Gladstone looks at ideas for north shore

GLADSTONE — Concerned residents and community stakeholders were at the American Legion in Gladstone Monday to discuss the future of Gladstone’s north shore. They shared their vision for the property with planners and educators connected with Michigan State University’s Sustainable Built Environment Initiative (SBEI).

Through a competitive application process, the city was able to secure assistance from MSU to develop a plan for the roughly 50-acre area that borders Little Bay de Noc. The majority of the currently-undeveloped North Shore Project area is owned by four private landowners and roughly 10 acres is owned the city of Gladstone. None of the portions of the project area owned by the city are located on the shoreline.

Monday’s session was the first of a series of planned meetings with residents and stakeholders to discuss the project area. As part of the SEBI program, the planners and educators will bring detailed conceptual drawings and a long-range master plan to help guide future land use at future meetings.

“This is really a listening session. We’re not here to tell you anything, you’re here to tell us about you aspirations, hopes, and dreams for this property,” said Brad Neumann, an MSU Extension educator based out of Marquette County, who specializes in local government education.

Community members at the meeting were split into smaller groups of roughly six to eight people each and asked three questions: “What are you proud of about the project site and immediate area,” “What are you sorry about for the project site and immediate area,” and “What would you like to see as you float over the site in a hot air balloon 15 years from now?”

When it came to what made them proud of the site, community members focused on the area’s potential for growth, prime location and view, and historical significance. While some focused on the area’s potential as a “blank slate,” others drew on the area’s access to road, rail, and water transportation and neighboring new developments, like the new OSF healthcare facility, as signs the site could be successfully developed.

But not everything the community had to say about the site was positive. Multiple groups pointed out that they were sorry about the smell of neighboring heavy industrial sites and that the land is brownfield, meaning that it was previously used for purposes that may have contaminated the property. Additional funding may be available to help redevelop the site because of its brownfield status, but development on the site would most likely require additional clean up.

Others noted that, while the property is a blank slate open for development, infrastructure at the site is essentially nonexistent. Any private development of the land would require the landowner or developer working with the city to bring water, sewer, and electric to the site.

City staff attending the meeting also noted that historically the site had been developed, but that the development no longer existed. They also pointed out that there were aspects of the property that could make it appealing to developers that were simply unknown by the public.

“We’re sorry that the public is unaware that there’s a deep water channel that’s registered with the Army Corps of Engineers, so there’s a lot of potential there that people don’t know about,” said Community Development Director and Zoning Administrator Renee Barron.

When it came to the future of the site, community members had high aspirations for the area, recommending everything from multi-generational housing opportunities to boat-accessible restaurants and bars. Some groups even recommended the creation of a casino or a port for cruise or tour boats.

While housing, restaurants, and retail were all generally desired at the site, nearly all of the groups participating in the meeting wanted to have some level of recreation. Community members wanted the area to be a walkable development, to have bike paths, community gathering places, and public access to the water.

Now that the representatives from MSU have heard from the community, they will take that information and develop a plan and drawings. Those conceptual plans will be presented to the community at a second meeting later this year.

“We’re going to be back in the May/June (time frame), with ‘show and tell’ if you will — our first crack at what we heard this evening and what that might be able to look like,” said Warren Rauhe, professor in landscape architecture at MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction.

For more information about the Sustainable Built Environment Initiative visit www.spdc.msu.edu/about_us/sbei.

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