Design focus

MARQUETTE – Marquette is among eight Michigan cities to receive technical assistance with a key economic development project – in this case, Baraga Avenue.

PlacePlans, a joint effort between the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan State University, will help communities design and plan for placemaking projects with support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Gov. Rick Snyder’s MIplace Partnership.

Other cities selected to receive help were Cadillac, Detroit, Flint, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo and Midland.

Mona Lang, executive director of the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, said the Baraga Avenue project has been on the DDA’s radar for several years.

“We believe that it will, first of all, better connect Baraga Avenue to the downtown district and to the lakefront,” Lang said. “It will make the street more accessible, more walkable.”

The project area, she said, runs on Baraga from Third Street to the lakeshore.

A design team, Lang said, will help improve the area in regard to parking and traffic calming, for example. Baraga Avenue, Lang noted, is 75 feet wide and has perpendicular parking.

“We think Baraga Avenue is a perfect fit for the project,” she said.

The MML described the Baraga Avenue Enhancement Project as a barrier for pedestrian activity because of an “uninviting streetscape and breaks in the city’s urban fabric,” although the street no longer is separated physically from the downtown by railroad lines.

The project, according to the MML, would involve a physical design plan to overcome those obstacles and create a walkable street that connects with the lakefront and provide new opportunities for business investment.

“What I like best about these projects is that the passion and dedication already exists in the communities,” said Gary Heidel, chief placemaking officer for MSDHA, in a news release. “What’s missing is a little bit of a kick start to turn that potential into reality or to take work that is already under way to the next level. The design and technical assistance being provided through PlacePlans will give them that extra inventive and direction they need.”

Lang said it is hoped the project will start as early as the second week in December. Community-input meetings also will be part of the project.

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