Niles approves new Outdoor Hub location

Published 7:57 pm Monday, September 12, 2022

NILES — The Niles Outdoor Hub has found its new home in a familiar place.

The Nile City Council voted Monday to dedicate approximately 44 feet of the approximate 66 feet right-of-way on Second Street between Main Street and the north alley for improvement as an outdoor space to further economic development in downtown Niles.

This move dedicates the area of Second Street between Main Street and the north alley for the creation of outdoor public space while maintaining two lanes of traffic unless the Council approves an event application that authorizes the closure of the roadway.

The plan has been in development since before the Niles City Council voted in January to close the controversial Niles Outdoor Downtown Experience, a seating, gathering, and small events area centered between the north alley and North 2nd Street. 

“I’m really excited,” said Downtown Development Authority/Niles Main Street administrator Lisa Croteau. “I’m looking forward to it coming back and I think that a lot of people are.”

The right of way in this area is approximately 66 feet, which will include 22 feet for two lanes of traffic and 44 feet for outdoor public space. Engineering and design will begin so that this outdoor space can be incorporated into the streetscape plan for next spring. The Council will be provided the design for authorization prior to publishing a request for proposal.

On Aug. 1, the DDA board recommended the Council to set this area aside for this use and improvement. On Aug. 8, the City Council hosted a Committee of the Whole to receive comments and review the request.

The DDA decided to pursue a Second Street location for the outdoor hub due a number of factors, including:

•Central location

•Visibility from road, businesses and residents

•Availability of utilities

•Close to public restrooms

•Proximity to ample parking in city owned lots

•Only takes seven parking spots

•Flat ground to all amenities

While the community embraced the continuance of an outdoor public space in the downtown, it also wanted an improved atmosphere. This led to a Michigan Economic Development Corporation Winter Cities grant that surveyed the community and provided conceptual renderings of public outdoor spaces. 

MEDC’s consultants recommended keeping the area on Second Street between Main and the north alley but instead of closing this area off, improve it and allow for occasional event closures.

Once the layout of the space is determined, the DDA will work with the Niles Main Street Design Committee to form a Project Design Team, with input and approval from the Local Historic District, to take all of the input that has been received to actually design the aesthetics of the space. 

According to Croteau, The DDA has $30,000 earmarked for the project and plans to use funds from the Revitalization and Placemaking grant it was recently awarded. She added that  local foundations have expressed interest in investing up to $75,000 for creation of a NODE space. With the location approved, the DDA will reach out to them again to see if they are still interested in participating.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.