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Looking to the future NMU’s Wong presents master plan to city commission

April 4, 2010
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM Journal Staff Writer


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University President Les Wong said the university plans to gradually restructure its campus to promote more foot traffic and less vehicle traffic.

Article Photos

Large fields around the Superior Dome on the Northern Michigan University campus in Marquette. The university has plans to build an outdoor theater near the Superior Dome with Lake Superior as a backdrop. (Journal photo by Julia Woehrer)

Wong discussed NMU's master plan in a presentation to the Marquette City Commission on Monday. He said none of the projects listed in the master plan have any time frames or cost estimates attached to them.

"When you come onto Northern's campus now it's really car dependent. Cars go right through the spine of the campus," he said. "We put all the parking in front of buildings and you almost feel like you're in southern California, that when you park you're going to walk through cars to get into class."

Wong said university officials want to move traffic to the side and dedicate the spine of the campus to walking, biking and other types of foot traffic.

The university has a growing national reputation for technology including its new WiMAX network, Wong said. To nurture that reputation, Wong said a research and technology park might eventually be built along the east side of Sugarloaf Avenue.

Wong said companies like Bonobo Computers, Intel and Motorolla have shown interest in NMU's expanding WiMAX network.

"We seem to be the perfect test bed for this new wireless technology because of the terrain, the snow, the weather," Wong said. "As the engineers are telling us, if its working this well in Marquette it's going to work well anywhere on the planet."

The university also owns several properties on Presque Isle Avenue and Wong said those properties could be developed into a mixed-use corridor with student housing above retail stores.

"We could increase services to students. We might very well have some student learning projects there but we would also envision subleasing it to retail units as well," he said.

Wong said he did not want to take away business from any of the other retail stores in town. He said store owners on Third Street and Washington Street were interviewed about NMU's plans and "they were quite supportive."

In addition, any NMU property that is subleased would continue to pay taxes to the city, Wong said.

The university also has plans to build an outdoor theater near the Superior Dome, with Lake Superior as a backdrop. He said he would also like to see the university better integrated with biking and running trails through the city.

Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 242. His e-mail address is cdiem@miningjournal. net.



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