Olthoff Street Stage
Open-air performance stage ready for use in downtown Muskegon
By Marla Miller | Muskegon Chronicle
October 11, 2009, 2:17AM
An outdoor stage is nestled between the Sidock Building, left, and the Culinary Institute of Michigan, right, along Third Street in downtown Muskegon.
MUSKEGON - The days of imagining lunchtime lectures, free outdoor concerts — even street performers playing for tips — are over with the completion of the open-air Olthoff Street Stage downtown.
IF YOU GO
• What: Opening and dedication of downtown Muskegon’s newest dramatic hot spot, the outdoor Olthoff Street Stage.
• When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
• Where: On Third Street between the Sidock Building and Culinary Institute of Michigan. The ceremony will be moved to the lobby of Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts if it rains.
• Activities: Remarks by lead donors Mike and Kay Olthoff and city officials. Performances by members of West Michigan Symphony, Muskegon Civic Theatre, the Mona Shores Freshtet and Muskegon Heights Drum Corps.
• How the stage will work: Nonprofit organizations, concert associations and residents can reserve the stage to guarantee its availability through Muskegon Main Street. Daily fee is $50. If the stage is not in use, anyone is welcome to use it for free. For more information, or to schedule the stage, contact Dan Rinsema-Sybenga at (231) 724-3180.
Conceived in 2004 as part of the Imagine Muskegon campaign, the Third Street Promenade’s street stage will be dedicated this week and is the last piece of the block-long plaza between Western and Clay avenues. But with autumn’s inconsistent weather upon us, it may be next spring before residents can make much use of the public gathering place.
Thursday’s dedication ceremony will go on regardless and include remarks by city officials and the “naming” benefactors. Mike and Kay Olthoff, the owners of Nichols Paper, donated $100,000 as a lead gift for the Third Street Promenade and the public stage.
The stage is on Third Street between the Sidock Building and Baker College’s Culinary Institute of Michigan. It will allow for everything from musical and theater performances to lectures and discussions.
“We’re thrilled with how it looks,” said Kay Olthoff. “The arts have always been very important to our family and we thought this would be a great way for everyone in the community to enjoy them.”
Urban planner Harry Wierenga of Fleis & Vandenbrink Engineering Inc. designed the promenade and stage area and the property is owned by Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. No. 1. The DMDC’s board of directors has developed a reservation system, which Muskegon Main Street Manager Dan Rinsema-Sybenga will oversee.
Organizations and residents can reserve it for a $50 fee to guarantee availability and have access to amenities such as electricity. The hope is that small concerts and weddings will be held there, but that it also will serve as a town square type of gathering place, Rinsema-Sybenga said.
“We’re not discouraging people from using it informally,” he said. “Generally, we are making it available to the public.”
There is limited seating, so those who come for concerts and other events will need to bring their own chairs.
The space around it can accommodate several hundred people, Rinsema-Sybenga said. At some point, a canopy may cover the stage to help with acoustics once additional funding is secured, he said.
“The street stage is the most unique and innovative aspect of the Third Street Promenade,” said Chris McGuigan, president and CEO of Community Foundation for Muskegon County. “The hope is that it will highlight the outstanding artists we have in the community.”
Original plans for the linear promenade had it extending along the east side of Third Street from Clay to Morris avenues, with a pedestrian walkover across Shoreline Drive at the end of Third Street, McGuigan said. There is another smaller stage area in front of the Hines Building, which houses the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce, designed for press conferences and business gatherings, Rinsema-Sybenga said.
Except for possibly upgrading the wood chips at the north end by the Hines Building, the promenade is done as far as the Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. site is concerned, they said.
“Our plan for the sidewalk/parking lot along the rest of Third Street (toward Morris) is for commercial development, at least two-story storefronts,” McGuigan said.
The entire cost of the Third Street public space project was paid for through a variety of sources. For instance, Baker College agreed to pay for the plaza area in front of the CIM building, McGuigan said. Other gifts included $25,000 from the Alcoa Foundation and $50,000 in downtown beautification funds from the Eunice Nash Bush Fund and Alta Daetz Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
The Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and Muskegon Main Street — the downtown district promotion agency — is offering a gift program through the community foundation where people can purchase paver stones or invest in interactive art for $250 to $25,000.
