City addresses surplus properties | News, Sports, Jobs

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission at a Wednesday special meeting denied purchase requests for three properties in the city.

One of those requests was for surplus property at 601 S. Lakeshore Blvd., with Marquette Opportunity, LLC, proposing an extended-stay hotel. The project would have carried an investment of $12 million to $14 million on the west side of the multiuse path across from the Fairfield Inn & Suites, which was a Marquette Opportunity, LLC project as well.

However, the commissioners, in voting unanimously to deny the request, indicated that the hotel would not be the best use of the site.

“People don’t want any more hotels down by the water,” Commissioner Jessica Hanley said. “I’ve heard it over and over again, so I can’t in good conscience support that.”

Mayor Jenna Smith also noted that she has received a lot of public feedback on the issue.

“Putting things that close to the lake is not something the community wants to see.” Smith said. “They want public access and public visibility to the lake.”

Commissioner Evan Bonsall said the location, though, would be good for housing.

“People like to say we’ll never get affordable housing on the lakefront, but we control this property, and in the future, potentially, it would make sense to have some low-income, or workforce, or mixed-income housing development on this property, but that’s a topic for another day,” Bonsall said. “We’re going to need more community input on that.

“The lakefront is very important. It’s very sensitive. People in the community rightly care very deeply about it, and so do I.”

Affordable housing was part of another topic addressed by the commission: a proposal from the Steve Mariucci Family Beacon House to acquire surplus property directly adjacent to the facility at 600 W. Spring St.

The commission denied a request from the facility, which provides housing for people with loved ones at UPHS-Marquette, to purchase the .84-acre parcel. The resolution also directed city staff to prepare a Request For Proposals for developing the property as high-density, low-income or workforce housing as defined in the community master plan and the city Ad Hoc Housing Committee’s final report.

Bonsall said it makes sense to be specific about what the city wants in that RFP.

The vote was 6-1, with Commissioner Fred Stonehouse casting the negative vote. Although it had not given an intended use for the piece of land, Beacon House identified it as a “key element” of future planning, according to a city document.

“Very much, I would like to see this turned into a housing development that would be for workforce housing, or more affordable than what has been happening in the city.” Commissioner Sally Davis said.

Davis acknowledged that Beacon House contributes to the community by providing housing, but that housing is not for local residents.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, Beacon House CEO Mary Tavernini-Dowling said the facility provides “compassionate” services such as lodging for guests, some of whom stay for six months.

“Affordable housing is Beacon House,” she said. “That’s what we do. That’s who we are.”

Stonehouse said he wanted to gather as many development opportunities as possible for the property and expressed concern about the tight restrictions in the resolution.

“We gather a lot, we sort them out and we find the ones that best fit our criteria, which may well be affordable housing,” Stonehouse said.

The commission also unanimously denied a request from Mark Curran of Curran & Company to acquire 200 acres of Heartwood Forest property, which is surplus property in Sands Township located just outside the southwest corner of the city.

A city document indicates that the property contains a significant portion of the Carp River, including the convergence of Morgan Creek and the Carp River known as the Unnamed Morgan Falls, as well as several portions of Noquemanon Trail Network bike trails.

The developer wants to develop only 20 acres of the property on the condition that the city place nearly the entire acreage of the remaining property in Marquette Township into a perpetual conservation easement.

Hanley said that accepting the purchase request would not help the city tax rolls.

“I also think that right now, it is doing exactly what that property was meant to do in being recreation,” she said.

Regarding housing in the city of Marquette overall, Stonehouse said Marquette County might become involved in the process since it has more room to expand.

“Any development in Marquette will be boutique,” he said. “In other words, it’s going to be small development. It’s not going to be the big operations that we might see in other places because we certainly don’t have the room.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is [email protected]

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