MARQUETTE - An impending structural analysis of the city's Lower Harbor ore dock could serve as a catalyst for further development of the structure in the future.
"This analysis will cover the assessment of existing structural conditions and also include an assessment of the structure for possible future scenarios," said Dennis Stachewicz, the city's director of planning and community development
As a part of the 2013-2014 budget, the city commission approved $80,000 for an "ore dock structural analysis." The analysis must be completed by the conclusion of the budget year in September 2014.
A boat heads out for a cruise Friday evening with the old Lower Harbor ore dock in the background. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
Over the years, a handful of ideas - from condominium developments discussed for several years to a botanical and ecological center proposed last fall - have been tossed out for the ore dock.
The city controls the ore dock under a bottomlands agreement with the state, and Stachewicz said there have recently been preliminary discussions about the future of the structure.
The Marquette City Commission held a work session earlier this year to discuss the possible stabilization of the dock to allow for public access of some kind.
"As long as it is consistent with the state bottomlands agreement, the city commission could look at doing certain things with it," he said. "A lot of it depends on the structural assessment - whether it's safe or not - and, of course, funding."
During the January work session, the commission discussed the possible stabilization of the dock to allow for public access of some kind. In response to commissioner requests, Stachewicz said city staff worked up cost estimates for a small number of scenarios.
A simple walk-around perimeter, he said, would cost about $926,000. A 12-foot-wide boardwalk around the perimeter of the structure is estimated to cost $1.8 million.
City commissioners also voiced interest in establishing a boardwalk inside the structure. That option was also estimated to cost about $1.8 million. A viewing platform would cost an additional $20,000, according to Stachewicz.
"One thing you have to think about with that structure is public safety," he said. "The main point is that just about anything you're going to do out there is expensive. It has a high cost to it because of the public safety component. It's out over water. It's a former industrial structure."
There are openings to the lake on the inside of the structure, as well as large chutes hanging overhead. Even if the structure is deemed safe, Stachewicz said the city would need to light all walkways and install safety fencing, in addition to establishing ramps and walkways in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He said it was too early in the process to hypothesize about funding sources for an ore dock project.
"We haven't received enough direction to be able to research any of the funding options at this point," he said.
City staff could begin that research after reviewing the results of the structural analysis and receiving clear direction from the commission and the community, Stachewicz said.
The city's master plan calls the ore dock "Marquette's defining feature" and cites "broad support to retain it as a historically significant structure."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org