The Grand Haven Board of Light & Power received the preliminary evaluation of the former fire department building from Progressive AE, a West Michigan-based architectural and design firm, during its regular board meeting Thursday night. The firm estimated that repairs and renovations range between $3.3 to $4.3 million to prepare the space as a new administrative and customer service center. The board requested the evaluation after City Manager Ashley Latsch introduced the concept of the BLP purchasing and renovating the facility in January.
The BLP has been seeking space for customer service and administrative functions since the operations workers were relocated to the Eaton Drive Service Center following the closure of the JB Sims Power Plant. As identified in its 2021 Business Readiness Risk Assessment, the BLP has also been looking to identify replacement backup facilities for business continuity and disaster recovery, which were removed when the power plant was retired.
“The Board has recognized the need for additional space since the closure of the Sims Power Plant and the Diesel Plant, which is why we voted unanimously to pursue this initial evaluation,” said Vice Chairperson Gerry Witherell.
“This near 100-year-old former fire department building presents some unique historical attributes of maintaining it as a public building but also some challenges if the electric utility decides to pursue it,” said David Shull, Progressive AE spokesman. “The building still contains a considerable amount of asbestos which needs to be removed. The brick exterior is failing on both the fire engine hall and the hose drying tower, which will require some investment to repair and preserve this historic local building. Additionally, there are five different floor elevation levels that make it a challenge for workflow from a single occupancy perspective.”
“We all recognize that the Eaton Drive Service Center is over capacity,” said Erik Booth, operations and power supply manager for the BLP. “In 2021, our space needs analysis determined that the easiest and most cost-effective option would be to keep the operations and technical services team at Eaton and relocate customer service, finance, and administration to a new location while also providing necessary critical energy infrastructure backups. However, we aren’t looking at doing anything more complex than if we were a credit union opening a new branch to accommodate the needs of the organization in a manner that best serves their members.”
Progressive AE explained that this repurposing option may not be the most cost-effective option for the BLP.
At the meeting, board members agreed to review the preliminary evaluation in the coming weeks, submit questions, then reconvene in a work-study session with Progressive AE in April. Then, at their regular April board meeting, the board will determine the next steps.
David Walters, General Manager, stated, “If this is a project the Board has strong support for, Staff will be pleased to pursue it further. If there is no full consensus or support, then we will continue to evaluate other opportunities. Regardless of the outcome, we want to thank the city manager for her out-of-the-box thinking and work to develop a win-win for both the city and the BLP.”
Progressive AE Fire Station Site Analysis Letter