By Jessica Mathews/

The City of Howell is proceeding with a grant project that will bring a new, unique public gathering space downtown.

The City was earlier awarded a Kaboom! Play Everywhere Challenge Grant in an amount of $27,825 and a matching portion of $29,825. The grant was to build a phone app featuring historical city facts, art and fun legends of the downtown as well as a location for a plaza in the greenspace between the Depot Parking Lot and Michigan Avenue.
Around that same time, the City was working to identify a community project that could be used to reallocate an earlier financial contribution from Thai Summit Corporation for lighting at Page Field that was no longer needed. The company agreed to reallocate the money toward the downtown plaza project but while everything was coming together, other factors came into play. Among those was an unsolicited offer from a developer to purchase the Depot lot and the Wetmore Street right-of-way, up to the south railroad property line. That put the grant on hold and staff sought official guidance from Council at the last meeting. The consensus was to move full steam ahead with the grant project and matching funds from Thai Summit. However, the phone app is no longer expected to be included due to cost.

Interim City Manager Erv Suida tells WHMI the grant was going to expire so they wanted input from Council, which decided to proceed with the grant in that location. Suida says the plan is to come up with a nice design for a public gathering spot there and leave lot as a parking lot for now pending a parking study. He noted they also have a lot of other things going on in that general area. Suida says nearby is a Redevelopment Ready Community site that is being looked and marketed, which is kitty corner from that. It’s referred to as the Holkins Block, located between Clinton/Wetmore and Walnut/Center Streets. Suida says the recent decision gives them an opportunity to take a step back, develop the public gathering spot, use the funds from Thai Summit, work with them on developing how it will look and hopefully have a really nice community asset in downtown.

Council agreed there was a need for more family and outdoor spaces. Staff indicated it would not be a park or a playground but rather a plaza and greenspace for people to hang out. During the meeting, it was further noted that Thai Summit has been a very good partner and patient with the City.