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NMU Foundation, UPHS - Marquette reach tentative agreement on former hospital property

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - There’s a renewed push to redevelop the former Marquette General Hospital property, and a first step in a lengthy process goes public Thursday morning.

The Northern Michigan University Foundation is leading the early exploration of redevelopment possibilities at the former hospital. The foundation is requesting $52,900 Thursday from Marquette’s Local Brownfield Revolving Fund for an initial step.

“To invest in some of the pre-construction due diligence activities that we are conducting now through the end of February of next year,” said Dave Nyberg, the foundation’s executive director of business engagement and economic development.

Nyberg says public and private partners are also involved.

“Northern Michigan University’s foundation’s mission is to establish and foster relationships that generate resources that benefit the strategic goals of Northern Michigan University, so we engaged this conversation with UP Health System - Marquette coming on 18 months ago,” he said.

The hospital and the foundation have a tentative agreement to transfer the 21-acre campus, centered at 580 W. College Ave. and adjacent to the NMU campus.

“More work needs to be done, but we remain focused on the due diligence process and thoughtful approach to this significant project,” UPHS - Marquette administration said in a statement.

Nyberg says exploration remains in the early stages.

“We’re going to be taking a look at the overall environmental condition of the site,” he said. “We’re going to be looking at the financial and practical feasibility of redeveloping the property in a way that benefits the Marquette community and Northern Michigan University.”

Terms of the tentative agreement - and the full list of partners involved - have not been disclosed. Nyberg says the foundation is working with both Marquette city and county leaders. Local developer Veridea Group is providing consultant services for free during this phase.

Veridea terminated its own purchase agreement for the property two years ago, citing a number of significant issues discovered during its due diligence work. Veridea would not comment for this story when asked about the new possible path forward. Its CEO, Bob Mahaney, is a member of the NMU Board of Trustees. He was still listed online as an ex-officio member of the NMU Foundation Board of Trustees Wednesday evening although he resigned from that liaison position at the beginning of the month, citing the potential appearance of conflict.

While Marquette has a notable need for affordable housing, Nyberg says any decisions on an actual development plan or a partnership with a large-scale developer would not come until at least spring or summer of next year.

Former NMU President Fritz Erickson said two years ago that the university itself had no interest in taking on the hospital and could only use one building. This potential redevelopment - with the university’s foundation as the enabling entity - is a far different approach from the university taking on the hospital property itself. After the end of the due diligence period, if the NMU Foundation determines that a development project is financially and practically feasible, it plans to issue a request for proposals from a master development partner.

The Marquette Brownfield Redevelopment Authority meets at 8:00 a.m. Thursday in the city’s Municipal Service Center.

Here are more facts from the Brownfield application about the potential plans for a mixed-use development:

  • Efforts are underway to evaluate buildings of historic significance for redevelopment opportunities.
  • Pre-development planning is focused on an evaluation of all structures for reuse or demolition.
  • The site does not appear to be significantly contaminated. There will be significant asbestos abatement and lead paint management.
  • Preliminary concepts include recreation and entertainment opportunities.
  • A key component in the planning stage is to evaluate mixed income housing, including workforce housing.
  • While difficult to determine at this point, the mixed-use redevelopment is anticipated to provide significant employment.

UPHS - Marquette opened its new campus at 850 W. Baraga Ave. in June 2019.

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