Port Huron avoids costly mistake
Isn’t this where we started? When St. Clair County made its misguided decision to purchase the building that had once housed an Art Van grocery store, the property’s proposed fate was an outdoor entertainment venue and parking. Technically, county commissioners justified the purchase with arguments about which county departments would need the parking spaces in the future. And unwrapping the arched roof of the building to turn it into an amphitheater made it recreational.
About $670,000 later, the county still can’t find a productive use or a buyer for the block bounded by Grand River Avenue and Michigan, Fort and Quay streets.
Having failed to learn from the county’s experience, Port Huron City Manager James Freed and the Downtown Development Authority have been tinkering with ideas for the property. The ideas have grown from an open-sided pavilion and park to a grand indoor marketplace anchored by a bar, a restaurant and penthouse views of the downtown parking lots that would surround it.
That dream would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million, with no clear explanation of who would pay for the construction — beyond donations and grants — and who would pay to operate it — no donations and grants for that.
Fortunately, the marketplace got put out of business before any more money went into the grand boondoggle. Thank you, Michelle Jones and Steve Fernandez.
Fernandez and Jones own the Woolworth’s building at Grand River and Huron avenues. Their plans to renovate and revitalize the long-empty building includes putting a grocery store in its ground level space. Instead of dreaming of a store, though, they went out and bought one — Country Style Marketplace on Pine Grove Road in Fort Gratiot.
We have to admit we love Country Style Marketplace. From mustard potato salad and mushroom swiss burgers to Sander’s confections and Michigan wines, the store’s selection, quality and service is hard to match.
It is bad news, though, for anyone who had been hoping to dine at the restaurant atop the Art Van building’s vaulted roof. So, it is back to the drawing board for the county’s property. What is on Freed and the DDA’s drawing board looks a lot like the county’s original premise: Tear down most of what’s there, leave the arched roof and pave the rest for parking. And we’re still not persuaded downtown Port Huron needs another ugly expanse of asphalt for parking. If it does, though, it better come with parking meters.
— Times Herald (Port Huron)