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MDAA releases strategic plan

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Downtown Development Authority has announced the completion of its strategic plan for the future of the downtown Marquette.

Formally titled the “City of Marquette Downtown Plan,” the MDDA Board of Directors officially adopted the plan in November. A year-long collaborative effort between a consulting team from SmithGroup, Mission North, LLC and Nelson Nygaard, the 129-page document highlights a comprehensive plan to improve various aspects of Marquette’s downtown district including parking and transit, streetscape modifications, lakeshore connectivity, public spaces, housing and more.

“The purpose of the plan is to provide a unified vision and guidance for the future growth and development of downtown Marquette,” MDDA executive director Rebecca Finco said in a press release. “It will serve as the decision-making framework for the Marquette DDA moving forward.”

SmithGroup is a architectural, engineering and planning firm based in Detroit, while Traverse City-based Mission North, LLC provides planning and economic services to various municipalities and organizations. Nelson Nygaard is a transportation planning firm headquartered in San Francisco. The project was also backed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program, the Marquette City Commission, the Marquette Planning Commission and the DDA.

“This is a very comprehensive plan,” Finco told The Mining Journal. “There’s a long list of items we would like to address, and the consulting team did a great job and was thorough in addressing those needs.”

The project kicked off in January with a series of stakeholder meetings. Stakeholders included business and property owners, event planners, cultural and recreation based groups, municipal government, major employers, economic development organizations, the city commission and the DDA.

A final stakeholder meeting was held in August before the final project was approved on Nov. 12.

“We want to acknowledge our stakeholders,” Finco said. “Having stakeholder and community involvement was important. We wanted to get the views of the community and what they’d like to see in the months and years ahead. What they like, don’t like or what they want to see in the future.

“Most of the discussions and input came from those stakeholders, who formed the foundation and recommendations within this plan. It was a good team effort. We also received a lot of input from the DDA staff, city staff, the planning commission, downtown business and property owners and many other community partners. This plan is very reflective of the community and what they’d like to see.”

The project stems from previous city planning efforts. The strategic plan is divided into seven sections including economic development, multi-modal transportation, housing options, new-economy industries, mixed-use infill development, connecting downtown with the lakefront and parking management strategy.

Notable projects within the plan include building a new parking deck, adding more parking meters and spaces, widening sidewalks and adding more signage, street decor and furnishings, and connecting the Third Street corridor with the core downtown area.

Each item was classified under one of three priority levels: green, yellow and blue. Green items are highly supported and will be acted upon the soonest. Yellow items are important but less critical and blue items have support but can be saved for the future.

Time frames can vary from project to project as well. Each item is categorized with a time frame such as immediate (1-2 years), short-term (3-4 years) and long-term (5 or more years).

For example, exploring the construction of a new downtown parking deck is classified under the yellow category with an immediate time frame, while enhancing the pedestrian experience along the lakefront by improving the sidewalk, installing parking lot buffers and reducing the width of curb cut is categorized as blue with a long-term priority status.

The DDA, city commission or planning commission will all be responsible for going forward with certain items in the plan.

“It’s divided up by priority,” Finco said. “We do have challenges ahead of us in 2021 and moving forward with our COVID-19 response and recovery effort. Our primary focus to start will be assisting our downtown businesses in recovery. We will be implementing some of these concepts soon, such as adapting our parking system with our new digital permitting platform, using the Farmers Market online and more. We have several capital improvement projects for 2021, and all of that is part of our first step forward.”

The full plan can be viewed for free at https://www.downtownmarquette.org/downtown-plan-2020.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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