MENOMINEE — The City Council Committee of the Whole and the Planning Commission met in a joint meeting Tuesday to hear from SmithGroup, an architecture company from the Detroit area that has been assisting the Planning Commission on the city’s master land use plan, regarding a redevelopment plan for the M&M Plaza.

Kathleen Duffy of SmithGroup said the redevelopment of the M&M Plaza wasn’t originally part of the city’s master plan when SmithGroup started helping the city with the master plan. “When I was looking back at our notes from meeting with the public when we were there (in fall of 2018), a lot of their responses were related to things that impact the M&M Plaza site; having more workforce development opportunities, housing, improving the gateways to the city and to downtown, the aesthetics of the Highway 41 corridor, and also promoting both the bay access and the river access,” she said.

Duffy said the M&M Plaza area came onto the radar for SmithGroup after K-Mart closed. “(The K-Mart area) had been planned for general commercial, and we’re thinking we probably want to re-think that a bit. We’re thinking about how this is a prime development opportunity as a gateway into the city and the state, so how could more happen on this site? In order for that to happen, the first step is to make sure your master plan envisions something there,” she said.

Duffy said the zoning for the area as a general commercial area wouldn’t make the most sense. “We think, in our expert opinion as planners and designers, that there’s a lot more potential for that site, if you want it to be there. We think the downtown transition district could be stretched along 10th Avenue to incorporate that, and we think you need a new mixed use district in your zoning as well,” she said.

Duffy also said there are a number of things that could end up taking over the site, from extra housing to office space to public buildings, suggesting that the zoning for the site should remain flexible to allow whatever the city determines what would be best to put there.

Bob Doyle of SmithGroup showed the joint committees an area in Bay City, Mich., that had been an industrial site since the 1800s. He said the city partnered with a local developer to redevelop the site into a mixed-use area. “It had a lot of the same elements that we’ve been talking about in Menominee,” he said, “It had a lot of opportunity for jobs, offices, restaurants, hotels, waterfront access for the public and a mix of uses including retail and residential.”

Planning Commission Chairman Kim Coggins asked if SmithGroup had looked at other uses of former K-Marts in regards to U-Haul taking over the old buildings. Duffy said places downstate that didn’t want U-Haul to move in, and Keith Killen, the owner of M&M Plaza, said he’s already passed up U-Haul and most other common uses for former K-Mart buildings. He said U-Haul came to visit the site but did not express interest in the site. “I’m very excited that they didn’t. At the time, it would’ve seemed like an immediate solution, but long-term, it really doesn’t fit the future of what I’d like to see here,” he said.

“It was one of those things I never thought of until K-Mart closed,” said Councilmember Josh Jones. “The assumption was, we have a big box store there, and they’ll probably be there for a while, and until they’re gone, you never stop to think about what else could be there. But we have the K-Mart building there, then the marina (Mystery Ship Marina) for sale behind them, and we have the campground back there. When you start to look at it as a bigger area, it gets your mind going about what else could be there.”

Doyle said there’s a big advantage for redevelopment there in that there is a street that connects into the site well. “I think you could develop it in a way that makes it a seamless part of the community,” he said.

Councilmember Dennis Klitzke said there is a demand in town for rental units. “They’re in short supply, and so this concept would answer that demand. It’s just how do you go from here and get there?” he said.

“What we’re advocating, if you’re interested in it, is to be able to illustrate in the master plan an approach to development that’s more targeted towards mixed use and apartments, and residential and commercial mix. And that provides the basis for the landowner to seek a rezoning and site plan approval consistent with those goals,” Doyle said.

As this was a Committee of the Whole meeting in part, no formal action could be taken, so the council has not made any decisions yet regarding the K-Mart building. This will be discussed further in future Planning Commission meetings.