Niles Council ponders proposals for city property

Published 7:12 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2003

By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Niles City Council is not ready to make any decisions, but heard Monday night from four parties interested in purchasing and developing the vacant lot on the northwest corner of Fifth and Main Streets.
The four interested parties are Leader Publications, Family Fashions, Inc., Turna Inc. and Dr. Gerald Bieneman, DDS.
At Monday's committee of the whole meeting each party was asked to present its proposal for the development of the 0.25-acre lot at 413 East Main Street, proof of financing and estimated time lines.
Family Fashions Inc., a Niles-based company, was represented by vice president Kendall Chrismon. His proposal included a family buffet style restaurant along with two clothing stores and some off-street parking.
Chrismon pointed out he is attempting to contact Aalf's Petroleum of Buchanan in order to seek the purchase of the adjacent lot. If the adjacent lot cannot be purchased, Chrismon plans to scale down the project but still include a restaurant and two clothing stores.
The Chrismons said their project, if approved, could be completed by spring 2005.
Bhola Singh of Turna, Inc. which owns 7 Days Party Place, proposed a one- or two-story office building with off-street parking. While Singh would prefer a one-story building for financial reasons, he said he was open to the possibility of a two-story project.
Elizabeth Bradford, chairwoman of the Niles Downtown Development Authority's Design Committee, said the committee would recommend any office building on that lot be at least two stories in keeping with the rest of the downtown buildings.
Bradford also pointed out that the Downtown Development Authority has possible plans for a two-story office building, prepared by architecture students at Andrews University and would be happy to share those with Singh.
Singh did not estimate a finish date but said he would wait until spring to begin construction.
Jan Griffey, Leader Publications editor and vice president, represented Leader Publications Monday night and presented the company's proposal of a parking lot for employees of the newspaper company.
Leader Publications is parent company of this newspaper and also publishes the Dowagiac Daily News, Edwardsburg Argus, Cassopolis Vigilant and The Leader, a free-distribution, weekly shoppers' guide.
Leader Publications' plan would also include at some point improving the building facades facing Main Street and Fourth Street.
Leader Publications is negotiating to purchase the building in which its offices are located in downtown Niles, from Deb Campbell, widow of the late Murray Campbell, a Niles attorney and civic leader. The purchase of the building is contingent on the company being able to acquire the corner lot at Fifth and Main, said a letter sent to the council from Leader Publications Publisher Doug Phares.
Griffey was unable to give the council a timeline for completing the project.
Finally, Bieneman presented a plan to build either a modern dental facility or possibly a medical complex. Bieneman, who now practices at 10 North State Street, said a two-story building would be feasible but said his practice would most likely occupy only the ground floor.
Bieneman's estimated date of completion for such a project is summer 2006.
The Downtown Development Authority was asked by Mayor Mike McCauslin to provide a recommendation to the council at the meeting on Wednesday at 8 a.m.