City of Hastings
Downtown Hastings, “On the Thornapple,” has long been the center of activity in Barry County, and a geographic hub of West Michigan. With the success of Hastings Summerfest, Hastings City Band, a Downtown Sculpture Tour; the community’s growing thirst for music, visual art, and diverse entertainment had surpassed our traditional small-town offerings.
To fill the need, the Baum Family Foundation fully funded a new $1.2 million Thornapple Plaza amphitheater project. Partnering with the City of Hastings, the “place-making” initiative progressed from concept to reality in just nine months. Over 30 FREE community concerts will take place this summer at the 1,000-person capacity venue. A 2.8-mile Riverwalk trail connects the public stage with 63 acres of city parks and smaller Spray Plaza at the opposite end of mainstreet. Together, the Thornapple Plaza and Spray Plaza provide greater opportunities for local talent and make Hastings a “top-of-mind” arts and culture destination.
Many municipalities have vacant lots or brownfields that can be better utilized. What could be better than repurposing a stagnant property into FREE community concerts in order to bring residents downtown, and visitors from out of town?
The Thornapple Plaza was a straight forward “placemaking” project that will help West Michigan musicians and entertainers showcase their talents. Replicating the project is a matter of finding the right location, raising the money, and building the amphitheater. Many cities can replicate this project.
Creativity and Originality:
The project took only nine months from concept to completion. A local family foundation stepped forward with the funding for an idea that was on the mind of council members and just waiting for an opportunity. Hastings has a redevelopment plan to connect the east and west end of main street to bring more people to the east side of downtown. When a successful retailer expanded to bigger space, the city purchased the riverfront property in order to create another community asset.
The Thornapple Plaza project has had cultural and economic impact right from its ribbon cutting in April 2016. The venue opened as the headlining stage for the Thornapple Arts Council Jazz Festival and has over 30 more concerts already scheduled for this summer. The space is an enticing selling point for future entertainers, businesses, and establishes an additional major facility for festivals and community events. Even when empty, the plaza is a place for community gatherings on the Riverwalk. The facility fills yet another need by adding a set of public restrooms to downtown along the Riverwalk.