The Ren Zone is an economic development program offered by the state in which local municipalities can designate some underdeveloped areas to be free of most state and local taxes for a specified number of years.
The offer comes from the McKee family, owners of the West Michigan Dock and Market Corp., a downtown waterfront parcel and cluster of red-brick buildings currently used as a freight terminal and for frozen storage.
The parcel is a potential terminal for cross-lake ferry service and possesses hundreds of parking spaces, which currently are used by patrons at performances and hockey games at the nearby municipally owned L.C. Walker Arena.
The Mart Dock has identified one of its interests as becoming a terminal for renewed cross-lake ferry service, a role in which it previously served the Milwaukee Clipper for decades.
The company has deep-water cargo and storage capacity and owns and sits between two large deepwater mooring basins. It has offered space in the west basin for use as a naval museum to which its parent company, Sand Products Corp., has supplied one of the last operational World War II LSTs. Muskegon’s historic World War II submarine, the USS Silversides, also would be part of the display.
The firm also believes that by making improvements to its existing facilities, it could serve the community as a convention center.
The Mart Dock has a large auditorium plus many outbuildings that currently are used for boat storage.
The firm also owns a profitable aggregate storage yard and, for years, has operated frozen storage facilities for the agriculture and food-processing industry.
More than two years ago, Mart Dock owners began making moves to assuage some old wounds between them and city hall.
During the 1950s and 60s, the Mart Dock and the city often were embroiled in controversies that now have been largely forgotten, even though a certain amount of suspicion still exists.