THOSE OF YOU FOLLOWING the progress of the city’s work on the new Master Plan were no doubt aware of the two community feedback sessions hosted by officials this week.
According to Dennis Stachewicz, Director of Planning and Community Development, the workshops were intended to gather the community’s ideas on potential redevelopment sites in the city, listed below.
- Marquette Mall (2025 US Hwy 41)
- Area around Tadych’s Marketplace
- Washington Street Corridor from US-41 to 3rd Street
- West side of Lake Shore Boulevard from E. Ridge Street to E. Fair Avenue
- South Marquette Commercial Area (along US-41 from Shiras Drive to Genesee Street)
Credit to the city for appealing to residents for their vision of what Marquette can and should become. Changes are coming quite rapidly, so having a Master Plan to help guide future developments is critical in shaping our future.
Both sessions were well attended, as was a previous one held at NMU, so there’s no question about the passion citizens have for their beloved community. And though those responsible for city planning seem to know what they’re doing, you can never have too many good ideas.
Of course, not all ideas are good, and some of the good ones are out of reach, for one reason or another. I’ll share a sampling here of some of the things I heard participants proposing…
Good Ideas That Probably Won’t Happen
• One of the ideas we always hear when we ask people what they’d like to see in Marquette is… more green space. In fact, Marquette is already awash in green space. Our property dedicated to parks is well above average for a city our size. And if you really need to escape the concrete jungle, take a five-minute ride and you’ll find thousands of acres of Upper Peninsula green space.
Only around 50% of the properties in the city are taxable. To suggest more untaxable property to those responsible for our municipal bottom line is cruel and unusual. Remember that tax increase that nobody liked? Want another one of those?
Yeah… we all love green space, but unfortunately, green space doesn’t pay the bills.
Before we go much further, this might be a good time to point out that much of the open property put up for discussion at the planning sessions is actually privately owned… particularly the former Marquette Mall site as well as the area around Tadych’s Marketplace. There’s not much, if anything, the city can do about development on those properties, but it never hurts to find out what residents would like to see happen there. Maybe those property owners are listening.
• Affordable housing is also something that comes up whenever we discuss future development. Since most of that has to come from the private sector, there’s not much the city can do to affect it either. Where they can, they’re doing it. City properties are being sold for new housing, which, though not necessarily “affordable,” adds new stock to the inventory. The hope is that more housing will mean more affordable housing. Housing shortages are one reason for high prices.
The city is also looking at tweaks to the zoning code that would allow for more housing density. For example, property that was once only available to a single-family dwelling can be rezoned to allow a duplex or small apartment building. Stuff like that.
Yeah… we all want more affordable housing. We also want something resembling summer.
• I also heard a number of suggestions regarding new recreation centers. Anything that responds to the needs of our rec-centric populace would certainly be a crowd pleaser. But, again… that’s not the business of the city. If you want more rec space, particularly indoors, the Y would be glad to accept any donation you’d like to make to help them expand. Otherwise, our trails systems are some of the best in the Midwest. You can work up a sweat and work off frustrations with a good run, walk, bike, or ski on one of our popular trails.
Yeah… we all want more recreational opportunities. Who doesn’t?
Good Ideas That Maybe Can Happen
• If you’ve been on one of our city bike paths lately, you’re surely aware of their growing popularity. They’ve always been well-used, but as the city becomes more active, so do our bike paths. When you consider all the runners, walkers, bikers… and now throw in motorized E-Bikes, the congestion often becomes downright dangerous.
Since our paths are on property under city control, improvements are a distinct possibility. Wider paved surfaces, better signage, and speed controls are all ideas that would make the bike path experience better… and safer.
• Along with congestion on our bike paths is a similar level of activity on our city streets. More people in the city means more bikers, more pedestrians, and more cars.
While we encourage biking and walking, not too many people are advocating for more vehicular traffic, but that’s where we are. And that’s why a number of people were asking about public transportation. It seems many think it’s not what it could be. Too few buses and running too infrequently. The city could certainly get behind an effort to improve our public transportation and provide some relief to those using our roadways while at the same time offering rides to those in need.
• Naturally, anything around the lakeshore or Lakeshore Boulevard gets lots of attention. People want our lakeshore protected. And even though we’ve seen plenty of development near the lakeshore, the lakeshore itself is still pretty open and unspoiled.
Not all of our east-west streets go through to Lakeshore Boulevard. One suggestion was to open up the dead ends in order to spread traffic out and alleviate a little of the congestion on the east side.
Many of the ideas we’ve heard of what to include in the Master Plan are more related to what people don’t want to see, rather than what they do want to see. And what they don’t want to see is any more commercial development than is absolutely necessary. That was made abundantly clear at an earlier Planning Commission meeting when the public showed up en masse to give the thumbs down to a proposed hotel across from Picnic Rocks.
Summarize it to say you won’t see many people campaigning for a seat on the City Commission on the platform of more lakeshore development.
The Best Idea That Absolutely Should Happen
• South Beach along South Lake Street seems to become more popular every summer. And now, no longer in the shadow of our former power plant, it’s sure to become a more desirable destination.
The problem? Residents in south Marquette who’d like to leave the car in the driveway and walk to the beach have to either go well out of their way to cross at the Genesee Street corner or risk life and limb to cross five lanes of traffic.
The solution? This, from City Planner Dave Stensaas… a pedestrian and bicycle bridge crossing over the South Front Street entrance to the city. Good idea, right? But here’s the kicker… the bridge would serve as a welcome to the city, featuring… wait for it… the same message we remember from the old train trestle downtown…
Marquette – Home of Northern Michigan University.
How cool would that be?
Okay… so there are some good ideas out there. Most of them cost money, and there’s not a lot of that in the city’s checking account. So don’t count on anything happening too soon. That’s why the good ideas become a part of a plan… something to put on a wish list for the future.
As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And though we might occasionally fail anyway, it won’t be because we didn’t plan.