Beautification features still needed include benches, planters, public art and a rain garden. The community has been asked to take ownership of the promenade through private donations.
Downtown Muskegon Vision
Vision of downtown Muskegon beginning to take shape
By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle
October 10, 2009
A view of redeveloped downtown Muskegon at Third St. and W. Western Ave. The city has made progress toward realizing its Imagine Muskegon plan for a “city center” of commercial and residential developments.
MUSKEGON - There’s no need to “Imagine Muskegon” anymore.
Head downtown and see it for real.
Although it’s been a long and difficult road to redevelopment, the community has made significant progress on its landmark Imagine Muskegon plan for a “city center” of commercial and residential developments.
There have been several recent reminders of that progress: Thursday’s unveiling of a statute of community benefactor Charles Hackley on a park bench, Saturday’s public open house of Baker College’s new Culinary Institute of Michigan and this Thursday’s dedication of the Olthoff Street Stage on the Third Street Promenade.
A review of the original May 2003 Imagine Muskegon document shows artist’s depictions and suggested urban elements that, in many cases, are being created along Third Street at West Western Avenue.
“Imagine Muskegon is one of the most significant planning documents we’ve produced in 35 years that I have been in town,” said Peter Sartorius, a longtime urban planning professional and co-chairman of the Imagine Muskegon steering committee.
“It was like doing a focus group of the ‘bigs’ — the influential — and persons on the street,” Sartorius said of the ground-up planning approach that was based on five design workshops. “We let the community tell us what it saw in its future.”
The Imagine Muskegon plan was available when the Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. had a Southfield, Mich. developer walk away from Muskegon. Downtown Muskegon Development is the non-profit, community-based consortium that owns the mall site and is led by the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
IMAGINE MUSKEGON PLAN
The original themes developed in the “Imagine Muskegon” plan:
• Third Street and West Western Avenue is the “core” of the community.
• Downtown has to be redeveloped based on the historic downtown Muskegon.
• Waterfront development and linking it to downtown redevelopment is critical.
• Pedestrian ease and restoring the traditional street grid on the former mall site are paramount.
• Turn Muskegon and Webster avenues back to two-way, residential streets.
• Complete the redevelopment of the downtown with a mix of residential and commercial buildings.
— Source: Imagine Muskegon: A Community Design Workshop, May 2003
Downtown Muskegon Development embraced the Imagine Muskegon plan and became developers of the “city center” site. The community group took the lead in recreating Muskegon’s historic central business district.
When Imagine Muskegon was conceived, the mall was still standing, West Western Avenue had yet to be rebuilt and no new buildings had been started.
The final Imagine Muskegon document, which was fine-tuned by a group of urban planners and architects, inspired the Third Street and West Western Avenue traffic circle, the rebuilding of the historic street grid that had been removed by the mall and development of the Third Street Promenade walkway.
At the time the community gathered to conceive the Imagine Muskegon plan, The Chronicle — based on the failed history of other redevelopment plans — took a rather skeptical look at the new plan, concluding that “25 plans in 25 years” led to little progress.
Earlier plans included among other things a downtown casino, a shoreline fresh-water aquarium, a third-anchor expansion of the Muskegon Mall and a minor league baseball park at the Mart Dock.
Unlike many of those 25 plans, Imagine Muskegon is becoming a reality.
“It is happening the way it should,” Imagine Muskegon Co-Chairman Terry MacAllister said. “Downtown is being redeveloped by developers from Muskegon, not from Chicago or Detroit. The best part is that the community is making this happen.”
Imagine Muskegon also called for the return of Muskegon and Webster avenues to two-way, residential streets and the redevelopment of the 23-acre “city center” site to a mix of commercial and residential buildings. Both are taking shape.
“It is amazing what we have accomplished in six years but six years ago we would have thought that we would be even further ahead,” Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington said.
There is plenty more in the plan that has yet to be explored by the development community. It called for a downtown convention center, aquarium and cross-lake ferry service — the first two which have not been realized and the last which resulted in a ferry in the Lakeside district.
A remaining Imagine Muskegon item on the agenda for the DMDC and city leaders is to tackle waterfront development and link it to the “city center” site. That topic was raised at a Downtown Muskegon Development meeting with city officials last week, Chairman Chuck Johnson said.
