West End Update – City of Negaunee

City of Negaunee reaches key goal in development

Nate Heffron, city manager, city of Negaunee

NEGAUNEE — Our city has been moving forward for about 5 years now and I am proud to say we have reached an important goal.

Negaunee recently received its Redevelopment Ready Community certification from the Michigan Economici Devolvement Corporation.

What does RRC certification mean? Since the city worked hard to get here, it’s an important concept to understand. According to the MEDC website www.miplaceorg, the program is “committed to providing ongoing support and technical assistance to all communities as they seek to build strong planning and development processes that are efficient, predictable and transparent”.

Negaunee has done just that, by adopting a number of best practices suggested by the MEDC in action, policy, and legislation. These best practices include six overarching areas of focus:

Plans and engagement: Evaluates community planning and how a community’s redevelopment vision is embedded in the master plan, capital improvements plan, and downtown plan or corridor plan(s). It also assesses how a community identifies its stakeholders and engages them. Under this practice we developed a new 5-year Master Plan, adopted a Downtown Plan, adopted a Public Participation Plan, and have incorporated a yearly update to our Capital Improvements Plan.

Zoning: This best practice evaluated our zoning ordinance and how it meets community goals, enables the form and type of development the community is seeking and includes modern approaches to zoning. By adopting several changes to our zoning code, we are able attract developers by replacing of archaic zoning laws holding back development.

Development review: This best practice evaluated our development review policies and procedures to ensure they integrate predictability throughout the city. This change helped to cut the so-called red tape that some developers and residents may have experienced in the past. Creating a more user-friendly process for development that is customer-service focused.

Economic development: This practice focusses to strengthen a municipality’s overall economic health and the market itself to create community pride and increase investor confidence. The result of this practice in Negaunee was our economic development strategic plan; Moving Forward, and our recently adopted marketing plan.

Boards and commissions: This practice assessed the tools Negaunee has put in place to strengthen their boards and commissions. This practice encouraged us to give clear direction and focus on member training and orientation.

Priority redevelopment sites: This last practice assessed how a Negaunee identifies, envisions, and markets their priority redevelopment sites. This practice is one of the most exciting. It not only helps prepare for development, but the next step after certification. Under this practice, Negaunee has identified many sites from our downtown to our commercial corridor along U.S. 41.

This is a big step in this city’s efforts to move forward and build a better community to live, work and play in. But for city leadership, the work is not done. Certification only lasts for 5-years and we will need to work to maintain it. Fortunately, the MEDC does provide help for communities that have been certified by offering additional access to technical assistance grants — a benefit we intend to take advantage of.

Our next step after MEDC certification is developer attraction. Now that our best practices are clearly in place, it’s a clear signal to the developers across Michigan and the region that Negaunee is ready to help you forge your adventure. We recognize the hard work and private funding that development takes.

We’ll work every day to help developers reach their goals, while, at the same time cultivating the economic goals the city has set with the guidance of these best practices. We are excited to have reached this critical step, which will support our current and future strategic economic development efforts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nate Heffron is city manager of the city of Negaunee.


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