The mantra of the American Society of Civil Engineers tells us, “Civil Engineers Make the Difference – They Build the Quality of Life.” The Michigan section of that auspicious group says no single project exemplified that image so much as the revitalized Allegan Riverfront implemented by the Benton Harbor engineering and architecture team at Abonmarche Consultants.
The collaboration of the Allegan Community’s Vision and Abonmarche’s work on the Allegan Riverfront has been awarded the Quality of Life Project of the Year by the Michigan section of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
That prestigious award is presented to the project which most exemplifies the association’s theme, “Civil Engineers Make the Difference – They Build the Quality of Life.” The Allegan Riverfront project was recognized for having positive effects on human lives without adversely affecting the surrounding environment.
The Allegan downtown riverfront is located between picturesque, historic buildings and the Kalamazoo River, but the potential of the area had long been ignored and was nothing more than a series of disinvestment housing, a boardwalk and a rundown parking lot walkway.
Abonmarche capitalized on the existing assets to turn the little-used downtown area into an attraction point for businesses and visitors. Tony McGhee is Vice President of Development Services for Abonmarche. He says, “The Allegan community gave us a great canvas and vision to work with and it has been a pleasure assisting them in bringing this vision to life.” McGhee adds, “Building quality of place has become a buzzword the last few years, but has been at the core of our firm’s values since we started almost four decades ago.”
Objectives of the Allegan project included enhancing of the community’s natural resources through creating a place for people to gather and recreate nestled between the Kalamazoo River and the community’s downtown. To date, three phases of the project have been completed over the past two years.
What had been a dilapidated and little used parking area slowly has been transformed into a destination area for residents and visitors alike. The first phase included the development of a performance stage, landscape improvements and the development of a pedestrian plaza. The second phase included additional park improvements and the installation of a universally accessible canoe and kayak launch. The third phase included the addition of a zip line over the Kalamazoo River and parking improvements.
The fourth and final phase, which is about to begin construction, includes a splash pad, an 18’ long fire pit, additional pedestrian plaza and landscaping as well as the installation of a shade structure and additional tables and seating for people to use while enjoying the area.
The effects of the project are evident all around when one visits the downtown riverfront. From investor interest in purchasing long empty properties, to new business openings, and the increase in both the number of events and the volume of people attending them the community is advancing nicely.
Joel Dye is the Allegan City Manager. He says, “The community’s commitment to investing in the redevelopment of our waterfront has resulted in leveraging numerous new investments in both businesses and properties within our downtown area.” Dye adds, “The attention the riverfront project drew to our community resulted in people seeing all of the other potential we had and the momentum has just continued to carry forward in our downtown.”
Next time you make your way to Allegan, be sure to visit the riverfront neighborhood to see evidence yourself backing the prestigious award given to the community Allegan and their collaborative partners at Abonmarche Consultants headquartered in downtown Benton Harbor.
Photo courtesy of Abonmarche of Benton Harbor.