A Fishermans Wharf For Muskegon Why not

    The City of Muskegon has been having an exciting year and last week the course of events suddenly became effervescent.

    Just to review, a mixed residential-business-smart park fostered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) is beginning to emerge out of a forgotten brownfield site on the northern edge of downtown.

    Among other things, the park is to include a Siemens Corp. plant developing large-scale energy cells. At the very least, such devices can modulate the peaks and valleys in basic electrical supply, offering tremendous economies to traditional power generation and capitalization.

    Immediately south of the smart park lies the virtually vacant, three-block-long Muskegon Mall, of which private interests suddenly are thinking big — really big, as in, dismember the roof, level the stores (some of them a century old) and start over with a mixed-use urban village linked, just across a new artery, to the neighboring smart park.

    Does such a notion stand a chance in a commercially exhausted downtown?

    Well, don’t look now, but yes.

    Less than three blocks from the mall lies the sprawling waterfront holdings of Detroit’s McKee family, the West Michigan Dock & Market Corp. Viewed from the land, it’s difficult to see just how big the so-called Mart Dock is.

    Suffice it to say that the Mart owns and lies between two deepwater mooring basins. It consists of several large buildings circa World War II, and — beyond all that, out of public view — lies an enormous yard currently used to store construction aggregate.

    What the McKees offer is to invest $1 million to improve their site. What they ask in return is to become the new home of Muskegon’s Farmer’s Market plus inclusion in the city’s Renaissance Zone that also is proposed for the old Muskegon Boiler Works, a vacant industrial plant a few blocks inland.

    The result for the McKee property would be another mixed-use facility that they believe has sufficient space and amenities to function as a community convention center. The firm also wants to tie that convention center notion into the synergies of serving as a terminal for renewed cross-lake ferry service. And to that end, it has made available one of the world’s last fully seaworthy LSTs — a veteran of D-Day — for exhibit as part of a tourist-drawing naval museum, an adjunct to and a draw for the ferry terminal.

    The proposal is a natural.

    Having observed the rapid and exciting results from Renaissance Zone designations on both sides of the river in Grand Rapids, the City of Muskegon should immediately and joyfully embrace the McKee proposal. The Mart Dock offers a deal at least as beneficial to the community as the MEDC grant of a smart-park designation. Baltimore’s downtown waterfront market — adjoining its own naval exhibit — springs to mind

    The Mart Dock, admittedly, currently looks from the outside as if the mice have been at it. The same applies in Baltimore’s waterfront market to which thousands of people flock.

    It’s nothing that a million-dollar touch-up can’t cure.

    And the key thing is that the Mart Dock has vast parking lots to accommodate visitors — plus meeting rooms, an auditorium, tons of open space, about a half mile of frontage on a lake that in the last decade has become cerulean blue, and location, location and location.

    Helping the Mart Dock leverage a $1 million investment is a way for the City of Muskegon to do something it never has been able to do before: to leverage for the future its finest asset, the downtown waterfront.           

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