Esky hopes city certification pays off

ESCANABA — Escanaba hopes to capitalize in the coming years on one of last year’s major accomplishments recognized in both the planning commission and the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) annual reports. The reports were presented to the Escanaba City Council Thursday.

Escanaba’s certification as a Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC) was among the top goals achieved in the city in 2017, according to both documents, which council unanimously approved during its regular meeting.

While presenting the planning commission’s end-of-the-year report to council, Code Compliance Inspector Blaine DeGrave described the RRC Certification as “one of the big accomplishments,” expressing thanks to former city manager Jim O’Toole, city council, and the other boards and committees involved in the two-year certification process.

On April 13, 2017, Escanaba became the first community in the Upper Peninsula to be certified in the statewide program sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which assisted the city in meeting the certification requirements.

The RRC Certification lets developers know Escanaba has a vision for the future and the city has created a sound foundation for redevelopment including removing barriers and streamlining processes to be more competitive.

According to the MEDC, the voluntary, no-cost certification program is designed to promote a community’s effective redevelopment strategies through a set of best practices. The program measures and then certifies communities that combine transparency, predictability and efficiency into development practices.

When developers access the RRC website link, which lists each of the 10 certified communities in the state, Escanaba is described as the following:

“Located along the quiet waters of the Little Bay de Noc on the north side of Lake Michigan, the City of Escanaba is positioned in a micro-climate colloquially known as the Upper Peninsula’s ‘Banana Belt’; regarded for its relatively warm winters and long summers. Escanaba is a place brimming with local

pride, small town charm, and welcoming attitudes. With so much to be proud of, like its low cost of living, exceptional schools, abundant outdoor recreational opportunities, and a high-class walkable downtown, you’ll wish you were here.”

The RRC Certification also allows Escanaba to actively market select properties on the RRC website available to developers seeking ideal sites for their projects. Current Escanaba sites on the RRC’s website are the Delft Theatre, Northern Motors Ford Dealership, and the Escanaba National Bank, all on Ludington Street.

According to the DDA’s 2018 goals — also included in the authority’s annual report — this information on available downtown properties will assist developers in knowing more about each building including zoning as well as assist the DDA in its ongoing objective to redevelop the downtown.

DDA Chairperson Sue Parker presented the authority’s report to council members Thursday, noting construction of the city’s $1.3 million marketplace was also among the DDA’s top goals met last year.

“The Escanaba marketplace is completed — that’s a big one!” Parker said when listing the DDA’s major accomplishments in 2017.

According to the DDA’s list of 2018 goals and objectives, in addition to using the marketplace for the farmers market, the facility will be actively promoted for use by the community. Grants and donations will also be sought to make use of the marketplace in colder weather.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,