City of Marquette holds special meeting on former hospital site project

The public was invited to comment on the project in front of the City Commission, Northern Michigan University Foundation and Veridea Group.
Rough outline of the current plan from Veridea Group and the Northern Michigan University...
Rough outline of the current plan from Veridea Group and the Northern Michigan University Foundation to redevelop the former Marquette General Hospital site.(WLUC)
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 10:49 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The Marquette City Commission held a special meeting Monday about the former Marquette General Hospital site.

The commission discussed a proposed Brownfield spending plan for the project set to take place on the property. This followed the Northern Michigan University Foundation’s unanimous vote Friday to select Marquette-based company Veridea Group as the master developer for the former hospital site.

Veridea Group CEO Bob Mahaney said at the meeting that the developer plans to demolish all of the buildings and then build roughly 300 housing units, a senior living community, office space, retail space and update the road on College Ave. Mahaney added that the plan could also include a new parking ramp, green space and a new performing arts center for Northern Michigan University.

“We want what we are doing here to compliment the surrounding neighborhoods to the east, south and west,” Mahaney said of the tentative project ideas. “Those are well-established neighborhoods.”

More than 10 members of the Marquette community came to Monday’s meeting to share their thoughts on the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group’s proposed plan.

Some were very excited about it, with community members like Paul Schloegel giving praise to each organization. “I think this is just fabulous,” Schloegel said during his speech. Schloegel continued, “I haven’t seen any reason to think that there has not been transparency throughout this entire process.”

Community Member Tony Boyle said he thinks the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group have misled the community. Boyle said that he predicts the housing units Veridea Group is promising will not be affordable options, even though Veridea Group said that part of the plan does include these options.

“What it is going to be is two whole new developments equivalent to Founders Landing,” Boyle said. “That is going to push the base price of housing way out of reach for average citizens.”

Marquette Community Member Margaret Brumm said she is also concerned about the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group’s transparency. Brumm cited a potential conflict of interest due to the fact that Veridea Group CEO Bob Mahaney is also on the Board of NMU Foundation Board of Trustees.

“This city has been lied to by developers for the last 8 years,” Brumm said. Brumm continued, “Founders Landing? You cannot see the lake. You said you were going to build affordable townhouses down by the water, but they are $350,000 apiece.”

Antonio Adan said he is in support of the project. Adan added that he wants the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group to ensure that there will be affordable housing, something he sees as a critical issue.

“I am here to talk mainly about how important it is to consider affordable housing,” Adan said. “Housing for people that live here and want to stay here, that want to raise families and have good-paying jobs.”

Mahaney said that community input sessions will take place in the coming months to get a better understanding of what Marquette community members want to see in the development.

“Yes, there will be an opportunity for the people of Marquette to voice their ideas for the development soon,” Mahaney said.

Veridea Group’s current plans are contingent on the Marquette City Commission approving Brownfield money, to go along with money from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The NMU Foundation estimates it needs between $18 and $20 million dollars in Brownfield money to demolish the former hospital buildings.

“When the bids were received by the NMU Foundation approximately 6 to 8 months ago, the projection was $18 million,” Mahaney said of the Brownfield money. “My personal view is that it will cost $20 million just from the increased costs we have seen from contractors.”

The Marquette City Commission said its plan is to vote on a finalized Brownfield spending plan for the project on May 31. At Monday’s meeting, it also voted unanimously to hold a public input session on this spending plan on the same day.

If the Brownfield spending plan is approved and the project moves forward, the NMU Foundation and Veridea Group plan to begin demolition in 2023, with it set to last until mid-to-late 2024.

Their plan outlines the design and pre-construction phase of the project beginning in mid-2023 and ending in mid-to-late 2026. It also predicts construction to begin immediately after demolition in 2024, which could last until 2030.

Veridea Group and the NMU Foundation estimate the total project cost to be around $160 million.

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