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Houghton, what is the rush?

This is something that I rarely write but my concern for the redevelopment of the Houghton parking ramp area is a topic that I need to address and share with the residents of the area.

I was born in Laurium and raised in Houghton where I graduated from Houghton High School, attended Suomi College (Finlandia) for two years, and graduated from Northern Michigan University. I spent my working years in Wisconsin but my family always returned to the Copper Country during the summer months for a few weeks. The Copper Country and Houghton in particular were always and will be a very special and beautiful place to us.

Houghton has many architectural sections–the historic downtown area, historic landmarks, Michigan Tech, the Kestner Park area, and, of course, the pristine shoreline.

In 2015, we purchased property in Hancock and we spend about four months of the year in this area and will probably move here on a permanent basis. I have served on the City of Antigo Common Council in Antigo, Wisconsin, for the past eight years. I am a moderate and was elected to the City Council to represent the residents in my ward and that’s what I do. I find it difficult to understand moving forward with a project like the downtown Houghton Parking Ramp Redevelopment Project that is not supported by a significantly-large group of area residents. Why move forward quickly with a project that has significant public opposition? Would it not be justified to work with the public to continue to receive their input and modify the project so that it meets the needs of most residents?

As I previously mentioned, the Houghton downtown area is truly historic and that architectural quality needs to be preserved. The proposed development by Veridea is very modern and, in my opinion, resembles a nondescript modern dormitory. The buildings are large and imposing and do nothing for the historical significance of the area. Obviously, Veridea designers are out of touch with our community. Is there not a local developer that the City of Houghton can find to move this project forward?

I am also wondering why Houghton needs to build another hotel when it appears that Houghton already has significant lodging capacity except on a few occasions such as Michigan Tech/Finlandia student move-in weekend and the Winter Carnival. Is it fair for existing hotels and motels that currently pay taxes to the City of Houghton to compete with a city-approved significant development that includes a hotel?

When we drive into Houghton from M26 on Van Orden’s Hill (Memorial Road), it is like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting–a picturesque site and one to be preserved. We would like to keep it that way! An architecturally-accurate development needs to be a priority, as well as to avoid a development that dominates the downtown skyline and blocks the view of the Portage Canal from the downtown area. We need a development that complements our existing downtown buildings!

I can understand why the City of Houghton wants to develop this area–to increase the tax base and provide resident housing, but the members of the City Council need to reevaluate their currently-proposed project and find a solution that works for the residents of our area.

What is the rush and why isn’t the City Council allowing more taxpayer input? I realize that I am a taxpayer in the City of Hancock, but Houghton “is my roots” and will always be very near and dear to me and my family.

The City Council needs to represent those who elected them by re-evaluating the entire downtown dormitory project and build something less intrusive and domineering that reflects our historic downtown.

Once again, what is the rush?

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