By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — First, they played a game of “What If” and Southgate City Administrator Brandon Fournier said the “wish list” of improvements to Kiwanis Park quickly found support and — more important — funds.
“We created a master site plan and said, ‘If money weren’t a problem, what would we do?’ We came up with a recommendation for about a half million dollars worth of improvements,” Fournier said.
Plans for the park, located at Trenton and Leroy streets, began with the success of the city’s partnership with the nonprofit Great Lakes Live Steamers, the oversize model train rides that became the centerpiece of Christmas and Halloween celebrations.
“Over the years the popularity has grown,” Fournier said. “It reinvigorated the entire park and made the Downtown Development Authority value the impact the park provided. They wanted to play their part.”
Several months ago, work began on a dream-vision master plan for the park, one that envisioned a new shelter, playscapes, restrooms, lighting, a paved parking lot and other improvements. All told, nearly $500,000 worth of improvements and construction projects were listed, broken into four phases.
Fournier said last week that phase one — an interior restroom, a “train station” shelter, picnic area and loading area — will be the most expensive at about $150,000; the three remaining phases are expected to cost about $100,00 each.
The project was not heavily debated, especially after funding was secured for phase one through the DDA and a private donor in the form of a $20,000 contribution from the family of Southgate Ford owner Walt Oben.
“The parks commission gave unanimous support,” Fournier said, as did the DDA and city council. Contracts were expected to be awarded by Friday for the first phase, and Fournier said construction should begin within a few weeks.
“We should begin construction in about 10 days, and it will be completed by the Halloween run,”Fournier said.
The remaining three phases will take place once continued funding through private donors and grants. Additional “wish list” items include a walking-running path, street lighting, a second pavilion and an additional parking lot.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])