“We now need to make that connection to the waterfront but the timing isn’t right,” Johnson said of suggestions for multiple walkways over Shoreline Drive to waterfront properties. “Right now we don’t know where the focus will be and where the connections will be needed.”
In the meantime, for those who haven’t been in downtown Muskegon the past three years, the changes from the post-mall demolition when the site was called “Muskegon’s sandbox” are dramatic.
“It’s time to come downtown and support your community,” Johnson said.
FROM MALL TO DOWNTOWN -From defunct mall to redeveloping downtown
December 2001: Muskegon Mall closes.
August 2002: Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. gains community control of Muskegon Mall.
September 2002: DMDC takes chains off the mall parking lots.
October 2002: DMDC hires The Chesapeake Group Inc. of Baltimore to plan the downtown redevelopment and Charter Development LLC of Southfield becomes interested in the mall site.
May 2003: The community-driven Imagine Muskegon plan is formulated.
November 2003: Muskegon Mall demolition begins, community debates what “historic” buildings to save.
May 2004: Charter Development abandons downtown plans, DMDC takes over as developer.
May 2005: Public funding is secured to rebuild street system.
December 2006: West Western Avenue reopened through the mall property including a new traffic circle at Third and Western.
June 2007: First Taste of Muskegon downtown event held.
July 2007: Hegg’s Furniture Gallery opens in historic Muskegon Century Club building and first Muskegon Bike Time downtown event held.
June 2008: Highpoint Flats Condominiums announced for former Comerica Bank tower.
July 2008: The Hines Building opens, the first new facility in the redeveloping downtown and Heritage Square Town Homes begin to be built.
August 2008: The Sidock Building opens.
October 2008: MAC restaurant/sports bar opens in former National City Bank building
September 2009: Baker College’s Culinary Institute of Michigan opens and the Third Street Promenade takes shape.
Hackley Sculpture Unveiling
Bronze statue of patron lumber baron will oversee his park
By Marla Miller | Muskegon Chronicle
October 04, 2009, 3:50AM
MUSKEGON — It is folklore that Charles Hackley’s ghost haunts Hackley Public Library.
A park, school and art collection he helped establish also are in the same block.
This is the clay (pre-bronzed) version of artist Bill Duffy’s Hackley sculpture, which will be arriving in Muskegon this week.
So it makes sense to place a sculpture of Muskegon’s most prominent founding father in the same vicinity, as if he is keeping watch on the city.
Downtown workers, visitors and students at the new Culinary Institute of Michigan will even get to sit down and chill beside the bronze likeness of the millionaire lumber baron who called Muskegon home until his death in 1905.
The full-body sculpture of Hackley sitting on a park bench, eyeing his park, will be unveiled during a special ceremony. It will be secured on the plaza area in front of the CIM building.
The sculpture is another project of Downtown Muskegon Development Corp.’s Public Art Committee, which also made possible the Richard Hunt “Muskegon, Together Rising” sculpture in the traffic circle.
“Peter Turner really brought it to our attention that there was not a Charles Hackley statue in this community,” said Patricia Johnson, Public Art Committee chairwoman. “Peter deserves a great deal of credit for this.”
IF YOU GO
• What: Charles Hackley sculpture unveiling.
• When: 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8.
• Where: Corner of Third and Clay, in front of Baker College’s new Culinary Institute of Michigan building.
• Program: Music by Muskegon High School Big Reds band members, remarks by Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington and downtown Public Art Committee members, including retired businessman and the main financial contributor, Peter Turner, and Lakeshore Museum Center Executive Director John McGarry. Refreshments will follow on the CIM plaza.
Turner, also a Public Art Committee member and retired businessman, donated the money for the sculpture — around $70,000. There are several busts of Hackley, but no full statues. Turner made the connection four years ago after visiting Petoskey and seeing a statue of Ignatius Petoskey, for whom that city was named, overlooking the bay.
“I thought the community ought to be reminded of what one man did for this city,” said Turner, who moved to Muskegon in 1972 from Canada. “Hackley in many ways really made Muskegon. He put so much of his money back into the city.”
The sculpture is a long overdue tribute to Hackley’s generosity to Muskegon and his vision for moving it from a lumbering community to an industrialized city. Hackley was influenced by Andrew Carnegie’s philosophy that people of great wealth had an obligation to give back to their communities through philanthropy, Turner said. Carnegie encouraged the wealthy to build institutions that would improve quality of life.
