Just about every community in the state faces environmental challenges from old industrial operations
The city of Marquette falls into this category, with a handful of properties that formerly housed industry ranging from railroad yards to foundries to charcoal production plants.
Most of these tracts have sat idle for many years as industry changed and environmental laws toughened.
This is unfortunate, especially since many of these properties are in prime lakefront locations, lending themselves to redevelopment. Fortunately, there is a program that has been rejuvenated in Marquette that is helping to turn these contaminated or blighted sites into quality, active properties.
The program is run by the Marquette Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, which was reborn in 2008 following several years of inactivity and changing state laws.
What those laws enable a community to do is designate brownfield properties that in turn offer developers reimbursement for some costs associated with making the site suitable for building on.
Developers are reimbursed through the creation of special tax districts that freeze taxes at pre-development levels for a set number of years. Additional revenues during those years from increased taxable value due to development go to the authority, and are typically directed back to the developer as reimbursements or to a revolving loan fund.
A prime example of the program is the redevelopment of Founders Landing, a lakefront tract that for more than a century served as a major railroad yard, as well as a bulk storage tank farm for many years.
With assistance from the brownfield authority, the property is being turned into a well-designed, multi-building condominium, hotel and commercial development.
A major project planned for the old bakery complex on West Washington Street is also getting a boost from the brownfield program.
Other properties within the city that have potential for brownfield-assisted development include the old Cliffs Dow site along Lakeshore Boulevard, the old railroad roundhouse property west of Seventh Street and an undeveloped parcel at Founders Landing.
While the process may not move along as quickly as some may want it to, it is turning out to be a successful one as the brownfield program is certainly beginning to show some positive results in the city of Marquette.