• Jordan D. Smith

DDA Brings a Splash of Color to Former Keusch’s Garage


All these years since Keusch Super Service moved from downtown, the garage at the intersection of Grand River Ave and Kent St has sat unused. Overflow parking for the nextdoor Fabiano’s River House Bar and Grill, which purchased the building, often used the property but it has otherwise been a stagnant constant presence near this busy intersection. Now though it is getting a new shot of life thanks the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and a cadre of helpful volunteers.


The change happened earlier this year when Bill Fabiano, the owner of Fabiano’s restaurant donated the property to the Downtown Development Authority. Recently, the DDA spent roughly $1000 sprucing up it’s new property. According to DDA Director Tina Connor-Wellman, “as an organization…[we encourage] repair and maintenance of commercial and mixed-use properties within its district. We viewed this as a way to…practice what we preach.”


The facelift has been a team effort says Connor-Wellman. Jodie Slater of Off and Running Painting gave the facade a fresh coat of paint while Ted Platte of Glass Masters repaired broken windows. Jamie Atkins of RCP Artist Services contributed printed graphics for the windows. The centerpiece of the project is the garage door currently painted in bright hues of green, yellow, and blue. Tim Fuller of Opera Block Properties provided scaffolding to aid in the painting project which brought together community members to get messy splatter painting the door earlier this week. The splatter painting however, is but the backdrop to a heart shaped mural designed by Erica Gorzen, art teacher at Portland High School that will highlighting the defining characteristics of the town.


While the once neglected building is getting a face lift, it is not intended to be a permanent fix. In the Portland Downtown newsletter published in February 2022, Connor-Wellman explained that, “preliminary discussions involve potential demolition, the creation of greenspace and/or an overlook upon the Looking Glass River, Bandshell and Two Rivers Park.” A major consideration for future plans is the need to stabilize the wall along the Looking Glass River regardless of the future plans for the property. In a more recent statement to the Bacon, Connor-Wellman admitted that, “it may be years before a final plan and related funding is determined. Therefore, it is only responsible to clean up the property a bit and use this opportunity to involve the public.”


To get involved in this or any other DDA project, the best way is to attend DDA meetings. The DDA meets the 2nd Tuesday from 6:15-7 PM at various local locations and the 4th Monday at 7pm at City Hall council chambers. Connor-Wellman says that these meeting are open to everyone. She is also easy to connect with face to face at City Hall, via e-mail (dda@portland-michigan.org), or phone (517-647-5027). You can also visit www.miportland.org where you can subscribe to the DDA newsletter ‘On the Street’ and like and follow the DDA social media pages ‘Mi Portland Downtown’


PHOTO: Courtesy Portland DDA.



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