Vision for Third Street sketched in

MARQUETTE – How can you blend homes with small businesses – in an area surrounded by a hospital, a university and a downtown -for the best quality of life?

That’s the question the Third Street Sustainable Corridor Plan aims to answer.

Robert Gibbs of the Gibbs Planning Group presented the plan to the community at several sessions Tuesday at the Marquette Commons. However, the plan was the result of previous intense brainstorming among the planners and the community, of which business owners and residents are the main stakeholders.

“It has resulted in a truly community-driven plan,” said Dennis Stachewicz, Marquette community development director.

Gibbs said the plan focuses on a mile-long stretch divided into north, middle and south sections, with the south and north sections of medium density and the middle section of low density. The divisions are Fair to Park streets for the north, Park to Ohio Street for the middle and Ohio to Ridge Street for the south.

As Third Street stands now, homes are blended with retail establishments, which, according to Gibbs, enhances the corridor’s quality of life. However, after meeting with business owners throughout the planning process, Gibbs learned more about what they want.

“Everybody loved the idea of more walkability,” he said.

To promote that walkability, Gibbs said, “We’re recommending buildings with gaps in them so it doesn’t become a ‘super block.'”

What also wasn’t desired by the community, Gibbs noted, was tall buildings on Third Street.

“We do not want to emulate the downtown,” Gibbs said.

The middle section would be more residential and limit buildings to their current heights. On the north and south ends, buildings would typically be three stories at the most. Storefront windows in the north and south would require medium-sized clear glass windows. The greatest amount of vacant land and excess parking is in the north section, indicating the most potential for development.

Gibbs said the plan focuses on accommodating motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. A bicycle lane would run along the west side of Third Street while a lane on the other side would be shared by bicyclists and motorists. The street, he pointed out, is too narrow to accommodate two bicycle lanes.

Gibbs acknowledged people riding their bicycles on the sidewalks is a problem, which could be alleviated, for example, by retailers setting up sidewalk displays or setting up benches.

The lower-density middle section would be on a smaller scale than the adjacent ends, with the charm of the many original houses already there maintained.

“We want to respect homes that are there,” Gibbs said.

Also, Gibbs cautioned against new buildings having a negative impact on the adjacent homes.

“In the middle, especially, we want to keep this looking like a neighborhood,” he said.

Gibbs said commercial owners throughout the corridor mentioned the need for more parking. This could be accomplished through measures such as decreasing the spaces between the parking spots and eliminating the “no parking this side of street” areas.

However, Gibbs doesn’t recommend tearing down homes for parking lots, but if they were demolished, landscaping and setbacks should be installed.

Maintaining that valuable “Main Street” character will allow Third Street businesses to compete with the big chains, Gibbs stressed.

“Your advantage is to keep this character, because this is what people like,” he said.

Aesthetics also play an important part of the plan, which singled out the Zero Degrees Artist Gallery as a type of building to be emulated because of its historic character, business type and detail. The plan suggested a “parklet” in front would be a good site for sculptural seats, tables and outdoor art.

Another desire commonly expressed by neighborhood residents was a gathering space.

“We do feel quite strongly you do need to have a square or green,” Gibbs said.

One possible location, he said, was next to Frosty Treats, which already acts as a gathering spot but has some conflict with store customers and the parking lot. A village green, according to the plan, would provide some safety and could be tested with paint, trees in planters and seating.

Kim L’Huillier, owner of Togo’s, located at Third and Park, is on board with the plan’s goals for the corridor, which, she pointed out, is connected with NMU and Marquette General Hospital.

“I’d like to be a part of the vision,” L’Huillier said.

Mona Lang, executive director of the Marquette DDA, said the DDA looks forward to working with property owners and business to implement corridor goals.

“It’s important to maintain the character of Third Street,” Lang said.

Gibbs said an investment of about $85,000 funded the plan, which included a $75,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Other contributors were MarqTran, the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, the city of Marquette, NMU, the Marquette Access Group, the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Lake Superior Community Partnership.

The next steps will include more reviews by the community as well as the City Planning Commission and the consideration of adopting the plan by the Marquette City Commission.

Stachewicz said he hopes the plan will be codified by the end of the year.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.