City proposes new Gaslight master plans

Asha Lewis, Managing Editor

“Summertime Sin City” is how many referred to East Grand Rapids back in the 1830s when it was known for its roadhouses and gambling. From its agricultural roots all the way to its famous amusement park, EGR has observed major changes and may be seeing some more in the years to come.

“You wouldn’t want to wake up one morning and say, ‘wow, we missed something big,’” East Grand Rapids mayor Amna Seibold said. “The world moves so fast these days that we want to do our best to keep up with it.”

To keep up with our ever changing world, the EGR Planning Commission and the City Commission are working together, with the help of MKSK, an award-winning consulting group, on our city’s new Master Plan.

“What they’re bringing to us are suggestions to react to. Having a different eye come in, having somebody with just a different vision come in and make suggestions for upcoming trends lets us look for what we think would be helpful in our city, what we might be missing and how we can best place it in our city,” Seibold said. “We’re doing a lot of comparison with other cities of similar sizes, looking for what we could add that we didn’t have before or that we couldn’t have before.”

Last month, the Planning Commission released sketches of plans for improving Gaslight Village, and were met with mixed reactions from the community. What some failed to notice, however, was that these plans were not set in stone.

“The pictures online are merely suggestions.” Seibold explained. “Almost all the property that they’re talking about is private property. Those pictures were merely a suggestions for the consultants. It doesn’t mean that [Jade Pig Ventures] who own[s] the property wants to do that, [but] we’re trying to keep them engaged and trying to come up with ideas as a city, what is it that we can do?”

Jade Pig Ventures, a real estate investment, development, and property management company, owns not only the Gaslight parking structure, but also the green space just north of it behind D&W Fresh Market.

“I get more questions about that than anything else,” Seibold said. “The city doesn’t own it, so now we’re looking at out Master Plan and that piece of undeveloped space right there among Gaslight and seeing [if] there is a way we can help the people that own that property do something with it. If we weren’t doing this Master Plan that property would just continue to sit there.”

The Master Plan, which is currently just a draft, will be focusing on parking, residential land use around Gaslight Village, and revamping Gaslight Village’s structure – things to help keep our city strong.

“I really love new ideas, so I was thinking ‘that’d be great and that would be great’ but you have to think about what’s realistic and what might be great for a day, but isn’t great for always,” Seibold said.

Although the City Commision and Planning Commision have plenty of help from professionals, they also want to hear from the residents of East Grand Rapids too.

“We want people to see [the plans]; we have it online. We want people to look at it and think about things so we can get their input. Now, compared to ten years ago, more people are online and more people are comfortable being online.” Seibold said.

The Planning Commission, after gaining the approval of the City Commission, will have an open house in February to publicize the Master Plan and then begin the formal review process.

Once adopted, the Master Plan will guide us into the future as a stronger, more successful community here in East Grand Rapids.