Lake Center District Progress Updates
FY22-28 Capital Improvement Program
In Spring 2022, the Planning Commission and City Council approved the FY22-28 City of Portage Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP includes approximately 16 projects in and around the Lake Center District, which are scheduled over the six-year plan and total approximately $32.9 million dollars in capital improvements for the area. The CIP, which includes project descriptions, maps, and financial details can be reviewed online at this link.
Master Plan Update
The city is currently beginning a Master Plan Update. A Master Plan is a citywide policy document outlining the community’s vision for the future and is the basis for influencing future land use, quality of life, economic development, zoning, and other regulatory ordinances. The Michigan Planning Enabling Act 33 of 2008 requires a local government in Michigan to assess its current master plan every five years to decide if the plan requires updating. The city’s plan was last fully updated in 2014 and is in need of updating to meet the state act and to reflect the current and future needs. The Lake Center District is an established “subarea” within the 2014 citywide plan. While it remains a dedicated subarea in the current Master Plan Update, the approved Lake Center District Corridor and Placemaking Study (2021) will serve as the subarea plan, and be incorporated into the Master Plan document. Many opportunities will exist for public involvement and input throughout the 18-month citywide Master Plan Update process to participate online and in person.
Forest Drive Traffic Signal
The design for the new traffic signal at Forest Drive is underway, as well as the required work related to easements and reconfiguration of access. Signal construction is projected for late 2023, subject to the necessary relocation of underground utilities by Consumer’s Energy.
Scheduled road reconstruction on Portage Road north of the Lake Center District will occur in 2023 from Centre Avenue to Romence Road. The project includes the replacement of the traffic signal at Romence Road and Portage Road.
The city is preparing to release an RFP for the design and engineering of the first phase of the Lakeview Park Renovation Project, which includes a boardwalk along the north side of the park. It is anticipated the contract will be awarded in early 2023.
At the May 24, 2022, City Council meeting, the purchase of 9138 Portage Road (formerly West Lake Drive-In) was approved. Since the acquisition, city staff met onsite with the Portage District Library historian, and all items identified as having historic value were removed for safekeeping. The physical building has most recently undergone abatement for lead paint and asbestos. Demolition of the building structure is anticipated to occur this winter.
At the July 27, 2021, City Council meeting, the purchase of 9617 Portage Road and 2010 Woodbine Avenue was approved. For the FY22-23 fiscal year, the Council identified strategic goals to guide budget decisions and prioritize projects to be both ambitious and fiscally responsible. One of the Council’s strategic goals is to “attract residential development that provides a mixture of housing for all income levels.” The October edition of The Portager provided additional insight into the need for housing, the County Housing Plan, and the variety of tools the city intends to use to create housing opportunities. Current economic conditions are such that home ownership is not attainable for many residents. The City Council and City Administration are working to identify partners to help create a workforce housing development at 9617 Portage Road. “Workforce Housing” is a term that represents homes that are attainable for middle-class residents such as teachers, firefighters, nurses, or manufacturing workers, and are designated by a range of income levels established by the State of Michigan. To support the project, the city identified a variety of funding mechanisms. To apply for Kalamazoo County ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, a concept plan for 9617 Portage Road was developed. The concept plan is not final and serves to provide an example of what may be possible. As a result of the application, the City of Portage was recently awarded $500,000 of Kalamazoo County ARPA funds. Additionally, City Council designated $1 million of the $5 million ARPA dollars received by the city toward workforce housing development. This project remains in the early phases and will undergo the city’s standard review, public noticing, and approval processes.
Lake Center District Corridor and Placemaking Study implementation plans are detailed in Section 5 of the study, beginning on page 90. The Year One Action Plan comprises planned and budgeted activities for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 (July 1, 2021- June 30, 2022) and low-hanging fruit opportunities to immediately activate and improve specific areas of the corridor.
The following status updates are provided for the Year One Action Plan as of November 15, 2021. They reflect actions achieved in the five months since the plan was unanimously accepted by the Portage City Council on July 13, 2021:
- Action: Portage Road Right-of-Way Decisions from Steering Committee and City Council
- Status: Completed.
On July 13, 2021, the Portage City Council unanimously accepted the Lake Center District Corridor and Placemaking Study and approved Portage Road Scenario #3, found on page 64 of the study. The Lake Center District Steering Committee expressed unanimous support of the plan in April 2021, detailed in the Committee’s Letter of Support which appears in the front of the study.
- Action: Design and Install Traffic Signal at Forest Drive/Portage Road
- Action: Negotiate Priority Land Acquisitions
- Status: In Progress.
On July 27, 2021, the Portage City Council approved the property acquisition of 9303 Portage Road. The transfer of ownership occurred on September 10, 2021. The purpose of the strategic land acquisition is Lakeview Park expansion and gateway enhancements.
The City of Portage engaged in discussions with the property owner of the former West Lake Drive-In (9138 Portage Road). The property owner will retain ownership of this property. Any future development proposed at 9138 Portage Road would undergo the city’s standard development review and approval processes.
- Action: Gateway and Landscaping Improvements
- Status: In Progress.
In addition to the property acquisition of 9303 Portage Road (detailed above), gateway and landscaping improvements will be considered during the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and City budget cycle in early 2022. Both the CIP and City budget undergo review and require final approval by the Portage City Council.