Downtown Spring Lake will soon undergo a major transformation.
Kim VanKampen, a Florida resident whose family has summered in Spring Lake for six decades, announced Monday that she has purchased the buildings west of Village Hall and plans to transform them into a mix of residential, restaurants and retail.
VanKampen, with the help of local architects and builders, plans to convert the two-story building at 106 Savidge St. adjacent to Village Hall into a “landmark restaurant.”
The buildings to the west of that structure — 108, 110 and 112 Savidge — would become condos upstairs; with a cafe, coffee shop and retail downstairs. She envisions a cookware/cooking class store similar to Sur La Table.
Although she is related to the VanKampens who run Harvest Bible Chapel, VanKampen said her project is completely unrelated.
If she gains approval for the project from village officials, she hopes to begin construction this summer.
VanKampen is also in the process of purchasing several other parcels in the village.
VanKampen still owns a summer home on the north side of Spring Lake and Hampton Greens Horse Farm on East Farr Road in Fruitport. She said she loves her family's history with Spring Lake.
“I've driven through downtown Spring Lake for years and said, 'Why doesn't somebody do something with this?'” she said, referring to the vacant or underutilized buildings. “I always was surprised the building would be standing there for 10 years or more without being sold or occupied.”
The Phoenix Deli Cafe at 112 W. Savidge St. has been vacant about 15 years.
VanKampen, who frequents antique stores when she's staying in Spring Lake, said she wants to retain the historic, vintage charm of the buildings, restoring where she can, or rebuilding to historic aesthetics where necessary.
Although VanKampen will focus on the Village Hall block in Phase 1, she hopes to be a part of the village's 2004 Master Plan to become more of a multi-faceted, mixed-use downtown. That Master Plan called for moving retail off Savidge and creating a village square-type atmosphere, a walkable community that's pedestrian- and user-friendly.
“I still think it's a very solid idea,” VanKampen said. “It takes the center of town off Savidge Street and into the area that still has some historical charm and is walkable. It can bring life and activity to the actual village itself. Instead of just being the strip of Savidge and homes around the lake, it starts to have a feeling of an old town.”
VanKampen said storefronts would face the parking lot on the south side of the buildings, with entrances on both the Savidge Street and parking lot sides.
“If I can get the Village Council to work with me to make that more beautiful and more conducive to walking, then I have ideas about a cafe, definitely a landmark restaurant in the area and possibly even a food store like a Sur La Table, conducive to the little epicurean village that I'm envisioning. Still, it has to be on a village scale. It has to fit with what's there.”
Spring Lake is primarily comprised of year-round residents, VanKampen said — unlike Grand Haven, which is more of a tourist town.
“People live here year-round, yet there are limited amenities for them in the town,” she said. “The basics are there, but as far as lifestyle amenities ... the ones that are there are spread out. It would be nice to put them in a more centralized location and create a town center.”
VanKampen said the two square blocks bounded by Savidge and Exchange streets and Buchanan and Division streets could become such a “town center,” hosting festivals, a covered farmers market and more.
“There are a lot of possibilities in that two-block area, even for small boutiques in the homes,” she said.
VanKampen said she's excited about her new venture.
“There came a time in my life that I'm able to do something and I was looking for a project,” she said. “I'm not a developer — I'm more of a historian. I'm working with some really good local people who will guide me correctly.”
Architect Mark Oppenhuizen is in charge of the design. WestWind Construction will build the project.
Sandi Gentry of the Sandi Gentry Team/ReMax Lakeshore, who handled the sales of the buildings, said VanKampen has invested about $3 million to date acquiring properties. With an active downtown development association, Gentry said she thinks VanKampen's plans will transform Spring Lake into a “destination place.”
“She is definitely caring for our community and making it better,” Gentry said. “She just has incredible vision. She said, 'I think Spring Lake is a drive-through town. You just drive through and nobody ever stops.' She said, 'We've got to change this.' She saw a better vision.”
Both Gentry and VanKampen stress that the plans are preliminary at this time, and nothing is set in stone, but they're excited about the prospects.
Village Councilwoman Michelle Hanks said she loves VanKampen's plans.
“I'm beyond excited,” Hanks said. “The Village of Spring Lake is at the very beginning of creating a new Master Plan, so it feels like the timing is right for both the village and for Kim. To have more restaurants, to have it be walkable, to have all the property being used and at a use that's good for everyone, I think it's exciting.”
Village Manager Chris Burns agrees.
“I think that when you take this sort of investment and couple it with the fact we're doing a new Master Plan, it's going to be a huge shot in the arm for all of the businesses,” she said. “I think everyone should just stay tuned and keep an eye on the progress. It's going to be exciting.”
This story originally appeared in the Grand Haven Tribune.
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