New use sought for old jail building

Daily Press file photo Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald examines a cell at the Delta County Correctional Facility in this file photo. Local officials are discussing what to do with the jail building when the county’s new correctional facility is completed this fall.

ESCANABA — Efforts to develop a plan for the property currently occupied by the Delta County Correctional Facility continue — including a recent joint meeting between local government officials and representatives of various development groups. The meeting was held in council chambers at Escanaba City Hall on July 31.

“I thought it went well,” Escanaba City Manager Patrick Jordan said of the joint meeting.

In May 2018, the Delta County Board of Commissioners voted to work with the Michigan Municipal League and the City of Escanaba on a request for qualifications process for the jail property. The joint meeting was held as part of the process to create this request for qualifications.

Delta County Administrator Philip Strom said a wide variety of development organizations were represented at the meeting.

“We hosted a group of consultants from different development organizations,” he said. Organizations represented at the meeting included Seamless Collaborative, east arbor architecture, LandUseUSA, the Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Strom noted that several representatives of local governments participated in the meeting, as well.

“That group met with about 15 Delta County and City of Escanaba leaders,” he said.

Jordan said he was glad to see representatives of these organizations and governments at the meeting.

“It’s good to have … all (those) minds in the same room,” he said.

The meeting was held to give attendees a chance to discuss early research on tourism in Delta County and possible uses for the jail property.

“The goal of the meeting was to review preliminary market research … and also to develop different concepts and ideas for the site,” Strom said.

One of the findings of this research was related to tourism trends in the area.

“There are very many individuals that travel through Delta County and Escanaba, but many of these individuals aren’t stopping for overnight accommodations,” Strom said.

Many of the ideas discussed at the meeting had the goal of boosting both business and overnight stays in Escanaba.

“We want to see something … that attracts commerce and traffic down to the east end of Ludington Street,” Jordan said. Strom said the three possibilities discussed most favorably during the meeting were establishing a waterfront dining/event space, a for-lease residential facility, or a hotel at the jail property.

Other ideas that were brought up during the meeting include using the property as retail or public green space.

“Those ideas were discussed, but not determined to be the best fit for that particular site,” Strom said. The importance of providing public access to Escanaba’s waterfront and connecting a non-motorized trail on both sides of the jail property was also discussed.

While no formal decisions were made at the meeting, and while the ideas discussed by attendees still need to be refined, Strom said the joint meeting was successful.

“It was a good brainstorming session,” he said.

Strom said that the city and county will go on to work with Seamless Collaborative and the other consulting groups represented at the joint meeting to finalize a request for qualifications and a marketing plan for the jail property.

“The consulting (groups) that we’re working together with (are) going to be finalizing some of their recommendations, which will likely include a more detailed conceptual drawing and description for the site use,” he said. The finalized recommendations will be approved by the City of Escanaba and Delta County.

Jordan said that people interested in following the development of plans for this site will be able to do so.

“There will be … a public process that this goes through,” he said.

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