Power of the People
We saw the power of the people in action last Monday night at the Marquette City Commission meeting. Or did we?
Yes, attendance at the meeting was beyond capacity, with a clear majority there to oppose the latest proposed housing development, this one off McClellan Avenue, in the forested land just south of Wright Street.
Objections were mixed, but generally the opposition was in agreement that the area in question was not a good place for this project. It’s mostly woodlands and wetlands, and conveniently serves as a park for those living in the area… a place for kids to play and dogs to walk.
In her comments regarding the proposal, Commissioner Sally Davis indicated that what she’d already heard from a number of citizens was an overwhelming “heartfelt passion for this woodland.” That’s a pretty common thread around here when anything is proposed for previously undeveloped property.
There were also many comments about the timing of the public meetings regarding the project, in that a number of people, some with homes in the immediate vicinity, weren’t aware of the proposal until one or two days prior to the meetings to approve or deny the project going forward.
As with other private projects, the city has limited power when it comes to what they’ll include and how they’ll benefit the community. However, in this case, this is city property, so the city has the ability to stop this project before it ever gets started.
There are also brownfield and wetlands implications, that seem to enter into every development proposal, regardless of whether or not the property is brown or wet.
Though many who opposed the project acknowledged that the development seems to be in line with the effort to provide more affordable housing, that wasn’t enough to garner much public support for this project, in this place.
Adding to the debate, we also heard that a previous commission had “promised” neighbors that when McClellan was extended from Fair Avenue to Wright Street, no development would be allowed in the adjacent city-owned lands. Promises made by previous commissions are precarious things, reliant on good memories and unshakable faith. Going forward… let’s get it in writing.
Mayor Smith apologized for the unfortunate timing of the meetings, and that’s to be commended. As the mayor stated, they’re always learning. The lesson here? Make sure the people get the chance to have their voices heard.
A couple weeks ago, at a Room at the Inn event at the Ore Dock, Commissioner Evan Bonsall told the crowd there that if they want to influence decisions made by the city, show up and speak out. And that’s exactly what happened Monday night.
The proposal before the commission was whether or not to enter into an agreement of sale with Renovare Development, the downstate company behind the plan. After nearly four hours of a work session and regular meeting, and after hearing from dozens of citizens, the commission voted unanimously to reject the proposed sale of the property.
Whether or not the public outcry influenced the minds of the commissioners, we’ll never know for sure, but it certainly didn’t hurt. The only concern with that is… should commissioners bow to loud voices, even when it may not be the will of the silent majority, or what they themselves feel is in the best interest of the city?
That’s when we have to trust our commissioners, who we elected, to represent us… and make such decisions.
The Rumor Mill
Oh no… the Crossroads is closing! I saw it on Facebook!
You may have seen it too. The posts and consequent angst and confusion. The Crossroads? Closing? Last time I was there, they were very busy. How could this be?
Well… it didn’t be. It was just another example of the power of the internet. And how bad news travels fast. And how we’re a little too quick to believe anything, regardless of how much sense it makes, as long as it has a little juice. Unfortunately, we find news of a business closing… juicy.
Here’s the real scoop… yes, the Crossroads is closing, but it’s not the local Crossroads Restaurant and Lounge, known for their pasties and popular Friday Fish Fry. It’s the Crossroads Bar and Grill, located in Alma, Michigan. Though we lament the loss of any business, for whatever reason, we’re glad to know that the longtime, conveniently located stop at the corner of CR 480 and 553, is still open for business, as usual.
It seems that the Crossroads in Alma posted the notice of their closing last Saturday morning, and it didn’t take long for the fire to spread. And here’s how it works. Someone sees the post, and without reading past the headline assumes it’s our Crossroads, shares it, along with sad emojis, and the run is on. And the more something like this spreads, the more it loses any factual info it had to start with.
Crossroads manager Nick Bazinette was just as surprised as anybody to hear they were closing. And even though he posted a response intended to set the record straight, the horse was already out of the barn. “I started getting calls and texts from people asking if it was true. Everyone was so concerned about our employees and my family, and losing their favorite spot to eat.” Far from closing, business is good, and according to Nick, even with reduced hours, they’ve recently had some of their best months. And he expects that trend to continue.
We’ve talked about the newfound popularity of the U.P., and particularly in places like Marquette, so it should come as no surprise that businesses across the county, like the Crossroads, are feeling the love too. There’s a lot going on out there these days with no reason to think it won’t continue.
Finally, here’s a heads-up. There’s also a Crossroads Grill & Bar in downstate Leslie. We have no idea if they’re about to close… we hope not, but if you see:”the Crossroads is closing,” dig a little deeper.
Speaking of Digs
There’s plenty of new construction going on around here these days. And it seems that the bar for good-looking, well-built structures continues to be set higher and higher. Some recent examples of stylish digs include the Embers Corporate Headquarters on South McClellan, the Trillium Hospice House… a neighbor to the east of the Embers building, and the brand new U.P. State Bank, now open on West Washington, where Burger King once stood.
The Embers HQ opened with little fanfare about a year ago, during the middle of COVID. Other than some commercial loan activity, it’s not where members do most of their business, but that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a building that complements the area and continues to raise the bar.
Regarding Embers, you might remember them as the U.P. Catholic Credit Union. Formerly just serving area Catholics, the credit union no longer restricts membership to a certain faith, hence, new branding and the name change to Embers. Next time you’re out that way on McClellan, check out the Embers Corporate Headquarters, another attractive addition to our ever-changing landscape.
A more recent development is the newest location of Upper Peninsula State Bank. With offices already established in Escanaba, Gladstone, and Iron Mountain, and a more than 100-year history, this bank finally, and apparently without hesitation, has entered the competitive field of Marquette financial institutions.
As with any investment in our community, we welcome U.P. State Bank, particularly when we believe they’ll be a good partner in helping shape our future.
Regarding community involvement, Andy Herro, Marquette Community Bank President says, “It’s important to us to help build economically healthy communities, which means that all of our support remains local.” Sounds good.
Bottom line? A nice new building to go along with a business model that will undoubtedly contribute to a stronger Marquette. That sounds good, too.