Negaunee downtown enhancement moving

Some historic buildings on the block with the Vista Theater are undergoing significant renovation and restoration. City Manager Nate Heffron said they are expected to house new businesses when completed. Spurring private investment such as this is one of the goals of an ambitious downtown enhancement project. (Journal photo by Vickie Fee)

NEGAUNEE — Negaunee’s Downtown Enhancement streetscape project is on track to be completed by the end of summer, according to city Manager Nate Heffron.

The ambitious project is more than a face lift, it is anticipated to be instrumental in reshaping the town’s long-term economic future.

It is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Michigan Department of Transportation Small Urban Development funds, and an $885,000 Michigan Economic Development Corporation Revitalization and Placemaking grant.

The project combines public infrastructure, streetscape improvements and pedestrian amenities deigned to create a downtown district that offers walkability and a unique environment to promote business growth, create outdoor social gathering opportunities, increase walkability and connectivity, and improve the community’s overall image.

The first steps took place last summer with upgrades to public infrastructure on Iron Street by replacing aged water mains, electrical systems, sidewalks and roadways, and included realignment of the Iron-Pioneer Street intersection.

A surveyor works directly across the street from the Vista Theater in downtown Negaunee.(Journal photo by Vickie Fee)

One goal of the project is to spur private investment. On a walk this week along Iron Street, it’s readily apparent that two commercial buildings are undergoing significant renovations. These privately owned buildings are expected to house new businesses.

Work crews are moving dirt redesigning Chiri Park, which has historically been an underutilized grassy clearing. This area will be turned into a central gathering area with landscaping, public seating and bike amenities. It will eventually include the Negaunee Farmers Market.

Along the newly installed sidewalks are recycled streetlights. Poles that are over 100 years old have been sand-blasted, painted, and powder-coated, Heffron said. All of the metalworks were fabricated locally.

Trees have been planted in the sidewalks with decorative grates around them. The trees, a variety of maple, grow as a column, rather than spreading. The base of the trees have a “tree diaper,” which keeps the roots hydrated.

The other end of the street is Tobin Place, which will provide additional seating and a pedestrian area. A restaurant, ice cream parlor and apartments are already planned for that end of the street.

Directly across the street from the historic Vista Theater, part of Marquette Street has been eliminated. It will make way for Irontown Plaza, and connects to a parking lot behind it, in which parking will be maximized. The plaza will feature stamped concrete, some seating and triangular columns for lighting. The plaza will feature spaces for bands and crafters’ markets, among other activities.

Ericson Parkway will provide a peaceful park with soft lighting and a drinking fountain, which will feature a dog water bowl at the base. It will connect Jackson Street to Iron Street.

Finally, Firefighters Square will highlight Negaunee’s historic fire station, which is the oldest-in-use fire hall in the Upper Peninsula and the second oldest in the state. This area will feature a sculpture made of stacked iron, along with interpretive signage. The plaza is located between the band shell and the fire station.


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