Time to listen: Houghton to hold Lakeshore Drive development open house

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton approved a study of downtown parking and a structural study of its Lakeshore Drive parking deck Wednesday. The cost will be split with The Veridea Group of Marquette, with the city’s share capped at $25,000.

HOUGHTON — Houghton will hold an open house on proposed development on Lakeshore Drive next month.

The meeting will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 11. Members of the city’s Lakeshore Drive Redevelopment Committee (LDRC), Planning Commission and City Council will hopefully be in attendance, said City Manager Eric Waara.

Waara said the city will answer questions from the public, get feedback it can give to The Veridea Group, and dispel any misconceptions the public may have.

A chart of the development process on the city’s website lists several places for public input, the first being input solicited by the Veridea Group before it submits a proposal to the LDRC.

“We looked at having these during these process … Some of those milestones might be out there a little bit, so let’s just do this now,” Waara said.

The council voted in August to enter negotiations with Veridea to develop and purchase the parking deck area on Lakeshore Drive. At the LDRC’s most recent meeting, Veridea stated its vision for the site includes a hotel and conference center, office space, residential, co-working space, room for start-up businesses, retail and restaurant space, according to a city summary of the meeting.

Jim Hertel, a member of the Houghton Waterfront Redevelopment Citizens Group, said Wednesday he the February meeting is a good idea. However, it still isn’t the comprehensive process the group wants, Hertel said. That would include input from all stakeholders, other options for use of the property, and then an evaluation of the options, he said.

“That’s why the petition says, postpone the sale until we have a chance to look at options other than to sell to one developer, which right now is the only option they’re considering,” he said.

The group collected enough signatures to place a non-binding initiative on the May ballot recommending the city hold off on a sale to a developer until a process for public input is established.

Also Wednesday, the council approved funding for a structural survey of the large parking deck and a study of parking in the downtown.

Houghton will split the costs equally with Veridea. In its request for qualifications, the city outlined any plan must not reduce the amount of parking available. .

Pierce Engineers of Marquette will assess the condition of the parking deck, which will include an on-site survey and written report on its condition. The cost is estimated at $12,210.

The report will be the first done on the deck since 2011. Built in 1978, the deck had several repairs performed on it in the years following the survey, which found the slabs on the deck were nearing the end of their useful life.

New cables were put in the slabs, which also received new coatings. The city also replaced expansion joints and pads under the slabs.

“We’re getting close to the time that we should probably get somebody to look at it again, and see if we’re going to do something next, what it should be or where to concentrate,” Waara said.

The downtown parking plan, estimated to cost $37,500, will be performed by Walker Consultants of Madison, Wisconsin. The study will evaluate the city’s parking situation and needs, and recommend solutions. The most recent study had been done sometime before 2010, Clerk Ann Vollrath said.

Both companies are highly regarded in their fields, Waara said.

The city’s share of the cost for both will not exceed $25,000.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) is following the project, and may be able to assist once a concept is in place, the LDRC summary said.