Public input sought on Niles PlacePlan

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Niles PlacePlan rendering — A plaza envisioned at Front Street on the "Water Street" site.

Niles PlacePlan rendering — A plaza envisioned at Front Street on the “Water Street” site.

What could Niles look like in the future?

A new plan offers an in-depth look at possible development scenarios for three important city-owned properties:

• The “old YMCA site” on the northeast corner of Main and State Streets

• The “old public safety site” at the southwest corner of Third Street and Broadway

• “Water Street block,” on the west side of Front Street between Sycamore and Ferry Streets

The plan, called “Niles PlacePlan: Turn the Corner,” is the subject of a public input session that will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Niles Law Enforcement Complex, which is located at 1600 Silverbrook Ave., in Niles.

The purpose of the public input session is to allow the public a forum in which to express their opinions and learn more about the 100-page plan, which can be viewed in full at

Sanya Phillips, the city’s community development director, said she and other city leaders would use the information and site concepts contained in the plan to market key city-owned properties.

She also said the plan would help the city explore and develop complimentary neighborhood, district and site plans during the upcoming Master Planning process.

“By outlining each of the three site plans in phases, we are able to see what each site and thereby, Niles, could offer and become, as the city, developers and property owners work to implement the plans,” she said.


What is PlacePlans?

PlacePlans is a joint effort between the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan State University, and is led at the state agency level by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). It is a program to help communities design and implement transformative placemaking projects to focus economic development efforts around walkable downtown districts.

Niles’ PlacePlans work began about a year ago when the community was among seven in the state selected to receive technical assistance from university faculty and students, professional consultants and MML staff.

In Niles, MML staff facilitated work on preferred development scenarios and financial estimates for the three aforementioned redevelopment sites.

All three sites overlook the St. Joseph River and sit just beyond the edges of the city’s Main Street district, offering opportunities to grow the active core of the city.

The Niles PlacePlan report includes recommended development scenarios for each of these three properties, including concept plans, renderings, and construction cost estimates, as well as an analysis of zoning changes that will be needed to enable these developments.

The plan also included recommendations for the best use of streets, sidewalks and parking around the target sites.

In addition, the plan also includes a strategy for using these concepts in coordination with a residential target market study and state incentive programs to give development the best chance of success.