From there, if the plan is approved, it will be considered by City Council. If Council approves the plan, it will then likely be set in motion.
City Manager Tom Richards noted that various details of the design plan will need to be worked out, including an estimated budget and funding sources. He stated that a major portion of the funds would likely come from the waterfront fund and potential private donors.
Richards noted he expects the plan to be presented to Harbor Commission and Planning Commission as soon as their next meeting on August 21 at 4 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and Richards noted it is unclear if any additional meetings will be held for public input.
"It's going to be a matter of getting details worked out and funding questions answered," Richards said. "Realistically, if both Commissions review the plan by October, the Council could possibly make a recommendation soon after. So, possibly, we could get going on this within the next couple of months."
A copy of the plan presentation can be found online by following the link below.