City goal: Seek better partnerships with neighbors

The South Haven City Council has announced its yearly list of goals officials hope to achieve this year.

SOUTH HAVEN — Every year, the South Haven City Council develops a list of priorities members and staff hope to achieve. But this year's list, adopted last week, differs somewhat. Instead of focusing on ways to make improvements within the city's limits, council members are hoping to develop more extensive partnerships with surrounding townships and educational institutions for the betterment of the region as a whole.

One of the goals, for instance, involves improvement of the Interstate 196 Business Loop which includes the streets of Broadway and LaGrange avenues and a strip of M-140 Highway. Vacant older buildings dot portions of the corridor, sidewalks are lacking and overall the business loop doesn't look very appealing as the southern entryway leading to downtown.

“This could be a game changer,” City Manager Brian Dissette said. But the section of the business loop from Aylworth Avenue to Interstate 196 lays in South Haven Township.

“We need to pursue a partnership with South Haven Township,” Dissette said. “There is the potential where a corridor can be set up to provide incentives for redevelopment.”

Another partnership involves the promotion and expansion of workforce training for South Haven area residents.

“We would like to work with education systems to place a greater emphasis on workforce training,” Dissette said. Those educational partnerships would include South Haven Public Schools, Lake Michigan College and Van Buren Intermediate School District's technology center.

The city also hopes to forge better partnerships with South Haven and Casco townships to create more affordable housing for area residents. One possible option within the city limits is redevelopment of the Overton property. The site, located at the corner of Elkenburg Street and Indiana Avenue, once was home to the Overton factory. Several years ago, the city's Local Development Finance Authority purchased the site and demolished the building several years ago. Last year, the city hosted a visioning session with local residents and based on their input developed conceptual drawings of what could be developed at the former factory site in the future – including affordable housing.

“The LDFA has the luxury of making developments themselves, they can sell the property to private entities, or they can partner with the South Haven Housing Commission. There's a lot of ways to redevelop that site,” said Dissette, who anticipates the LDFA and city planning commission will host a joint session later this year to discuss the future of the Overton property.

A fourth partnership involves working with South Haven Public Schools to improve its outdoor sports fields and tennis court.

“This is something that will take a lot of effort,” Dissette said. “If you wish to stay competitive (in attracting families to South Haven) we've got to do better in working with schools to provide excellent recreation options.

The list of city priorities for the fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020, is as follows: 1. Develop affordable housing options; 2 Economic development dfforts; 3. Maritime District maintenance and improvements; 4. Community recreation field improvements; 5. Central Business District maintenance and improvements; 6. Management of Proposal One (legalized marijuana); 7. Public roads and infrastructure improvements and repairs; 8) Parks, public spaces and recreation; 9) Customer service and communication improvements; 10. Board training and professional development.


1. Develop affordable housing options

2. Economic development dfforts

3. Maritime District maintenance and improvements

4. Community recreation field improvements

5. Central Business District maintenance and improvements

6. Management of Proposal One (legalized marijuana)

7. Public roads and infrastructure improvements and repairs

8. Parks, public spaces and recreation

9. Customer service and communication improvements

10. Board training and professional development

*Fiscal year runs from July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020