Sept. 6 2018 10:17 AM

City Council supports renovation project


Lansing could soon be on the lookout for some extra cash. City Council this week gave the go-ahead to seek a $1.7 million federal grant that aims to jumpstart a long-sought plan to help “transform” Adado Riverfront Park.

An Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership grant could fund just shy of half the cost to begin the first phase of renovations, easing the financial weight of the city’s first steps into the multi-million dollar undertaking. The only snag: If the National Park Service likes the idea, the city needs to pay nearly $1 million to make it work.

Parks and Recreation Director Brett Kaschinske said the matched grant cash would be a small step in what could eventually tally to be a $20 million overhaul at the park. He suggested the city would need to find “creative” ways to fund the entire vision, but he hopes to create “a real destination, a real crown jewel” for downtown Lansing.

“It’s a great resource that we have in this city,” Kaschinske added. “It can be used on a daily basis for our residents and bring in people from all over the region. This, again, is going to be a whole group effort. Whether it’s administration or City Council, it’s a conversation we’re all going to have to better this space.”

City Council members OK’d an application this month for the grant application, which offers a six-digit infusion to get help the ball rolling. The state Department of Natural Resources will select up to three of those applications from across Michigan to submit next month. But some were cautious to take a financial leap.

The process required a city-stamped resolution to “diligently pursue” additional funding from both public and private sector partners. Council President Carol Wood checked in with City Attorney Jim Smiertka to confirm there was no real cash commitment before supporting a plan to fund 57 percent of the costs.

“No offense, Brett, but we’ve been down this road where we thought we were doing one thing but it came out that we were doing something different,” she added, before the unanimous vote to pursue the federal grant cash.

Kaschinske said the west side of the park routinely retains water, which requires some excavation before plans can begin. A large hill inside will need to be taken out before the existing paved areas and field spaces can be converted into a broad “West Plaza” pavilion and surrounding event lawn, like listed in the grant application.

“Right now it’s kind of this big, flat, open space,” said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “If you go to any big city where they’ve got a park, it’s an active space. You want people to be able to go there and have lunch or swing by after work. It’d be nice to have people there on the weekends with some extra concerts or comedians.”

Kaschinske suggested local nonprofits could help front some of the costs in a project that could eventually lead to a permanent stage for events like the Common Music Festival, expanding the space to draw in larger crowds. The project, eventually, is also geared to include a variety of utility improvements to handle the growth.

“Power, water, drainage, all the things that make a park more usable and cost effective,” said Scott Keith, president and CEO of the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority. “If we can get some pieces moving to move the park into a position where it’s used more frequently, it will continue to grow from there.”

The nationally competitive grant application — billed to “help the public to access or re-connect with the outdoors, particularly in city neighborhoods that lack parks and recreational opportunities” — is due Sept. 14. The city doesn’t need to come up with the cash immediately; that can be worked out as selection continues.