Upon Hackley’s death, he bequested $150,000 to purchase artworks “of the best kind” for a room in the library. When it was decided the proper climate was not available to preserve them, the former Hackley Art Gallery and now Muskegon Museum of Art was built with his bequest money.
“What a vision he had for this city at that time,” Turner said. “He built a truly world-class art gallery in this almost frontier city.”
Two others also made financial contributions: Susan Clink and Toni Reynolds heard about the project and, unsolicited, made donations which covered the cost of the park bench and plaque, said Chris McGuigan, president of Community Foundation for Muskegon County and a Public Art Committee member.
The sculpture was designed to take wear and tear and be approachable, interactive and fun, she said. People are encouraged to sit on the bench beside Hackley and take photographs with him.
“This sculpture will educate us, inspire us, as well as add beautiful representational art to our downtown,” McGuigan said. “Because of the way he is posed, it’s easy to imagine him actually present, like a witness. His ‘presence’ makes me very aware that everything he built still endures today — and makes me hope that the things we are building today also last for hundreds of years.”
John McGarry, also a Public Art Committee member and executive director of Lakeshore Museum Center, researched and selected photos of Hackley for the sculpture. The representation is an older Hackley at the “height of his prowess and philanthropy,” McGarry said.
McGarry also sought out the artist to complete the project. The sculptor is William “Bill” Duffy of Baltimore.
McGarry had a set of reproduction clothing made that Hackley commonly wore for the artist to use while making the clay mold and visited him in Baltimore to see his progress. No one on the committee has yet to see the finished work. The artist is driving it to Muskegon this week, McGarry said.
Lakeshore Museum Center curators will do the annual cleaning and conservation of the statue. They already take care of the ones Hackley paid for in Hackley
Hackley Library Uses Match Day Funds
Original Hackley Library furniture to be refurbished
by Lynn Moore | The Muskegon Chronicle
Monday September 07, 2009, 9:54 PM
MUSKEGON -- A loveseat and two chairs that are original to the 119-year-old Hackley Public Library will be refurbished thanks to a day of fundraising.
The furniture has beckoned library visitors to relax with a good read in front of the fireplace in the library's Julia Hackley Room.
But lately, the furniture that is well used has started to show its wear.
"They're not that comfortable because you're kind of worried whether you might land on the floor or not," library Director Martha Ferriby said of the chairs.
So the library is using part of the $2,257 it received during "Match Day" to reupholster the three pieces that came with the library when Charles H. Hackley donated it to the community in 1890.
"When you think about the fact the chairs have lasted that long, it's amazing," Ferriby said.
Lakeside Canvas & Upholstery is expected to remove the chairs and loveseat today and work on the furniture for about six weeks, Ferriby said. The new fabric, which will go on seats, backs and arms, will be "consistent with Victorian ideas" but "wear like iron," she said.
On Match Day, which was May 28, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County pledged to provide a 50-cent match for every $1 donated to qualifying nonprofit organizations.
"It's wonderful," Ferriby said of the money that was directed to the library, a tiny share of the $515,000 that was raised that day.
The library also will use its Match Day money to refurbish a display case that will finally have a permanent home in the Julia Hackley Room, which is named after Charles Hackley's wife and is used as a quiet reading and study area.
"It's gotten kind of ratty too," Ferriby said of the display case. "The wood veneer is coming off in places. It's kind of a mess, to tell you the truth."
The case was donated to the library at least 40 years ago by Amstore, she said. It has been moved to various locations in the library.
Great Lakes Furniture Restoration will refurbish the case, changing its finish from a light oak to a darker tone that will match the woodwork in the Julia Hackley Room.
The case is expected to be returned to the library by mid or late October.
Hackley Park Fence Restoration
Fence restoration a monumental task
By Dave Alexander | The Muskegon Chronicle
Thursday, September 03, 2009
MUSKEGON -- It's a move that would make Charles Hackley proud.
A new fence -- complete with replica end posts and caps -- soon will grace the 120-year-old Soldiers and Sailors monument in the center of downtown Muskegon's Hackley Park, thanks to the former Hackley Heritage Association.
The old fence was removed this week by Mark Ferguson, a welder with Ark Welding of North Muskegon. He and Duane Seaver of VanVoorthuyzen Iron Works of Muskegon will assemble and install the new replica fence in about two weeks.
