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Ideas for possible downtown Niles projects revealed

Published 9:10am Friday, January 24, 2014

Niles’ director of community development provided a glimpse of a possible future for downtown to the city’s planning commission Monday, including plans to relocate Amtrak’s right-of-way maintenance facility on Wayne Street.

Juan Ganum told the planning commission that none of the plans are official. All are concepts.

“This captures a lot of the ideas of what we are working on in city hall,” Ganum said. “I’d like us to use it as a springboard to create something. … It gives us the opportunity to talk about projects.”


Amtrak Maintenance Facility

Prior to Thanksgiving, Ganum said city officials met with local legislators and individuals from the department of transportation and Amtrak to revisit the idea of relocating Amtrak’s right-of-way maintenance facility, which is located across from the train station at the corner of Fifth and Wayne streets.

Ganum said the facility would have to be relocated if the city wishes to develop the area near there. The discussion was spurred, he said, when Amtrak erected a new building there recently.

“That got us thinking in city hall. … The last thing we want to see is for them to spend more money at that location because that will entrench Amtrak even more,” he said. “Before they spend too much more we want to revisit the idea of relocating them.”

Ganum said there is no schedule for relocation. The only thing agreed upon at the meeting, he said, was to discuss the idea.


Student involvement

Architecture students from Andrews University will prepare designs for possible development on a block of land south of Wonderland Theatre that is bounded by Riverfront Park and the streets of Front, Sycamore and Ferry.

“It’s a design exercise to stimulate some discussion about what the possibilities are for that block,” Ganum said. “I think it will help us see opportunities that don’t exist right now.”

The block has three property owners, including the city of Niles.

Ganum said the city could use those designs to attract a developer.


Second Street tech corridor

Ganum told the planning commission that the city recently opened bids for the installation of fiber infrastructure that would connect all city buildings. The fiber, he said, would run up and down North Second Street near city hall.

“We are thinking we might be able to use that fiber infrastructure to attract high-tech businesses,” he said.

Ganum also said plans are moving forward for the demolition of the former YMCA building and the partial demolition of the former public safety building on Broadway.

Prior to Ganum’s presentation, the planning commission elected officers for 2014.

Marie Weimer was elected chairman and Brian Thomas vice chairman.

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