City commission nixes housing proposition

Fred Stonehouse, Marquette city commissioner.

MARQUETTE — A proposed housing complex in the city of Marquette near McClellan Avenue apparently isn’t going to happen — at least not where a downstate developer had considered building it.

On Monday, the Marquette  City Commission unanimously changed a motion and resolution of intent to sell a 8.1-acre piece of property located at 1435 Wright St. to a motion to permanently withdraw the resolution.

Renovare Development, a Detroit-based company, had proposed to construct 69 units at the site, including a number of what’s known as workforce units.

Workforce housing is defined as “housing that is affordable for households earning 80% to 120% of the area median income in the city of Marquette,” according to the city’s Ad-Hoc Housing Committee.

“Renovare Development is a social impact development company. We focus on transformational projects,” said Renovare official Shannon Morgan. “We focus on projects in partnerships with corporations, with municipals, to solve deep community need for impact.”

The proposed project featured 69 units: 13 detached row homes, 24 duplexes and 33 townhomes. Fifty percent of the units would have been restricted to workforce housing.

There were several concerns citizens expressed at Monday’s meeting, including losing the surrounding woods that are home to many animals such as deer, birds, squirrels and even a turkey or two.

There are no parks within a short walking distance, so the woods also provides a place for children to explore and play. Many people were concerned that traffic would increase with new homes being built in the area, making it an unsafe area for pedestrians and causing more traffic accidents.

“This development is the antithesis of responsible development,” city resident Margaret Brumm said. “This development will literally lay waste to a robust ecosystem that has been in existence as long as the city has, in favor of cardboard houses made with cheap materials.”

Renovare was seeking assistance through the Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act, “which provides for the reimbursement of certain eligible activities on eligible property through the capture of increased incremental taxes generated by additional private investment,” according to Renovare’s formal proposal.

The property would have been transferred to the Marquette County Land Bank Authority as a blighted property to be eligible for the brownfield assistance. But many felt the property is not blighted at all.

“I will not vote for any consideration that requires considering that property blighted, in other words manipulating the brownfield,” city Commissioner Fred Stonehouse said.

Some felt this project would help cover the need for affordable housing in Marquette.

“We are in a housing crisis. We need houses in the city of Marquette. I understand that nobody wants it in their backyard, they don’t want it by the lakeshore, they don’t want it anywhere,” said Ad-Hoc Housing Committee member and realtor Stephanie Jones. “They all want it in the Shopko area. I understand that, but the cost of developing Shopko would be horrendous and it is not zoned that way.”

City Commissioner Sally Davis told the gathering that a recent visit she made to the site impressed upon her a “heartfelt passion for this woodland.

“At 2:30 today, I took a walk there, and there are a lot of beautiful trees. There are a lot of human footprints and no trash. There are a lot of dog prints and no dog waste. So I know that the people who are using this property are taking really good care of it,” she said. “I found a lot of deer tracks, a lot of little animals running around, a bird house someone put up, a stick fort put up by children and it all made me happy. I looked at people’s backyards and I tried to imagine what it would be like to have this particular development in their backyard. I thought about the wildlife we would be displacing. As much as I would love this project to be something that could help resolve the housing issue, I’m just not convinced that it is needed in this particular part of our city.”

The commission agreed there are other areas in the city Renovare could look at to build upon.

“I get that the housing affordability is a critical issue and we still need to address it. I still think that there is room for Renovare somewhere in Marquette,” said Mayor Jenna Smith.

Taylor Johnson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is tjohnson@miningjournal.net.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today