Harrison Township to look at enhancing waterfront district

Grant earmarked for investigating potential improvements at Crocker and Jefferson

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 2, 2013

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Harrison Township will be using recently-received grant monies to hire a professional to closely examine the central waterfront district and come up with ideas to transform the area into a more sustainable place where more people will want to visit.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has announced that it will be granting the township $17,000 to create a Waterfront Redevelopment Plan. The plan will focus on the area surrounding Jefferson Avenue and Crocker Boulevard.

“I suppose we all have ideas, but we’ll see what the experts have to say,” said Harrison Township Supervisor Kenneth Verkest, adding that there is no interest by the township to build a casino anywhere within township borders.

Verkest said fruition of any idea presented greatly depends on the cost associated with any potential construction projects therein. The township is responsible for matching the amount of the grant, though it doesn’t have to be solely in dollars. Verkest said the township could pay in-kind.

The grant is part of the MDEQ’s Coastal Zone Management program. Ten communities received $501,700 for 2014.

“This is another win for Macomb County’s Blue Economy Initiative,” stated Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel in a press release about the grant. “I am pleased this project will emphasize connectivity with other waterfront districts, such as the Nautical Mile, Harsens Island and the Detroit riverfront.”

The targeted area includes a dense concentration of marine-related uses but lacks an overall sense of place or identity, according to the MDEQ.

Township officials worked with staff from the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development to develop the application, and county staff will continue to be involved in the project.

Planned activities include a thorough analysis of the physical attributes of the district; active engagement with the public to develop an overall vision; and the development of an achievable and sustainable plan for implementation.

Verkest said the study could go in several different directions; it  could find the township would benefit from a Downtown Development Authority, or it could reveal that dredging is needed or that the area would be a great place to develop an entertainment district. It’s difficult to predict what could come of it, according to Verkest.

“We’re just excited to find out,” he said.

“Harrison Township is a wonderful place that has developed over a long period of time. The Clinton River and Lake St. Clair have always been an important part of our identity,” Verkest said, adding that in the long run, improvements to that area would ultimately increase property values. “This funding will enable us to take a careful look at how we can make improvements that will benefit our residents, business owners and visitors.”