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Waterfront building codes unveiled

January 24, 2008
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM, Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — About 30 people listened intently Wednesday at Lakeview Arena as city officials detailed the draft downtown waterfront form-based code.

Several in the audience owned property in the area, including Robert Berube, co-owner of the old savings bank building. He was concerned about parking. One of the goals of form-based code is to keep parking lots out of the public space, either behind the building or incorporated inside it.

Berube said if lots near the waterfront, which are currently used as parking lots, were redeveloped into buildings, it would be impossible to provide adequate parking for both the new building and the old lots where the parking lot used to be.

“This ordinance takes parking away,” Berube said.

Dennis Stachewicz Jr., city planner/zoning administrator, said the code could be tweaked or variances could be granted if parking was going to be an issue for a developer.

The Washington, D.C., firm Ferrell Madden Associates developed a form-based code for Marquette’s downtown waterfront 10 months ago. The Marquette Planning Commission has been going over the code and adjusting it to fit Marquette.

Form-based zoning defines the public realm of a neighborhood, the streets, sidewalks, greenspace and building facades. It encourages similarity in building style without requiring buildings to look identical. It provides an attractive space where people want to gather, Stachewicz said, an aspect important for every downtown.

 Form-based code emphasizes the physical form of the area and individual buildings rather than strict adherence to usage. Unlike traditional zoning, what goes on inside the building is not strictly regulated.

The downtown waterfront district is bordered by Front Street on the west, Baraga Avenue on the south and Lakeshore Boulevard on the north.

The code addresses future development and redevelopment. It does not apply to current buildings.

The form-based codes for the waterfront aim to maintain a working waterfront, provide public access to the water, preserve and increase the greenery in the area and provide walkable streets to improve pedestrian connections.

Buildings would be aligned and close to the roadway, forming the space of the street. This is meant to make the area look and feel like downtown.

“We create, with some predictability, a public realm where we, the public, own it and we occupy it as we go about our daily business,” said Stephen DeGoosh, chairman of the planning commission.

According to the code, new or redeveloped buildings in the areas along Front Street would be between two to five stories in height. The first floors, if used as residential units, would be three to seven feet off the level of the street.

New or redeveloped buildings on Lakeshore Boulevard would be two to three stories. Buildings in the areas east of Lakeshore Boulevard from Washington Street to Baraga Avenue would be between one and two stories in height. Buildings in the area near Thill’s Dock would be one story, with a maximum height of 20 feet.

The step-down approach for the buildings as they approach the waterfront was a request of residents when the new code was first discussed, Stachewicz said, because they didn’t want new buildings to block views of the lake.

Article Photos

Dennis Stachewicz Jr., city planner/zoning administrator, holds up a map of Marquette’s downtown waterfront at the citizen’s forum room at Lakeview Arena on Wednesday. The color-coded zones define building heights and appearances as the streets go east toward Lake Superior. (Journal photo by Christopher Diem)



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