Property deal complete

Robert Mahaney, president of Veridea Group LLC, and Michele Thomas, director of commercial real estate, discuss Veridea Group’s plan to develop city-owned property on the corner of Third and Main streets in Marquette. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — Big plans are imminent for the surface parking lot at the corner of Third and Main streets in Marquette.

After Marquette-based real estate developer Veridea Group LLC expressed interest in buying the half-acre of city-owned property in November, the Marquette City Commission adopted a resolution Monday night at its regular meeting, allowing City Manager Mike Angeli and City Attorney Ronald Keefe to complete the sale.

Robert Mahaney, president of Veridea Group, and Michele Thomas, director of commercial real estate, presented a conceptual design for a multi-use facility at the meeting.

The proposed five-story, 50,000-square-foot building will include two levels of underground parking with up to 84 heated parking stalls. So far, the plan is to incorporate a ground floor market place with restaurants and coffee shops, as well as residential, retail and office spaces throughout. Mahaney said the estimated $12 million project will create construction jobs and around 150 permanent full-time jobs. Veridea has a five-year window to complete the project, he added.

“We really want this building to complement historic downtown architecture,” Mahaney said. “We’re looking for some good sandstone elements to introduce into the design, but at the same time we don’t just want to copy what’s downtown. We want to recognize that this is 2018 and we want to build and make use of some of the wonderful … exterior building materials that are available today that weren’t available even five, 10 years ago.”

Veridea wants to make the downtown vibrant by creating a “strong street scene presence,” Mahaney said, calling the project a “home run in Marquette” since he suspects there will be a spillover effect for restaurants and businesses in the area.

The commission in November adopted an intent-to-sell resolution, which directed Angeli to negotiate a sale of the property. After approving the resolution, interested firms or parties had the chance to present a plan to city officials within 60 days.

Within that time, Tom Vear, owner of Donckers and The Delft Bistro, also expressed interest in developing the property.

“What I see is an inclusive right to negotiate this property,” Vear was quoted saying in a previous Journal article. “Patience in something like this (is) a virtue — I would like the opportunity to propose something to the commission to deal with that parcel and I think it’s important the commission understand that I talked to you all individually and have spent time and money putting the project together. Please have patience in the decision.”

Vear said Monday he was close to finishing a proposal and hoped the commission would consider that. He also said the sale price of $221,000, which equals the property’s appraisal price, was too low for the value of its location.

Several people wondered about the project’s parking situation, as well. The current surface parking lot consists of 72 parking spaces. Even though Veridea will create 12 additional parking spots, the facility is expected to bring even more people to the area.

“We are concerned with the parking … but we do know that Veridea will work with us,” said Mona Lang, executive director of the Marquette Downtown Development Authority. “We have faith in them to do that and we also know as an authority, as a city, as we develop, this is obviously what we want rather than urban sprawl. We’re rebuilding on properties where, through the years, our parking requirements force people to tear down buildings, people to build parking lots. We are working to reverse that (and) turn these into taxable properties. We’re going to continue to monitor this parking situation. I will, probably in the next five to 10 years, if not sooner, to start to identify locations for an additional parking structure that’ll serve the downtown constituents.”

The commission agreed that parking is a problem in the downtown area and collectively directed the DDA to determine a location for a parking facility soon.

Robert Kulisheck, board member and founder of the Janzen House, expressed concern regarding water runoff.

Mahaney said that’s one thing that’ll be addressed as soon as engineers begin incorporating site and zoning plans.

Commissioner Peter Frazier asked if the underground parking would have designated parking for its employees. Mahaney said parking will be on a “first come, first serve” basis.

“We’re required to leave a certain percentage in that case open to the public,” he said. “Doesn’t mean that it’s free parking and I should point out I don’t believe it’s free parking on the surface parking that exist. Our inclination as a company is to leave much of the parking undesignated.”

Veridea Group has completed a variety of projects in the Marquette area such as mBank, Staybridge Suites and Upper Peninsula Health Plan, known as the Liberty Way project, which is located along Washington Street, as well as The Residences at Harbor Vista, a 31-unit high-end apartment building off U.S. 41. The real estate developers have one year to finish a site plan.