North Third Street plans on right track for city

It may take some time to grow to fruition, but a recent planning session for Marquette’s North Third Street may have planted the seeds for a more attractive “destination” area.

A five-day series of “big-picture” workshops brought planning consultants, business owners, elected officials and community members together for a wide-ranging discussion on the future of North Third between Ridge Street and Fair Avenue.

The process, known as a “charrette,” ran from Thursday through Monday, when the sessions wrapped up with the presentation of a master land use plan and a form-based code. The charrette was held in the Marquette Commons, and citizens were free to drop in on the discussion at any time.

The city used a similar process recently when crafting its downtown form-based code. That process was well-attended and well-received, as were the Third Street sessions.

Another positive feature of the charrette was its low cost – paid for with a $75,000 Michigan State Housing Development Authority grant.

The outcome? Consultants are now drafting the form-based code. When completed it will need to be approved by city staff, boards and commissions. The code will include a number of specific suggestions:

  • The plan envisions more public space – a street lined with buildings that are taller and set back further from the sidewalk. North and south sections will be zoned for buildings to be one floor higher than the current 30-foot limit. Buildings in a central section could go two floors higher. New construction would be set back five feet from the sidewalk. The changes would mean more retail density in a pedestrian and bike-friendly district.
  • On parking, the plan would discourage the creation of large new parking lots, which planners see as increasing the need for driving between businesses. Instead of an area that caters to vehicles and starts resembing a highway shopping strip, the entire street could be made more attractive to walkers and bikers, decreasing vehicular traffic.
  • The group also suggested using better bicycle signs and street markings. A designated bike lane running south from Fair Avenue would be created, with a northbound shared bicycle-car lane.

We think the charrette format – with its opportunity for participation from various sectors of the community – was a great idea. It’s given rise to more good ideas for sharpening the city’s future focus on a key part of town.