December 12, 2019

Conversion of old laundromat location into a “gathering place” in early planning stages


WEST BRANCH — Plans are in motion to convert the location of the former laundromat on the south side of Houghton Avenue just off the corner of 4th Street in West Branch into “The Gathering Place,” an area with a pavilion, seating and a fire pit for public use.

The building on the property, which was purchased by the City of West Branch for $26,000, was torn down July 31. Demolition and environmental review of the property was paid for through grant funding by the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.

Language in the grant stipulated the property be used as a public space, rather than being sold or converted into a parking lot, according to West Branch Downtown Development Authority Chair Samantha Fabbri.

“The point of “The Gathering Place” is for people to come together,” Fabbri said. “The intent is for it to be a natural place where people can hang out.“

Fabbri said the DDA is currently handling the project as a part of West Branch Project Rising Tide.

Project Rising Tide is a statewide collaborative program spearheaded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Talent Investment Agency and Michigan State Housing Development Team. Fabbri currently serves as the West Branch Project Rising Tide Fellow.

Fabbri said a general outline of what the DDA envisions for the space, including several pavillion and fire pit designs, has been submitted to Beckett and Raeder, an architecture, planning, engineering and environmental services firm based in Ann Arbor that has been commissioned for Project Rising Tide plans across the state. She said the cost of site planning for the project is being covered by Project Rising Tide.

“This is part of being involved in the (Project Rising Tide) program,” Fabbri said. “They’re a wonderful tool and resource that we’re receiving, and it’s paid for by the state.”

Once the DDA receives initial drawings back from Beckett and Raeder, Fabbri said they can begin identifying projected costs. She said the DDA is considering various grants and fundraising efforts to pay for the project.

The shape and location of the property makes planning problematic, given its asymmetrical shape and close proximity to the railroad. Fabbri said the DDA submitted a variety of ideas to Beckett and Raeder to find out what may or may not work for the space.

“We gave them at least a dozen pavilion and fire pit ideas that we like,” Fabbri said. “Once we know exactly what we’re working with and what we want, then we can move forward.”

Fabbri said she hopes to see the project move forward in the next year, but a definite time frame is yet to be established.


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I like the idea of this gathering place....... but having a fire pit. What could go wrong with that?

Wednesday, November 27 | Report this

How about using the spot for the farm market? That way third street would be allowed to stay open in the summer.

Friday, November 29 | Report this

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