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SWM Regional Chamber, Lannert Group Announce Housing, Trail Development in Downtown Bridgman


SWM Regional Chamber, Lannert Group Announce Housing, Trail Development in Downtown Bridgman

 

Bridgman, Michigan – Plans for a transformative 25-acre housing and trail development were unveiled by the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber, the Lannert Group, and several passionate property owners at Monday night’s Bridgman City Council meeting. Located at the corner of Church and Lake Street, the proposed development would include sixty new homes as well as a pedestrian-friendly system of trails, sidewalks, and exercise loops meant to foster a walkable, healthy community. 

Arthur Havlicek, President & CEO of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber and Executive Director of the Greater Bridgman Area Chamber and Growth Alliance (CGA), began the presentation in front of a packed room by characterizing the project as a culmination of groundwork laid by the City Council, City staff, the Bridgman CGA, and the Regional Chamber over the past three years. 

Havlicek also introduced his fellow presenters and provided some context for how the partnership came to be, recalling how he and local developer Chris Lannert approached Bridgman resident Connie Babcock in June with what turned out to be a shared vision for the property. 

“A key function of any chamber is to be a convener and catalyst for growth,” Havlicek said. “Our work here was exactly that; by convening a passionate property owner with a talented area developer, we were able to catalyze a transformational project right in the heart of downtown Bridgman.” 

“Connie’s vision to create a state-of-the-art network of trails for community residents and cross-country enthusiasts fit perfectly with our desire to create a nature-inspired housing development with walkability to downtown,” Havlicek said. “We connected her with Chris - whose St. Joseph-based firm, The Lannert Group, has a long history of blending natural ecological systems with the built environment - in an effort to bring this shared idea to life.”
            When she addressed the Council, Babcock shared her vision for the project, as well as her desire for this to be an example for how development can bring people together, and perhaps even rethink what it means to be ‘neighbors.’ 

“My vision was to give the entire community a place to enjoy natural trails, preserving as much of the forested area as possible; and to cater some portion of the residential development to empty nesters, singles, or young couples just starting out,” Babcock said. “These homes will serve a variety of individual housing needs here in Bridgman, while fostering community growth and connectivity.” 

The proposed housing would be a mix of craftsman, traditional, and contemporary single-family and multi-plex architecture, offering a variety of product-types and affordability. The development would also establish an area-wide trail system for the Bridgman High School cross country team with interconnectivity that can establish circulation between the schools and community as well as implement a pedestrian-friendly system of sidewalks, trails, and exercise loops which would foster walkability and healthy lifestyles for area residents. 

I love this community, I love Bridgman schools, and I am so very grateful that I’ve been able to raise my family here,” Babcock said. “This development affords me the opportunity to give back to those that have supported my family and to see Bridgman grow at the same time.” 

Before turning the floor over to Lannert, Babcock also thanked neighboring landowners for their support and involvement in the proposed development, saying: “In order to maximize the trail layout plans, we reached out to Pastor Erik Gustafson, of the Lake Michigan Christian Center, Monica Brown, the owner of the former Bethel Park Camp, and Brett Boyd, who owns five acres on the Northeast corner of the undeveloped space. They are all on board with our vision, and their participation is only making the designs better.” 

Brett Boyd, a long-time Bridgman resident and owner of Classic Catering and Events, concurred, saying: “My wife, Melissa, and I are very excited to be part of this team of visionaries, working together to better our beloved community.” 

“Everyone in Bridgman has been incredibly helpful and inclusive,” Lannert said. “Having the alignment of individual property owners, Bridgman City staff, the Regional Chamber, and the CGA coupled with community support for the City’s Planned Unit Development ordinance and Community Trails Master Plan gives me confidence we can successfully implement this project.” 

In his presentation, Lannert walked the Council through the plan’s various features, the potential for off-site trail linkage, as well as the various housing types and styles initially being proposed. Lannert said there would be a website created to update the community on the development’s progress as well as offer input on their preferred housing types. 

            According to the plan, the sixty-parcel residential neighborhood would occupy fifteen of the twenty-five acre development, with the balance being preserved as wooded space for running and walking trails. Achieving enough density to fit sixty homes on fifteen acres, Lannert said, would not have been possible without the City’s Planned Unit Development ordinance. 

“The Bridgman City Council, working with our planning commission, approved Planned Unit Development districts to allow for greater flexibility in design,” said Bridgman City Manager, Juan Ganum. “They are a great example of how, over the past several years, the City of Bridgman has deliberately created a welcoming environment for development and community investment through the reduction of regulatory barriers.” 

“Affordable housing is something our Council has been working on for some time and it’s exciting to see things finally come to fruition,” said Bridgman Mayor, Jan Trapani. “We look forward to working with all involved to bring more housing, jobs, and growth to the City of Bridgman.” 

“Increasing the supply of housing in the Bridgman area has been among our organization’s top-priorities,” said Bridgman CGA Board President, John Bonkoske. “Thanks to community champions like Connie Babcock, community-minded developers like Chris Lannert, and the business-friendly ecosystem created by the City, the CGA, and the Regional Chamber, we are one step closer to meeting that need.”

The proposed 25-acre development in Bridgman would include sixty new homes in the center of town as well as a pedestrian-friendly system of trails, sidewalks, and exercise loops meant to foster a walkable, healthy community. 

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About Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber 

The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber is a member-driven, business advocacy organization proudly serving over 700 members throughout Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties. Their work centers around strengthening our region’s economic environment and creating prosperous communities. You can find them online at www.smrchamber.com. 

About the Greater Bridgman Area Chamber and Growth Alliance 

The Greater Bridgman Area Chamber of Commerce and Growth Alliance (CGA) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing chamber, economic, and community development services and to promoting the Lake To Grapes Region. They have been an affiliate of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber since 2018. 

About the Lannert Group 

Established in 1982, the Lannert Group is a nationally recognized, award winning, planning, landscape architecture, and community consulting firm based in Geneva, Illinois and St. Joseph, Michigan. Boasting nearly 100 years of combined experience, we enjoy an excellent reputation for combining technical expertise with artistic vision, creating plans that improve the community and enhance the environment. You can find them online at https://lannert.com/.