With 2022 now a not-so-distant memory, it’s time to look forward at what we can anticipate seeing happen around here in ’23.
It seemed like planners were real busy last year but planning and producing are two different things. I wouldn’t suggest that any of the developments currently on the drawing board are more hope than happen, but we’ve seen it before. However, if all goes as has been suggested in various news conferences and press releases, we should see a fair number of projects come to fruition in the next twelve months.
Before you decry the untethered changes coming to your quiet community, let’s acknowledge that our growth needs to be managed, but also that it should never be discouraged. That’s a dangerous way to run a city, especially one like Marquette. Our location on the very edge of the map is just one step from being marginalized, and we don’t need that. So let’s hope we see the proverbial shovels in the ground, sooner rather than later.
Here are a few of the projects we’ll be watching, most of which we’ve covered here in previous posts.
906 Adventure Team
The recent news that the 906 Adventure Team is in the process of buying the Lakeshore Boulevard property across from Picnic Rocks came as quite a pleasant surprise. If you recall, that’s the property which was denied to a planned hotel development a few months back.
The property, located between Stuga North Veterinary and Nestledown B&B, includes the building in front and a fairly large open area in back. 906 Adventure Team director Todd Poquette says they’ve got plans for both. “The building will be our ‘home’. In the future we’ll host volunteer training, workshops, and more. The green space will be converted to a Bicycle Playground.”
The mission of the 906 Adventure Team is a little unique in the youth biking scene. As described by Poquette, “We are focused on building community, developing more resilient youth, and prioritizing life skills > bike skills. 906AT emphasizes ‘growth mindset’ and the ‘Power of Yet’. We’re not here to tell kids what they’re worth based on their ability to win a race or a game. Our organization is focused on YOU vs YOU… what can YOU do to become a better version of yourself… and we support their adventures by providing trained staff and volunteers who believe in our mission. To us the bike is just a tool we use to help kids learn what they’re capable of.”
As I’ve written about here previously, 906 Adventure Team is just one of several area youth biking groups making an impact. To see them go from just some kids on bikes meeting up at Tourist Park to now being a lakeview landowner with a pedal to the metal program is truly impressive.
Because the new owners are a non-profit, the property will not be taxable like it would have been with a hotel. You would think though that giving up some tax dollars, to the benefit of our youth, would be widely endorsed.
According to Nheena (It’s just Nheena… like Oprah, or Dolly.) the funds have been identified and they’re ready to start construction on the new Kids Cove Playground at Mattson Park, as early as the snow melts. It’s going to be sad to see the current structure come down, but apparently it’s time.
The new park is intended to be super inclusive, so kids of all abilities will find a reason to continually bug their parents to take them there. Nheena says they hope to have it ready by July 4th. That sounds pretty ambitious, so yeah… it’ll probably get done.
Knowing who’s involved with this, the research they’ve done on playgrounds, and the experience they have with kids… we should be reassured that it’ll be done right. Looking forward to it.
The 2023 calendar of DDA affiliated events validates our return from the pandemic, with a full slate of entries… all of our favorites, solidly on the schedule. Something to keep on our radar will be the DDA’s effort to establish a “social district” in the downtown environs that would allow a little more freedom to be festive in the streets, on appropriate occasions.
A couple new businesses are coming in, and with downtown’s sustained popularity, there are sure to be more. Once locals finally embrace the new parking meters, there’s no telling how busy downtown will be.
Some big projects at Sawyer International Airport were announced last year… not the least of which is a comprehensive rebranding. Airport Manager Duane DuRay says, “We are looking at putting a different face on the airport and possibly even a new name.”
Along with that are some substantial infrastructure improvements which should streamline airport operations across the board. Considering that almost all of this is paid for by money coming from somewhere else, I’m all for it. Have an idea for a new name?
The Vault Marquette project…beginning with the renovation of the old Savings Bank building, is on track for work to start this summer, with construction of the related parking structure slated to begin in the fall. If this project ends up being at all what it looked like when it was presented to the community, it will totally transform a piece of downtown currently surviving on parking and potential. Not everyone will be happy with such a transformation, but as we’ve learned around here… that’s to be expected.
Still being workshopped, but interesting enough to include in this list… the Y is looking at expanding their space and programming. Back on their financial feet after a few years under water, The David & Thu Brulé YMCA of Marquette County can now look to add some services, as well as put more emphasis on those currently in high demand… like childcare.
They are also looking at increasing floor space with what they’re initially calling a fieldhouse. Everybody that’s looking for indoor space so they can play their games in the winter should be behind that.
This is still in the early stages, which will probably include some thoughtful examination of the payment plan, but hopefully we’ll see it happen. With their current staff and board, it looks like the Y is in pretty good hands. And with community support, pumped up by people like those with their name on the building, the Y will continue to be a positive influence on our town.
New Veterans’ Facility
Because it’s a big job, we likely won’t see any ribbon cutting for quite some time, but the state’s commitment to build a new veterans’ facility to replace the current building housing the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans is another welcomed development. The announcement of a project of this size and scope, financed largely with tax dollars… yes, some of them yours, is good news. Not just because of the investment in our area, but because it’s dedicated to the care of our veterans. Let there be no pointless delays to a much needed undertaking.
We haven’t seen much movement recently with the Spaceport project proposed for the Granot Loma property up the Big Bay highway. That doesn’t mean wheels aren’t still turning. With all the hoops that have to be jumped through, rocket launching pads don’t happen overnight. While the proponents work quietly behind the scenes, opponents remain steadfast and ready to take on a project they find objectionable on many levels. We don’t know if we’ll see any action this year, but we’ll continue to monitor the situation.
Marquette Township Recreation Area
The one that got away. According to township Planning and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy, the grant application for the funding of the Ed Scott Memorial Recreation Area was denied, either putting the project on the back burner, or off the stove altogether. The plan, presented at a township meeting last summer, looked like it was going to be a cool complement to all the commercial development taking place up the hill, but alas, it was not to be.
Whether this idea comes back to life is yet to be seen, but there’s certainly a need for that type of facility in Marquette Township. Growth can’t be just all business, all the time. The improvements at Lions Park are great and show that township residents will value a commitment to the balance of work and play.
Other area projects to look forward to include, but are not limited to… the redevelopment of the old hospital property by the Veridea Group, the Shophouse Park Innovation Center, a trail network headquarters in the former LSCP building, new businesses springing up at the site of the old Marquette Mall, a resurgence of interest in the Westwood Mall, the move of NMU Basketball from the Berry Events Center to the Vandament Arena, and any number of new residential developments, to name just a few. The fact that there are more new things in the works than we have time for here bodes well for the area. If we keep this up, the next five to ten years around here will be interesting indeed.