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Discussion Starter #1
Local group may be able to buy Fishtown
Preserving area is top concern


December 20, 2005 By BILL O'BRIEN Record-Eagle business editor

LELAND - A local group is close to reeling in a deal to maintain historic Fishtown as an authentic Lake Michigan fishing village - and one of region's unique tourist draws.
Representatives of the Fishtown Preservation Society met with the Carlson family - Fishtown's owners - this month to discuss sale of the property to the nonprofit group that wants to secure the property as a historic and commercial attraction.
"We have a framework, I think, we can work with effectively and move forward," said Craig Miller, chairman of the preservation group's board.
"We're making progress," Miller said. "We've still got a fair amount of work to do."
Fishtown owner Bill Carlson wouldn't confirm the preservation society as the front-runner for the property, but said he's negotiating with an "interested party" that wants to "maintain (Fishtown) as it has been for all these years."
"If it does go through, I think it would be for the benefit of everyone," Carlson said. "I think that's been our goal all along."
Fishtown - it's century-old shanty town appearance draws tens of thousands of visitors a year to northern Leelanau County- almost went on the real estate market this year. Carlson decided to list the property for $3.5 million and advertise it nationally, but it didn't happen.
"We never got that far," said Carlson, who credited media publicity over the possible sale for generating "quite a bit of interest" in the property.
Carlson, who's pieced together the Fishtown district since the late 1970s, said it's a complicated sale because he owns some of the parcels while others are in joint ownership with his brothers Mark and Leon. The family owns five parcels on the north side of the Leland River, dotted with a dozen different shops in weather-worn buildings.
Both Miller and Carlson said it could take several weeks or more to hammer out a deal.
"We're not in a big rush," Carlson said. "Even a year or two isn't going to matter to us."
Miller said his group hopes to secure a purchase option that would give it a specific period to raise money to buy the property and develop a long-range plan for its use.
"It's very difficult to raise funds ... without a specific plan that's well-thought-out," he said, adding the group will be "working closely" with the Leelanau Historical Society on the planning effort.
Carlson said he wants to maintain Fishtown both for its historic significance and to provide continuity for the shop owners who've done business there for years.
"They've been loyal to us," he said.
When Leland's tourist season awakens next spring, Carlson said visitors can expect to find a familiar Fishtown with the same collection of shops and stores - including his family's generations-old fishing operation.
"Without a doubt," Carlson said. "We won't do anything different next year."

18,038 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Fishtown purchase deal reached
Preservation group agrees to buy historic site


March 2, 2006 By BILL O'BRIEN Record-Eagle business editor

LELAND - A local preservation group has an agreement to purchase Leland's historic Fishtown district.
The Fishtown Preservation Society said Wednesday it's negotiated a "letter of intent" with the Carlson family owners to acquire the Fishtown property along the Leland River- an authentic fishing village that draws tens of thousands of tourists each year to northern Leelanau County.
"We're really excited about it," said Richard Rossman, president of the preservation group. "We've been working at it for more than a year, and we got it done."
The deal includes property along the north side of the Leland River between the Cove restaurant and the Manitou Island ferry boat docks. On it rests a dozen fish shanty-style shops that feature food, pottery, clothing - and the Carlson's fish market - that will continue to be leased to the present tenants, he said.
Rossman would not disclose a purchase price. The agreement allows for a 90-day inspection period when the society will check out the buildings and survey the property. The goal is to have a formal purchase agreement completed by June 1 when the society will disclose the amount, he said.
The Carlson family had plans to list the property last year for a reported $3.5 million, although it was never formally put up for sale while negotiations with the preservation group continued.
The group said the purchase price is "far below" what the Carlson family originally sought for the property. Bill Carlson of Leland, whose family has fished commercially on Lake Michigan for generations, is the principal owner with brothers Mark and Leon.
Fishtown business owner Phil Anderson welcomed the deal, and said it will help maintain the docks as a combination of a vibrant summertime business district and a historic attraction.
"This is definitely what we've been hoping for," said Anderson, who's owned a clothing and accessory store in Fishtown for 24 years. "There's a lot of marinas out there - and a lot of shopping - but (Fishtown's) the one thing that makes Leland totally unique."
The proposed sale also includes purchase of the fishing boats Janice Sue and Joy and related fishing equipment and licenses. The group intends to continue a chub fishing operation out of the wharf through a lease with the Carlson family.
An active fishery is important to Fishtown's authenticity, said Laura Quackenbush who's curator of the Leelanau Historical Museum and serves on the preservation society board.
"Leland's historic Fishtown is a unique cultural landscape and one of the last commercial fishing complexes in the Great Lakes," she said. "The (fishing equipment and market) are an integral part of that."
The group hopes to raise enough money to buy the property by Dec. 1 when they hope to close the sale, officials said. It has long-range plans to create a separate fund in conjunction with the Leelanau Historical Society to help preserve the property in its weather-worn appearance.
"What we want to do is to preserve it and keep it as it is," Rossman said. "We've assured all the folks down there that's what we intend to do."

18,038 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Foundation donates $500K to help preserve Fishtown

LELAND — A $500,000 contribution from a prominent Leland family's foundation pushed the Fishtown Preservation Society more than halfway to its $2.5 million goal to purchase the historic fishing village and regional tourist attraction.

The donation from the foundation of the late Edmund and Virginia Ball pushed the society's fundraising total to $1,227,000. The society's goal is to raise $2.5 million by Dec. 31 toward a $3 million Fishtown purchase agreement reached in June with the Carlson family.

On the Web at www.preservingfishtown.org

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