A marina and various sizes of residential units, from site condominiums to townhomes, make up the bulk of The Docks, which is situated between Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake. Renderings courtesy Sand Products Corporation
Plans for a 240-unit housing development are underway between Lake Michigan and 1,000 feet of Muskegon Lake shoreline.
The 80 acres of undeveloped land east of Pere Marquette Park is located on the former Pigeon Hill, a sand dune that was mined during World War II for metal castings. The property has been owned by Sand Products Corporation since the 1930s.
SPC began plans for the development a few years ago after it purchased the adjacent site of the former Bluffton Elementary School, according to Chuck Canestraight, SPC president.
Once fully developed, he expects the total amount of added value to exceed $100 million.
“We believe that the product value will carry the project,” Canestraight said.
The planned unit development recently approved by the Muskegon City Commission uses the former industrial land for a “community” named The Docks, which will include homes, a restaurant, marina, wetlands and boardwalks.
Common amenities include boardwalks, parks and trails. Residents may enjoy over‐water decks, docks and boathouses.
The land is being developed by Damfino Development, a subsidiary of SPC. Paradigm Design is leading the development plans. SPC also is working with Muskegon-based engineering firm Soils & Structures and Berrien Springs-based architecture firm Hibler Design Studio.
Rather than create a typical grid system neighborhood, SPC opted for fewer homes and an emphasis on a more nature-focused neighborhood that features open space and engagement with the water. About 25% of the property will remain undeveloped and natural.
Rather than have a development of homes that look exactly alike, The Docks will incorporate different types of houses — such as small cottages fronting on pocket parks and large waterfront houses — clustering homes in some areas and having open space in others, Canestraight said. While the density allowed under the current concept is 273 dwelling units, the conceptual plan is for about 240 units
Housing plans outlined for the area include a potential 143 site condominium lots for detached homes, 67 townhomes and a 30‐unit, four‐story condominium building.
A planned 12‐acre boat basin takes center stage. This inland lake would have a connection to Muskegon Lake and therefore the Great Lakes.
In addition to lots with private boat slips, the basin will have about 100 boat slips located throughout for residences that do not have private docks.
The south end of the development is the densest, anchored by the basin with the condominium building, which will include a pool and fitness center, pickleball courts, a public plaza, a kayak launch for residents and the neighborhood restaurant.
The restaurant will seat about 50 people, in addition to another 30 in outdoor seating located on the waterfront.
Greenspace, dune ridges and landscaping form the perimeter and buffer the development from neighboring residents.
Canestraight said the plans also include filling current marshlands, which resulted from mining activities, and creating marshlands that have a hydraulic connection to the basin, which would help control its water levels.
Canestraight said individual projects will be carried out by private development companies, and he is open to a proposal from companies that can meet their quality standards.
Preparing the land for roads and utilities is expected to begin this summer. The project, per the PUD requirements, must be completed in five years and will require additional state environmental and engineering permitting.
Canestraight is expecting logistical construction to begin in early 2020 and unit construction to begin around the same time the following year.
He said the commitment to this development is the latest way his company is trying to further engage the Muskegon community.
SPC owns the Mart Dock, which handles marine cargo and uses older facilities for seasonal boat and vehicle storage. It also owns the World War II ship museum USS LST 393, docked at 560 Mart St. in Muskegon.
Port City Cruise Lines, another SPC subsidiary, recently acquired the Port City Princess and now operates the popular Muskegon Lake-based tour boat, renamed Aquastar.
Though there has been pushback from some in the community about developing on the land, Canestraight said it, as a former mining site, is not environmentally sensitive.
SPC said it was never the company’s intention to own or provide a community park, and it is not fiscally feasible to maintain it without a revenue stream. The company is not considering donating the space to a land conservancy.