North Shore project moves forward

GLADSTONE — Gladstone’s vacant North Shore area is one step closer to being developed, something the city of Gladstone has been envisioning since at least 2015.

At a recent Gladstone City Commission meeting, the commission approved a purchase agreement with one of the owners of a large parcel of land in the North Shore development project area. The agreement allows the Downtown Development Authority and the city to market the North Shore property with the parcels already owned by the city at a predetermined rate for two years.

“We have an agreement for a big chunk of the private land but the city also owns six acres, which we have available. So really the next step is is to take what we have, meaning the private land and the city land, and to then kind of come together with an agreed upon price that can go out with the RFQs (request for qualifications) to developers,” said Ron Miaso, the Gladstone DDA coordinator.

He explained the private land is about 27 acres, and with the six acres already owned by the city, the size of the property may be appealing to developers.

There are more properties in the North Shore area that aren’t developed yet, but Miaso said instead of working with attorneys — like they did to secure the 27 acres — the plan is to let developers know there are more properties in the North Shore area that may be available when presenting the RFQs of the marketable land.

Linda Howlett, a member of the DDA, said the roughly 33 acres of land is a large enough parcel to get developers interested.

“Our intent ideally would have been nice to have all of these parcels and just go out there and say ‘hey, this whole thing is available,’ but this is a huge chunk of it and it’s a big enough parcel that developers can do something significant with it if the interest is there,” she said.

The North Shore project was originally started as a joint project between the city of Gladstone and Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design, and Construction, and MSU Extension.

The MSU layout consisted of 38 cottages, 26 town-homes, seven duplexes, eight apartment buildings, one hotel/brewpub/retail building, eight mixed-use commercial/loft buildings, eight 21st Century employment centers, and a publicly-owned walking trail and linear park.

“The thing about the MSU — the MSU was just a vision. Kind of ‘OK, here’s kinda what we and academia might like to see at the North Shore. That is when we had a joint meeting with Place and Main, LLC,” Miaso said. “Joe (Borgstrom) was with the MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation), he’s been involved with DDA’s in projects of this nature — so we hired Joe to come in and take that vision and give us some market reality to that vision.”

In January 2019, Joe Borgstrom of Place and Main Advisors presented the city commissioners and members of the DDA with suggestions for what type of properties could work in the area after collecting data compromising of population, household income, current rental rates in the city, and the demand and supply of different types of businesses in Gladstone.

The recommendations for use of the North Shore property from Borgstrom included 50 to 60 units of single-family housing ranging in price from $150,000 to $300,000, around 24 stacked condominiums ranging in price from $150,000 to $200,000, senior housing/assisted living facility, eight 21st Century employment centers, public linear park along the beach, and a public banquet hall/venue.

Brad Mantela, a Gladstone city commissioner that has worked closely with the project’s development, said the vision presented by Borgstrom was more doable and focused for what Gladstone and the community actually needs.

“I’m glad to see that, you know, we’re moving forward on this and I think within a relatively short time. We’re talking four years and we’re already on … phase four, or whatever. We (have) RFQs going out, we (have) the purchase agreement in there, and that’s fantastic,” he said.

He added the momentum behind the project is great as because of the project’s support.

“I’m glad that everybody’s on board with doing something,” Mantela said. “Hopefully we keep the people in place that want to do that and can see the benefit to it to the entire city, for everybody.”

He explained the development of the area would increase the tax-base, which is a way to increase revenue for the city without having to increase taxes.

Howlett said there aren’t many communities along the Great Lakes with underdeveloped waterfront properties.

“And that is where people want to be. They want to be on the water or see the water, and we have that opportunity to open up some property for development that, in my opinion, is exactly the kind of property (that’s ideal) — and it’s not property out in the middle of nowhere,” she said.