City moves forward with firm for Founders Landing pier project

Aerial renderings show a boardwalk next to the Lower Harbor ore dock, which is a part of a conceptual plan proposed by GEI Consultants to redevelop the historic piers at Founders Landing. The Marquette City Commission approved moving forward with the engineering firm for the preliminary design phase. (Courtesy photo from GEI Consultants)

MARQUETTE — Marquette is moving forward with engineering firm GEI Consultants for the preliminary design phase of its Founders Landing pier project.

The Marquette City Commission unanimously approved the move Monday, directing City Attorney Ron Keefe to develop an agreement that retains the firm for a cost not to exceed $205,430.

The Founders Landing pier consists of two piling structures, which are the remnants of the Spear Merchant Dock complex that was constructed in the late 1800s. The city acquired Founders Landing from the Wisconsin Central Ltd. Railroad in 2001 to foster private redevelopment and increase public access to the waterfront.

As a part of the brownfield redevelopment plan for the property, the city agreed to complete various improvements to be funded through a tax increment financing plan.

In June, the Marquette Community Services Department issued a request for qualifications — which was awarded to GEI Consultants in August — to evaluate the current condition of the structures and potential reuse scenarios.

A work session between GEI Consultants and city staff was held several weeks ago where the firm said the piles and crib structures of both docks were found to be in good condition. The firm said driving new steel piles for deck construction would be less expensive than cutting and extending existing wooden piles.

The firm’s conceptual plan, which was presented at the work session, includes building a new boardwalk that would incude earthen fill, steel substructure with wooden decking, and floating finger docks.

The project is estimated to cost $5 million, said City Manager Mike Angeli. Funding has been secured through the brownfield plan with the Marquette Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. If the city chose only to remove the pilings, rather than reuse them, it would cost about $3 million, he said.

“This was originally a concept in the brownfield plan when the Founders project was brought to an idea from when the city obtained the Founders property from the railroad,” Angeli said. “As a part of that process, the city agreed to either reuse these pilings or remove them. We’ve done some considerable work and research and through the hiring on GEI, found that it is feasible and probably better environmentally to reuse the pilings.”

Rather than seeking bids from other firms for the preliminary design phase, city staff recommended waiving the bidding process to continue working with GEI.

According to city notes, the need to waive the process is an effort to use GEI Consultant’s design-build partner, Durocher Marine Co., for the Founders Landing pier reuse and the Presque Isle Marina pier replacement projects.

“We think it’s in the best interest that GEI continue on this road by continuing with the actual design,” Angeli said. “We have a potential issue with Presque Isle Marina which is also scheduled to be constructed this summer, and then our estimates are about $300,000 over budget. Because we have the piling field and Presque Isle project coming to fruition at the same time, we better take the idea that maybe we could save costs at Presque Isle by utilizing the same construction firm for both projects.

“We just feel that if we do this in a controlled fashion, if we take advantage of the opportunities that we have, we can bring both projects in under budget or at least on budget,” Angeli added.

Contrary to what some people might believe, Angeli said, this project is for the public.

“It is on the Founders Landing shoreline, which is public property in its entirety,” Angeli said. “These boardwalks that we’re proposing will also be publically owned, publically utilized.”

Angeli said staff has talked about incorporating a “parking meter-type situation” along the boardwalk for boats, where people can park while they go out for dinner or visit the downtown area.

Angeli hopes the project can get moving this spring, but a permitting process which has to go through the state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could hold up the project until spring 2020.

Marquette resident Margaret Brumm called the initial conceptual design “gorgeous.” However, during her time running for city commission, she heard from several people with mobile disabilities who said there’s a need for more viewing areas of Lake Superior accessible to all. Brumm suggested GEI Consultants consider incorporating a glass-water panel on the pier.

Matt Luttenberger of Marquette asked if the city contacted neighboring businesses like Dockside Marine to see if they have any concerns about the project.

“I’m trying to work in a public forum before the actual final design is brought back to the commission … depending on if GEI has design schematics available,” he said.

Commissioner Jenn Hill said she hopes there’ll be access points for kayaks and canoes incorporated into the design.

“I think it’s really important that group of people have a safe and reliable way to get their boats in and out of the water — and a place to store them,” Hill said.

Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Reynolds said she hopes to see some sort of “see-through structure of something to that nature” on the pier, but overall she’s excited about the project.

Mayor Fred Stonehouse said the purpose of the project is for everyone to enjoy it.

“The purpose is for everybody, you and I, to take a walk down the marina and enjoy the ambiance of Marquette,” he said.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.