He was born and raised in St. Joe and still has family that lives here. He was a lifeguard on both Silver Beach and Tiscornia Beach, repaired streets in the city, worked residential and commercial garbage routes, and worked on a multitude of projects around town as a seasonal public works employee during his college years. This is still a place he calls home, but it was the overwhelming track record that John Houseal brings to the table as a highly successful and sought after urban planner that is poised to lead him to a contract to return to St. Joe and launch creation of the new Downtown Plan for the city's central business district.
Houseal, who is now President of the nationally recognized, awarding winning urban planning firm Houseal Lavigne of Chicago, is being recommended by the Downtown Plan Steering Committee and city staff members to get the job, beating out a dozen other national and regional firms engaged in the same business.
Houseal's background since graduating from Lake Michigan Catholic High School is an impressive string of successes in comprehensive plans, downtown planning, special area planning, corridor planning, zoning and design guidelines, strategic planning and community retainer services for more than 250 communities in more than 25 states across the country including in communities such as Battle Creek, Flint, Livonia, Saginaw, Traverse City, Walker and West Bloomfield. He has even done comprehensive planning work for Benton Harbor, Niles and the Village of Shoreham among many others.
When the Krasl Art Center in St. Joe first opened nearly 40 years ago, John Houseal was a tour guide there, and he can't wait to get started on the Downtown Plan for St. Joe.
The St. Joseph City Commission will be asked to approve a $102,000 contract with his Houseal Lavigne Associates at tonight's commission meeting so work can get underway to shape the future of the downtown following multiple meetings by the Steering Committee helping identify the wants and needs of the community at large.
Houseal's firm works closely with Sam Schwarz Engineers and Johnson Consulting in crafting plans similar to what they will be charged with if approved by the city tonight.
The scope of the proposed plan would include a repeatedly sought after parking study and a review of Main Street in addition to the central business district and downtown neighborhoods. If the city okays the plan, the money to fund the work of the urban planning team would come from the Capital Improvement Fund budget at city hall.
Houseal himself will be in attendance at the commission meeting tonight to introduce himself and his firm to the commission. He plans to be the Principal-in-Charge for the project and would be involved from the beginning to the end and involved in every aspect of the assignment. The goal would be to have a completed plan by November of 2019.
From Aurora, Colorado to Greater Bridgeport, Connecticut, Houseal Lavigne has deep experience at every level. They've created downtown plans for the likes of Downers Grove, Illinois and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They performed zoning and design guidelines for Chicago, Oak Brook and Northbrook, Illinois and even Muskogee, Oklahoma and Benton Harbor.
A total of 13 proposals were delivered to the city and were studied in great detail by four Steering Committee members and three staffers from the city. They made their recommendation to the full Steering Committee on August 1st. Then four Steering Committee members and three staffers interviewed five finalist firms on August 14th for an hour each, followed by staff contacts to communities who had experienced the work of those firms.
Three front runner firms were all deemed excellent options, equally capable, but Houseal Lavigne rose to the top and will be voted on tonight. Stay tuned.