My Take: Waterfront Holland: New waterfront access for the people

·3 min read

On May 2, City of Holland voters will be asked whether their city council can take the next, important step in providing new access to Lake Macatawa. The process began almost five years ago with the closing of our old, coal-fired, electric-generating power plant on Lake Macatawa. This created an opportunity to open that site, along with additional city-owned waterfront property to new and different uses.

The first step was to reach out to the public to find out what the people of Holland would like to see done on our waterfront. After almost two years of outreach, meetings, studies, surveys and design sessions, we created a public “Vision for the Waterfront.” The details of what you told us you wanted can be found at the website we created specifically for this process:

Nathan Bocks
Nathan Bocks

The next step to bring your vision to reality was to reach out to expert consultants and private developers to present proposals that both aligned with the vision and were economically viable.

After another two years of work, GDK Construction, a local company with decades of experience working in Holland, presented a proposal it believes will be economically viable. More importantly, our consultants, city staff, and city council believe the proposal aligns with the public vision for the waterfront.

The proposal would consolidate the current industrial uses on the waterfront and open new, formerly inaccessible waterfront property at the end of Eighth Street. The proposed development includes a hotel, a marina with kayaks, permanent and transient boat slips, condominiums, a restaurant, an ice cream shop, a cruise ship dock, and most importantly, public access to the waterfront throughout the site. And it would divert much of the current industrial truck traffic away from the downtown area.

The proposal will provide the people of Holland the kind of waterfront access our lakefront community neighbors have enjoyed for years, but has been missing here. We have beautiful Kollen Park immediately to the west of the proposed development that provides extensive green space, fishing, and picnic areas. We have Window on the Waterfront and Windmill Island that provide bird watching, natural spaces, and kayaking. But we do not have waterfront access that connects our downtown to the water and the waterfront to our downtown.

The Waterfront Holland proposal will create the waterfront access and experiences like South Haven, Saugatuck, and Grand Haven where commercial activity commingles with public access; where you can get an ice cream cone, stroll along the boat slips, and watch the sunset.

If 60% or more of the voters on May 2 vote to give the city permission to sell our waterfront property, we will then be able to take the next steps in finalizing our negotiations and the details of the proposal. Everyone involved in the process is committed to guaranteed public access to the water throughout the site. As with any development, the final plan will have to follow all city zoning and development rules and be approved by our planning commission and city council before anything is built.

A yes vote on May 2 will not increase your taxes, but it will generate new property tax revenue, paid by new owners of the site that the city can use for improvements in and around the area and our other lakefront parks. These are improvements that would not be possible otherwise.

A yes vote on May 2 gives city council the ability to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and move forward with negotiations and planning to create new waterfront access. If the vote fails, the project will die along with our opportunity to consolidate the waterfront industrial uses and connect our downtown to the waterfront.

Your city council voted unanimously to move this project forward. Your yes vote on May 2 will allow us to make that happen.

— Nathan Bocks is the mayor of Holland.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: My Take: Waterfront Holland: New waterfront access for the people