Major development proposed for township along ‘Golden Mile’


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE – A large multi-million dollar development project may soon be built in Marquette Township, providing retail shops, office space, residences, restaurants and potentially a Great Wolf Lodge with a convention center and indoor water park.

Marquette Township Planner Jason McCarthy said the development is proposed to be constructed in three levels on land north of Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse.

If all the necessary approvals are obtained, construction could start next spring and take the better part of two construction seasons to complete, McCarthy said.

“If approved and built out as proposed, it will be a regional destination for shopping, entertainment, professional offices, research and development and mixed-use residential opportunities,” McCarthy said.

The Marquette Township Planning Commission provided a pre-preliminary phase review of the 70-acre project July 24. The panel is now in a 30-day period since the review to provide comments to the developer, which is Chicago-area based Up The Sky LLC.

“I think this is what Marquette needs for the last 50 years,” said Valdy Biernacki, the project manager and one of three co-owners. “Small city feeling, big city attractions.”

Biernacki said he and his partners have worked together on other developments in the Chicago area over the past 12 to 15 years and they own additional property in Marquette. He said he first visited Marquette a decade ago.

“We fell in love with the city,” Biernacki said.

After the comment period, approvals for the project would be needed from the township planning commission and the township board before McCarthy could issue zoning compliance permits and the development could begin.

According to a proposal submitted by Biernacki to the township, the first level of the project would be a modern shopping plaza with two restaurants and shops, with an upper floor with multi-family residential units.

Biernacki said he and his partners work with national chain leaders and the shops could include those missing from Marquette that draw some shoppers to the Green Bay area. He said Marquette Township already has several businesses attracting shoppers to the area, but the new shops, and the development as a whole, would help make for “a more complete trip to Marquette.”

The proposal said the second level would have high-end office space, medical office adaptation and more upper floor multi-family residential units. McCarthy said Northern Michigan University and Marquette General Hospital were among entities that could potentially consider locating components of their operations there.

The third level of the layout would have a hotel with 150 or more rooms, a convention center on the roof deck and a high-end restaurant. Biernacki said the hotel would have a family-oriented design, a place to bring kids “almost like a vacation.”

McCarthy said the township put the developers in contact with Great Wolf Lodge, which has been looking for a place to build a new location.

Biernacki described the discussions with Great Wolf representatives as “nothing firm, but very serious.”

Great Wolf Lodge has 11 locations in nine states and one Canadian province, including hotels with indoor waterparks in downstate Traverse City, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., and Niagara Falls, Ont.

The chain advertises itself as “northwoods-themed suites at great low prices” with water parks “built for maximum family fun.”

Biernacki said the initial features of the development would cost an estimated $70 to $90 million. He said he’s been in discussions with some landowners and more property would be purchased around the site to be fully developed.

“My design is still in a preliminary phase,” Biernacki said. “I want to be flexible.”

McCarthy said the main concern the township has is traffic and road access. He said the township favors some type of routing that would allow access to the development without further congesting U.S. 41.

Biernacki said he welcomes public input into plans for the project, although he doesn’t promise to fulfill every suggestion. He said the proposal could also feature townhouses, single-family homes.

“We have a lot of things that I am open to,” Biernacki said. “We want everybody to be happy with what we’re putting in up there.”

McCarthy said the developers and the township were also in discussion with local trails representatives who want to find a connecting route that could be part of the project.

Biernacki said the general architecture would use wood, stone and glass with a “feeling of Marquette.”

He said his research into the project and discussions with others indicate the project would be highly-successful.

“I believe we have huge potential,” Biernacki said. “Not just for us the investors, but for the city of Marquette.”

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is