SOUTH HAVEN — City officials are proceeding full-steam ahead on applying for a state grant to acquire a marina on prime property on the city's harbor.
After hosting a public hearing on Monday, city council members approved a resolution authorizing staff to seek a $1.875 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to purchase All Seasons Marine.
The marina, which straddles two parcels of land on the northeast and southeast sides of the Dyckman Avenue drawbridge, has been appraised at $2.5 million. If the city obtains the grant from the trust fund, it would have to come up with the 25 percent match – $625,000.
“The purpose of the acquisition is to ensure marine services in the City of South Haven continue to serve the hundreds of vessel owners recreating and conducting business in the harbor,” City Manager Brian Dissette said. “The acquisition aligns with city council’s priorities of fiscal year 2018-19, specifically priority No. 6, 'maritime district maintenance and improvements.'”
City officials became interested in the marina after it went up for sale two years ago because it is one of the few available waterfront properties left in town. The city hired Edgewater Resources of St. Joseph in late 2018 to determine the best use for the two parcels of land while also ensuring public access to the waterfront.
Greg Weykamp of Edgewater Resources, a waterfront design company in St. Joseph, met with the city's harbor commission, planning commission and Downtown Development Authority along with with local residents at three visioning sessions to gather their input. The third one took place March 13.
Making sure that a marina continues to exist at the All Seasons site is the leading priority expressed by residents who attended the sessions.
“There is a lot of passion and interest in retaining marine operations (at the site),” Weykamp said. All Seasons is situated in an ideal location in the city's harbor, and is noted by boaters as one of only two marinas on the south side of the drawbridge that has fueling facilities, a haul-out well and a pump out facility.
Other priorities expressed at the visioning sessions entailed creating a mixed-use commercial development with restaurants; establishing a community sailing center; a waterfront park; an event center; and making sure to include a waterfront edge along the harbor that the public can access.
From the list of priorities, Edgewater Resources came up with five conceptual designs that may induce grant funding from the DNR. All of the designs included marina operations that have indoor storage units for boats, some greater than others. Other plans also included an event center, a community sailing center, park areas, and small-scale shops.
“Notably absent is residential development,” Weykamp said, explaining that there was no interest expressed for homes or condos to be built on the marina property.
The five designs were presented to the public at the February visioning session. They voted on which designs and features they liked best. The results of the voting were then presented at the third session.
Most people favored Proposal B, which includes two new indoor heated facilities for rack boat storage, a community sailing center, green space at the water's edge for use by the public, boating services facility, larger boat slips, space for personal water crafts, outdoor storage and parking, as well as fueling facilities, haul-out well and pump-out facility.
Weykamp, whose company has designed and overseen construction of public and private marinas throughout Michigan and Florida, estimates the Proposal B concept that people favored would cost a total of $7.8 million. The cost includes construction of a new dry-rack building for 168 boats; a new private watercraft building for 120 boats, new wet slips and a winter storage building for boats,.
The price tag seems steep, but Edgewater estimates the marina operation could generate $1.3 million annually in gross revenues, while annual operational expenses are estimated at $520,000.
“You would have approximately $780,000 in net operating income to work with to improve the marina and waterfront,” Weykamp said.
If the city were to obtain a 20-year loan at 4 percent interest to finance the $7.8 million project, the loan payments would be $569,000 per year. With a net operating income of $780,000, the marina would be a profitable venture, Weykamp estimated. It would also generate 29 new jobs.
If the city does not get the DNR trust fund grant, it could pursue other grant options or public/private partnerships.
“The DNR trust fund grant is a starting base,” Weykamp said.
City council members all spoke favorably about acquiring the marina property.
“I think there are times when government needs to step in and take care of the well-being of the community,” council member Joe Reeser said.