Finally, there’s movement in sale of Cliffs-Dow tract

It’s been a long time coming, but something actually might happen with the former Cliffs-Dow property along Lakeshore Boulevard.

The Marquette City Commission on Monday OK’d a resolution of intent to sell the 32-acre parcel to Veridea Group, a real estate developer involved in many major local projects such as Liberty Way.

The original intent of buying the site, which Marquette purchased for $1 over 20 years ago, was for economic development.

Veridea’s proposal includes preliminary plans for a residential community with multiple parks and green space.

According to a March 2017 Mining Journal article, Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co. in the early 1900s developed the property and produced pig iron there for about 30 years. In 1935, Cliffs Dow Chemical Co. began producing charcoal and wood chemical derivatives until it was sold to Georgia-Pacific in 1968. Operations ended a year later.

The property sat idle until the city purchased about 77 acres of the tract in 1997 for $1, selling off parcels on the north and south ends.

So, with the property’s history as an industrial site and its current deed restriction of “no residential uses,” more planning and talks about remediation will be needed between city officials and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Commissioner Jenn Hill had a legitimate question on Monday night: Why would the city even start the offer of selling before it had an agreement with DEGLE on what’s allowed on the site?

City Manager Mike Angeli said that when the request for proposals was released in 2018, DEGLE assured the city it was close to being cleared or passed. So, the city proceeded with the sale, with city staff believing it was important to move ahead because the property’s sale and development were “integral” to replacing the loss of the We Energies tax base due to the closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant. That plant closed earlier this year.

However, Marquette Director of Community Development Dennis Stachiewicz assured people at Monday’s commission meeting the city will work with DEGLE to meet city obligations but also permit development on a site that would protect residents’ health, safety and welfare.

The site is subject to an existing Act 381 brownfield plan too, which could be fortuitous. If the city had to perform some remediation, it could handle that work in conjunction with the relocation of Lakeshore Boulevard — a longtime goal of the city — as well as park space being created on the east side.

Of course, people expressed concerns at the commission meeting about the proposed project, including remediation, affordable housing and consistency with community master plan goals.

But as Mayor Fred Stonehouse pointed out on Monday, the city needs to increase its tax base.

And with more money in its coffers, the city presumably would have funds for other projects.

The site is not directly on the shores of Lake Superior, so that should be of some comfort to people.

However, discussions should proceed in a careful manner since there are many issues to consider.

We’re glad, though, the city is paving the way for the long-dormant Cliffs-Dow property to be developed, and we hope good things will come from it.