Letters

Letters 04-14-14

Benishek Inching

Regarding “Benishek No Environmentalist” I agree with Mr. Powell’s letter to the editor/ opinion of Congressman Dan Benishek’s poor environmental record and his penchant for putting corporate interests ahead of his constituents’...

Climate Change Warning

Currently there are three assaults on climate change. The first is on the integrity of the scientists who support human activity in climate change. Second is that humans are not capable of affecting the climate...

Fed Up About Roads

It has gotten to the point where I cringe when I have to drive around this area. There are areas in Traverse City that look like a war zone. When you have to spend more time viewing potholes instead on concentrating on the road, accidents are bound to happen...

Don’t Blame the IRS

I have not heard much about the reason for the IRS getting itself entangled with the scrutiny of certain conservative 501(c) groups (not for profit) seeking tax exemption. Groups seeking tax relief must be organizations that are operated “primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.”


Home · Articles · News · Features · Reinventing Elberta
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Reinventing Elberta

Danielle Horvath - November 30th, 2006
The renovation of an industrial wasteland is sure to be the talk of Northern Michigan in 2007 when the small town of Elberta undergoes one of the largest waterfront renovation projects to be seen in the region in years.
For this sleepy town on the Lake Michigan coast, the project invites comparisons (albeit on a much smaller level) with that of Bay Harbor in Petoskey with the creation of an extensive residential and marina project on 30 desirable waterfront acres.
Many in the area believe the development will mean Elberta’s return to the glory days of its past with the addition of 300 new jobs and $100 million in private investment.
For over 100 years, Elberta was the industrial hub of Benzie County. Known as South Frankfort until the early 1900s, Elberta’s deepwater port was home to the Ann Arbor railroad car ferries for nearly a century.
Yet, during the 1970s, it was apparent the ferries’ days were numbered, and when the last ship left in 1982, Elberta lost its economic base, its major employer, and much of its population. The area went into economic shock.

NEW DIRECTION
Now, Elberta is bouncing back, thanks to the renovation of 30 acres of abandoned commercial property, including one of the last undeveloped sites along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The vacated property includes 12 former asphalt storage tanks, a railroad roundhouse and freight dock, a cannery and auto repair shop. All will soon be removed to make way for a major redevelopment.
Scott Gest, whose company, Elberta Land Holding Company (ELHC) bought the former Koch Materials Company facility last year, did their homework and presented a plan for the redevelopment that includes multi-family condos, townhouses, a marina, a public pier off the park and 140 boat slips.
Gest brought in planners, engineers, and other professionals who met with the people of Elberta to determine the vision for the development of the waterfront.
“It takes time to develop a sense of what a community wants, and patience to see the long term,” Gest said. “We’ve been working on these ideas for over seven years, and are working to preserve the landscape, the historic significance, the environmental quality and create jobs.”

DEMOLITION
The area is being reclaimed as part of a Brownfield redevelopment project to address environmental concerns and move ahead with development of three of Elberta’s waterfront areas.
Brownfield properties are vacant or abandoned properties with known or suspected environmental contamination.
“We are in the process of the first stage of demolition,” Gest said. “We had to first remove what was left of the asphalt in some of the tanks, and then we’ve been held up by windy weather, but work is proceeding. We expect the tanks will be down by the end of the year.”
The dozen tanks vary in size from 30,000 gallons to four million gallons, on about 10.5 acres at the west end of the village along Betsie Bay and Lake Michigan. When the storage facility was active a few years ago, under Koch, deliveries of up to 28 barge loads of petroleum products came to the Elberta plant from an Indiana refinery. Trucks would begin rumbling through the village in the early morning hours and continue all day long. Residents became used to the smell emitted from the facility.
“We’ve always had the vision that the tanks would come down. We’re thrilled that it’s finally happening,” said Laura Manville, village treasurer.
The clean-up project also will help preserve a portion of the old railroad roundhouse, which was built in the 1800s. The hope is to transform part of the historic structure into retail space.
“The roundhouse is in pretty bad shape,” said Gest, “We are hoping to save as much of the limestone and brick walls as possible.”
Construction is slated to begin in early 2007 in the Marina District, which is near where the old Mitchell building was. The boathouse residences will include seven condos with a deli and lounge, catering to the marina.
“The entire development is projected to be 15-20 years, and will change a long-held industrial site into an improved and useable site. We’re here for the long run,” Gest added.

NEW PARK
The new development comes on the heels of a waterfront upgrade undertaken by the village.
In the fall of 1996, after 13 years of negotiations with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Village of Elberta purchased 21.5 acres of the deserted Ann Arbor Railroad Terminal Yard on Betsie Bay in the village limits to develop an eight-acre waterfront park. Work on the park began in 2000 and since its completion it has become a focal point for festivals and celebrations.
The park includes the relocated U.S. Coast Guard Life Saving Station, a playground, and outdoor pavilion for open air concerts, restrooms, parking and a boardwalk along Betsie Bay.
“We have been surprised by the amount of gatherings that the Life Saving Station has been used for, from family reunions to lots of weddings, to graduation open houses, it is rented most weekends all summer,” said Elberta Village Clerk Sharon Bower.
The park allows public access to Betsie Bay and provides a scenic view of the City of Frankfort’s waterfront.
 
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