By Tom Tolen /

A fire pit at Mill Pond Park where people can gather, warm their hands around the fire and engage in conversation is scheduled to be a part of the 2023 Brighton Streetscape project.

At its monthly meeting last week, the Brighton Downtown Development Authority conceptually approved the fire pit, with a cost estimate in the neighborhood of $18,000. The DDA will finance the estimated $6.5 million Streetscape program — the most ambitious project in the DDA’s history — through bonding.

DDA Board Chairman Tim Corrigan tells WHMI the water main project should be completed around April 1st, with the Streetscape plan to start shortly afterward. The project will take place primarily along West Main, from East St. to Second, and Grand River, between St. Paul and North streets.

The Streetscape project will result in regular lane closures, with the work resulting in a narrowing of Main St. and an expansion of sidewalks. New crosswalks, benches, directional signs, improved lighting, bicycle parking areas and updated landscaping will also be part of the project. Among plans for Mill Pond Park are a park square with fire pit, benches and other amenities near the Main St. entrance.

In choosing a fire pit design, city officials will meet via Zoom with officials from communities that have them to see how the fire pits have worked out. One of those communities is Holland, MI, where an elevated fireplace, as it is called, is situated at an intersection in the heart of downtown. Holland DDA spokeswoman Jill Raywood tells WHMI that the fireplace has been a very popular attraction for both residents and visitors in the touristy town of 35,000, known nationally for its Dutch history. The Holland fireplace is normally in operation from November through April.

Raywood says, “It’s a natural gathering spot; it was a gift from the property owners with the understanding that (the city) would maintain it.” Raywood says the fireplace turns on automatically when the temperature reaches a certain point and, although it normally operates in winter, will also activate on cool evenings at other times of the year. Its normal hours of operation are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. from Nov. to April. The fireplace, which is elevated, uses natural gas and there are heated benches around it.

The Brighton officials will also be investigating the fire pit in Milford, which was just completed in time for the 2022 holiday shopping season. Milford DDA Director Ann Barnette tells WHMI the fire pit is actually placed on the base of a fountain that is removed with the aid of a fork lift in the fall to make way for what she calls the “semi-portable" firepit. According to Barnette the steel-and-glass fire pit has been a rousing success, saying, “It has definitely activated the area for wintertime.”

Corrigan says the DDA will work with Lindhout Associates architects to come up with a design and is expected to formally approve the proposal at its April meeting.
While some commenters on a local social media site say a fire pit would be dangerous, Corrigan says safety will be the most important factor to be dealt with in coming up with a design, especially in consideration of its proximity to the pond.

In regard to the Streetscape Plan, Corrigan says the DDA will strive to ensure that there is as little disruption to normal downtown activities as possible.

Shirley Warren, who currently lives in Milford but is originally from Brighton, tells WHMI she’d like to see a fire pit in Brighton. Warren said, in her words, “Brighton is such a beautiful town when the lights are all aglow in the winter, especially around the holidays. It would be nice to have somewhere warm to sit and take it all in.”

1st Photo: Milford fire pit; 2nd photo: Holland fireplace