MARQUETTE - Though commissioners expressed cautious optimism, any major judgments were postponed Monday, as the Marquette City Commission scheduled a public hearing to discuss a proposed brownfield plan connected to a possible $31 million city development.
"This is a really big project," Commissioner Jason Schneider said. "I think, on the periphery, it looks like a really great plan and addition to our community. I look forward to the public hearing to learn more details."
The development would be undertaken by Marquette's Veridea Group and would transform the old Sara Lee bakery at 857 W. Washington St. into a 125,000-square-foot commercial, retail and residential space.
Veridea Group President Bob Mahaney describes his company’s plans for the property at 857 W. Washington St. during the Marquette City Commission meeting Monday. Mahaney is looking for a brownfield designation for the former Sara Lee bakery property, where he is planning to construct a $31 million residential, commercial and retail development. (Journal photo by Kyle Whitney)
"I support this idea and what I heard tonight I think was very impressive," Commissioner Don Ryan said. "But I think I will save my comments for the public hearing."
By a unanimous vote, the hearing was scheduled for the commission's June 25 meeting.
Veridea Group President Bob Mahaney told the commission Monday that his group's intention is to create a development that will bring the property back on the city tax rolls and spur community development.
"We really believe that this project can really be the catalyst for additional development along Washington Street, especially between the bakery site and extending into what people traditionally view as downtown Marquette," Mahaney said. "We think it can actually redefine downtown Marquette."
The end goal, Mahaney said, will be to create a type of urban courtyard that will connect the neighborhoods to the north of Washington Street with the bike path, via the Veridea development.
The first phase of the project would create a 12,750-square-foot, three-story commercial building at the northwest corner of the lot. Mahaney said a few tenants have already been identified for that building, which would include a financial institution and offices for both an out-of-state professional services firm and the Veridea Group.
Future phases will include the construction of a three-story, 17,100-square-foot retail building and two 48,120-square-foot, four story buildings. One of the larger buildings will have one floor of retail space and three floors of commercial space, while the other will have one floor of retail and three stories of residential space.
If the group receives all appropriate approvals, the goal, according to the Veridea work plan, is to complete phase one of the project in 2013. Each of the subsequent three phases would be completed in two-year increments.
Another major component of the project would be an underground parking structure with nearly 400 spaces. Mahaney told the commission that in order to comply with the city master plan, which calls for high-density development in the area, a parking structure would be necessary to accommodate traffic.
As the parking structure will be underground, its construction was included as part of the infrastructure improvements that could be covered by a brownfield-related tax capture. In total, the plan calls for $6.73 million in infrastructure improvements.
"In a conventional sense, the topography is challenging," Mahaney said of the site, which drops off on the south side. "We came up with a plan that took that problem - the topography - and turned it into a positive and allowed us to achieve a high-density mixed-use development here."
Other infrastructure improvements include an upgrade of the Lincoln Avenue and Washington Street intersection to accommodate increased traffic, streetscaping along Washington and the bike path and an extension of the bike path to connect it to the development.
The property qualifies for a brownfield designation, as the building has been deemed "functionally obsolete" by the city assessor.
The Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act allows for the capture of incremental local and school property taxes from redeveloped properties to pay for environmental costs, infrastructure improvements, demolition and site preparation costs associated with those properties.
A plan would include the creation of a Tax Increment Financing district, which allows a municipality to freeze taxes at pre-development levels for a set period of time and then use the revenues from increased taxable value. Some of the capture would be directed to a city fund that can be used on brownfield sites throughout Marquette.
Veridea estimates it will spend more than $10 million on brownfield-eligible activities, including environmental remediation, lead and asbestos abatement, demolition, site preparation and infrastructure work.
Under the plan, the tax capture can run through 2036 and would net $17.6 million.
In the brownfield plan, Veridea estimates property taxes will total more than $1.3 million annually, after brownfield obligations are retired. Currently, the area generates about $22,000 in taxes each year.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.