Bids for Center Street project lower than expected

The reconstruction of five blocks along Center Street in downtown South Haven is scheduled to begin next week at the northern end, by Williams Street. The project will include a vertical garden wall, or “living wall,” on the east side of the Chemical Bank building, shown in the upper left-hand corner of the photo. 

SOUTH HAVEN — South Haven city officials are beginning to anticipate the many headaches associated with the upcoming reconstruction of downtown’s Center Street. But one pleasant surprise has emerged. The project may not be as expensive as originally projected.

“Bids came in significantly below the engineer’s estimate,” City Manager Brian Dissette said this week.

Engineers tapped the cost of roadway, utility and streetscape improvements along Center Street between Michigan Avenue and Williams Street at $3.5 million.

However, all six bids came in below that, with the lowest one – $2.7 million – from Kalin Construction, based in Sodus.

“The low bid was 22.1 percent below the engineer’s estimate,” said Corey Kandow of Abonmarche, which is overseeing the Center Street project for the city.

Not only are city officials happy with the low bid, they also have had a good working relationship with Kalin in the past.

“Kalin is someone we have ample experience working with,” Dissette said. “They did the reconstruction of Monroe and Kalamazoo streets. Kalin is very much a known entity.”

The South Haven City Council plans to award the contract to Kalin, but so far has only given tentative approval.

“This tentative contract will be confirmed upon the completion of the application process for the low interest loans through EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, formerly the Department of Environmental Quality),” Kandow explained.

The city is currently applying for a $1.2 million loan from the state’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund and a $425,000 loan from Michigan’s State Revolving Loan (SRL) program to help pay for the installation of new sewer and water lines.

If approved for the 20-year loan, the city may not have to pay all of it back.

“The SRF includes principal loan forgiveness, essentially a grant,” Dissette said. “We’re planning to borrow $425,000 through principal forgiveness. We anticipate 75 percent will be forgiven at the time of completion.”

Other funding sources for the Center Street reconstruction project are coming from a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $870,000 grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which will be matched with funds from the city’s Downtown Development Authority.

The Center Street project took a big step forward last week when South Haven Planning Commission approved the site plan.

Once completed by Memorial Day of next year, the project on Center Street is expected to look similar to the improvements that took place on Phoenix and Williams streets several years ago.

The project includes not only new sewer and water mains, a new street, sidewalks and landscaping, but also four more parking spaces, wireless internet access, exposed aggregate sidewalks, and new furnishings.

One of the more interesting aspects of the project will be the creation of two “live walls” on the east, exterior facades of the Chemical Bank building.

Live (green) walls have become more popular in urban spaces in recent years. The walls consist of living plants that are planted on surfaces that are then affixed to the walls of buildings. Some of the walls consist primarily of one shade of green, while others contain a variety of different color plantings that are arranged to form designs.

In South Haven’s case the plants will be colorful.

The intent of the current design is to install three different colors of annual flowers in a pattern that resembles an abstract ‘wave,’” said Bill Hunter, Department of Public Works director. “The efficiency of pot removal and replacement allows for redesign of pattern, colors, and textures every year if the city chooses to do so.”