By Ethan Colbert
A pair of property lots that were recently the site of demolition may soon be the site of construction if members of the local Chamber of Commerce’s Downtown Revitalization Committee have their way.
In a presentation to the Bowling Green Board of Aldermen on Monday evening, Tracy Brookshier, who serves as the chairperson for the committee, said the group is working with landowners to acquire the lot where the two-story headquarters of Bowling Green Gas Company previously stood. The building previously served as the location for Pyramid Homemaker Services and the short-lived Coffee On the Square bistro.
The other lot is Liberty Utilities.
According to Brookshier, the owners have both voiced their intent to donate the property to the Downtown Revitalization Committee.
In her presentation, Brookshier said she and her colleagues on the Downtown Revitalization Committee see several potential purposes for the downtown lots.
“We are dreaming big right now,” Brookshier said.
Among the group’s plans are expanded space for the annual Champ Clark Heritage Festival, which is held in downtown Bowling Green on the second Saturday in September; potential space for new events; a pavilion, which could be used for community concerts or other community events; or something similar to what was done in Muskegon, Michigan, where community leaders invested in low-cost, small-scale business spaces, which are called chalets, in the downtown area of Muskegon.
According to a local news report, the collection of 12 brightly-colored chalets are called “Western Market” and offered a variety of merchandise during their inaugural year.
The chalets are only open during the tourism season in Muskegon.
Among the stores opening in the Western Avenue Market were: Gems Near the Lakeshore, which offered Michigan-inspired jewelry, t-shirts, toes, candles, bath accessories; Maggie’s Gourmet Foods & Gifts, which sold Michigan-made food, including chips, salsa, pretzels, candies, and etched-glass items; Vintastalgia, which offered vintage kitchen, home, and repurposed items along with the original artwork from pen and ink drawings to paintings to wood and Lake Michigan sandcasts.
Other stores at the Western Market included two bakeries, a canine and a feline treat shop, a children’s clothing boutique, a flavored popcorn distributor, and several other craftsman.
According to Brookshier, local members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee are optimistic that if a similar row of stores were opened in Bowling Green that they would generate renewed interest in foot traffic and business interest in downtown Bowling Green.
Ultimately, Brookshier and local businesswomen Marianne Everhart and Shelley Wiler appeared before the Board of Aldermen asking them to consider how the liens on the vacant lots could be handled.
“We are wanting to look into ways that we can help the city and help with economic development by occupying those lots,” Brookshier said. “We, of course, want to do something that is in everyone’s best interest.”
City Administrator Barb Allison said following the group’s presentation to the Board of Aldermen that Monday night’s presentation was just the first step of many steps that they must take in order for the city to consider waiving or reducing the liens on the properties involved.
According to records with the Pike County Recorder of Deeds office, the two properties currently have liens against them in excess of $2,239.14.
Brookshier acknowledged in her remarks to the Board of Aldermen that the process of acquiring the downtown properties and addressing the existing liens on the downtown properties would be a long and drawn out process.
“We don’t want people to get too excited,” Brookshier said. She later added, “But, if we don’t do something, then we are afraid that nothing is going to happen to those lots for God knows how long.”