City acquires additional Commercial Street property

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yet another piece of property in Dowagiac’s downtown will soon be under new ownership — with city hall.

Dowagiac City Council approved an agreement to purchase the property containing the former Westrate & Thomas law office, located at 204 Commercial St., during their meeting Monday evening at city hall. Per the terms of the agreement, the city will acquire the building and surrounding property for $105,000.

The acquisition is the third such property purchase the city has made on Commercial Street this year. In addition to purchasing a piece of residential property located near the intersection of Commercial and Division in late September, the city also bought the property containing the Weaver Insurance building — located next to the Westrate building — in February.

“[This purchase] will complete the purchase of the entire block, from the alley to New York Avenue, and set it up so that redevelopment plans can be developed and executed in that area,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson.

While the purchase and management of real estate is old hat for city hall, which in the past has developed and sold downtown property such as the building now containing The Wood Fire restaurant, this recent rash of acquisitions caused Dowagiac resident Diane Barrett-Curtis to ask the council for their rationale for doing so Monday night.

“There’s a lot of property being acquired by the city, and I just don’t know what the purpose of it is,” Barrett-Curtis said during the public comment portion of the council meeting. “If there is a plan, and I’m assuming there is…I would like to what some of these plans are.”

In response to her question, Mayor Don Lyons said that the city is purchasing these properties as part of their long-term strategy to improve the appearance of some of the entryways into Dowagiac’s downtown business district. The mayor mentioned the area around Commercial, Division and New York as a particular area of concern, with awkward intersections, several derelict properties and a small amount of parking spaces, he said.

“Our plan is to address some of those less than attractive areas, so that as somebody is coming into the town and they go past Burke Park and Farr Park, what they’re seeing is that at every intersection there’s a nice developed look there,” Lyons said.

The city has been working with Benton Harbor-based engineering and design firm Wightman & Associates in recent months to come with plans on how to redevelop the Commercial Street area, which should be finalized in the next several months, Lyons said.

Other business conducted by council Monday included:

• Resolution to authorize a $5 credit incentive for utility customers to use e-billing and eft payment options.

• Resolution authorizing updates to the City of Dowagiac Personnel Policy Manual.

• Resolution to authorize a Proposal for Professional Services for a groundwater investigation of the aquifer near the former landfill on Nubour Road.

• Resolution to authorize accepting and dedicating roadways and utilities located within the Dowagiac Business Park as public streets and public utilities.

• Resolution to authorize a Utility Extension Agreement with Creative Foam.

• Approval of payment of the city’s outstanding bills and payroll, in the amount of $892,756.