The Town of Marquette holds a special meeting on the former general hospital site project

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) – On Monday, the Marquette City Commission held a special meeting at the former Marquette General Hospital site.

The commission discussed a proposed brownfield spending plan for the project that is expected to take place on the property. This follows the North Michigan University Foundation’s unanimous vote on Friday to select Marquette-based Veridea Group as the lead developer for the former hospital site.

Veridea Group CEO Bob Mahaney told the meeting that the developer plans to demolish all buildings and then build around 300 homes, a seniors’ community, offices, retail space and put road update on College Ave. Mahaney added that the plan could also include a new parking ramp, green space and a new performing arts center for Northern Michigan University.

“We want what we’re doing here to complement the surrounding neighborhoods to the east, south, and west,” Mahaney said of the tentative project ideas. “These are well-established neighborhoods.”

More than 10 members of the Marquette community came to Monday’s meeting to share their thoughts on the plan proposed by the NMU Foundation and the Veridea Group.

Some were very enthusiastic about it, with community members like Paul Schloegel praising each organization. “I think it’s just fabulous,” Schloegel said during his speech. Schloegel continued, “I saw no reason to think that there was no transparency throughout this process.”

Community member Tony Boyle said he believes the NMU Foundation and the Veridea Group misled the community. Boyle said he predicted the housing promised by Veridea Group would not be affordable options, even though Veridea Group said part of the plan included those options.

“What it’s going to be is two whole new developments equivalent to Founders Landing,” Boyle said. “It will push the base price of housing out of reach for average citizens.”

Marquette community member Margaret Brumm said she was also concerned about the transparency of the NMU Foundation and the Veridea Group. Brumm cited a potential conflict of interest due to the fact that Veridea Group CEO Bob Mahaney also sits on the board of the NMU Foundation.

“This town has been lied to by developers for the past 8 years,” Brumm said. Brumm continued, “Founders Landing? You cannot see the lake. You said you were going to build affordable waterfront townhouses, but they cost $350,000 each.

Antonio Adan said he was in favor of the project. Adan added that he wants the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group to ensure that there will be affordable housing, which he sees as a critical issue.

“I’m here to talk primarily about the importance of considering affordable housing,” Adan said. “Housing for people who live here and want to stay here, who want to raise families and have well-paying jobs.”

Mahaney said community feedback sessions will be held in the coming months to better understand what members of the Marquette community want to see in the development.

“Yes, the people of Marquette will soon have the opportunity to express their ideas for development,” Mahaney said.

Veridea Group’s current plans are dependent on the City of Marquette Commission approving money from Brownfield, to accompany money from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The NMU Foundation estimates that it needs between $18 million and $20 million in Brownfield money to demolish the old hospital buildings.

“When the offers were received by the NMU Foundation about 6-8 months ago, the projection was $18 million,” Mahaney said of the Brownfield money. “My personal opinion is that it will cost $20 million just because of the increased costs we’ve seen from the contractors.”

The Marquette City Commission said its plan is to vote on a finalized spending plan for the project on May 31. At Monday’s meeting, she also voted unanimously to hold a public commentary on that spending plan the same day.

If the brownfields spending plan is approved and the project moves forward, the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group plan to begin demolition in 2023, which is expected to last until mid to late 2024.

Their plan outlines the design and pre-construction phase of the project beginning in mid-2023 and ending in mid-to-late 2026. It also calls for construction to begin immediately following demolition in 2024, which could last until 2030.

Veridea Group and the NMU Foundation estimate the total cost of the project at around $160 million.

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Margie D. Carlisle