The Hackley Park fence design was recreated by Lee Brown and Paul Franklyn of AccuTech Solutions of Muskegon, including a facsimile of the missing corner posts from research of historic photographs. The foundry pattern was built by Nova Pattern of Montague, and Ruben Llano of New Era, a master carver, added original details and the corner posts and caps to the pattern.
Mark Fazakerley, co-owner and president of Eagle Alloy of Muskegon, has been managing what could be about a $50,000 historic restoration project. A cast-iron restoration company -- OK Foundry Co. Inc. of Richmond, Va. -- has fabricated the 85 sections of the Hackley Park fence and the four missing corner posts and caps.
Those materials will be shipped to Muskegon in the next week.
"The corners of the fence have been gone for more than 40 years, and the remaining fence was in terrible shape ... it was coming apart at the seams," Fazakerley said. "In the end, this is going to be just terrific."
When the fence parts arrive at Eagle Alloy next week, they will be sent to Global Gauge and Tool Co. in Fruitport for machining and powdercoat painting, Fazakerley said. The fence will be installed in the next two weeks, he said.
Jon Colburn -- the last president of the Hackley Heritage Association, which disbanded after 40 years at the end of 2008 -- will plan a public dedication that is expected to include a Charles Hackley family member. Hackley was the lumber baron and community benefactor who donated Hackley Park to the city of Muskegon, among dozens of other community gifts.
Over the years, the Hackley Heritage Association has saved the Hackley and Hume homes, now part of the Lakeshore Museum Center, among other preservation projects. It ended operations with 37 members and a Community Foundation for Muskegon County endowment fund of $100,000.
Those association funds will pay for the fence restoration in Hackley Park, with the remainder being granted to the Lakeshore Museum Center, the former Muskegon County Museum, members have said.
Dozens of people have inquired about the old park fencing, with many eyeing the old cast iron material for personal garden uses, Fazakerley said.
The final decision on what to do with the old fence will be made by the Muskegon City Commission, in consultation with the Lakeshore Museum Center, Fazakerley said. Former association members will keep the historic fencing pieces in safe storage until a decision on their future is made by the city.
Meinert Park Expansion
Grant will help to expand Meinert Park Meinert Park
By Chad D. Lerch | The Muskegon Chronicle
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
The dunes at Meinert Park in White River Township. Muskegon County has received a $428,300 grant to purchase 95 acres for a park expansion.
Muskegon County officials have received a $428,300 grant through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund to purchase 95 acres for an expansion of Meinert Park.
The land in White River Township, in the county's northwest corner, is described by officials as "rugged dune forest and wetlands" that will be used for hiking and wildlife observation.
Right now, the land is owned by the Dekker and Rottman families. But a purchase agreement is in place to sell the land to Muskegon County to expand the park to the south.
"I foresee this being a super addition to the county park system," said Ken Mahoney, chairman of the county board, who represents Montague.
The purchase could be completed this fall, officials said.
But first, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan will launch a public fundraiser in September for the local matching funds required to complete the grant.
April Scholtz, land protection director for the organization, said pledges already total $140,000; the fundraiser goal is $196,700.
Donations won't be raised just in Muskegon County, Scholtz said. Donors across the country, including supporters of the conservancy group, will help the cause, officials said.
Donors also support the cause of keeping the 95 acres in its natural state for migratory birds and butterflies that "rely on areas like this to recharge up and down the coastline," Scholtz said.
"People are already calling to ask how they can donate," Mahoney said.
The expansion will more than double the size of the county's Meinert Park, which currently includes a beach, restroom, stream and camping area. The 95 acres being purchased includes "wonderful stretches of rugged dune forest and really interesting wetlands," Scholtz said.
"It's a place hikers would appreciate."
Meanwhile, the Land Conservancy has scheduled two hikes Oct. 3 when residents can learn more about the project. A "gentle" hike for families and a "rugged" tour for advanced hikers will explore steep hillsides, officials said. The hikes start at 10 a.m.
How to help
Public donations will go toward the local match for the property purchase at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan's Web site, naturenearby.org; or by sending a check to the agency's office, 1345 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 324, Grand Rapids, MI, 49505. Donations also may be given to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.
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