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September 9th, 2008Downtown renaissance

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by Dave Alexander

Average Muskegon residents fascinated by the ongoing transformation of downtown Muskegon but frustrated in not being able to participate now have an opportunity.

Those who could not have purchased three historic buildings for renovation like developer Gary Post or put up a three-story culinary arts school like Baker College of Muskegon can buy a brick for the Third Street Promenade.

The cost is a modest $250 donation to the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce Foundation or the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

But then if you want to give a little more, a $1,000 donation will secure a bench or planter, $10,000 a kiosk and $25,000 a rain garden. It’s all part of an initial $256,000 effort to get started on the Third Street Promenade –the public space on the eastside of Third Street from Clay to Morris avenues. The overall cost of the plan will be in the $1 million range, officials said.

The Muskegon chamber, community foundation and Muskegon Main Street announced the Third Street Promenade effort over the Labor Day weekend. With funds already raised, the group still seeks another $155,000 for this year’s initial improvements, according to Chris Kelly, a Muskegon attorney and spokesman for the chamber foundation.

The redevelopment of downtown Muskegon signals the changing local economy from industrial — 10,000 factory workers were downtown in the World War II Era — to a diversified mix of manufacturing, tourism, health care, retail and high-tech. What was once the former downtown Muskegon Mall is becoming home to specialty retail, education, financial services, restaurants, non-profit groups and residences.

“The downtown renaissance from the beginning is all about ‘Muskegon building Muskegon,’ ” said Chris McGuigan, president of the community foundation. “This plaza is the very heart of our downtown and is the place where everyone, at all levels, can help build the downtown, leave a legacy and make a long-lasting impact on Muskegon.”

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