Monday, April 6, 2009

Update For Wayward Friends of Northern Michigan

Last Saturday I was at a luncheon in Ann Arbor where I got to talk to a couple of local guys from Petoskey and Harbor Springs who are now freshmen at the University of Michigan. What did they want to know about the goings on in their home town? One of them asked me if that big hole in the ground is still there. Some of you who visit us from time to time but live elsewhere might like to know the answer too, as well as the status of one of our other famous local traumas (yes we do have them even here in God's Country) so, as a public service, here is the update.

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND is of course the site of the Petoskey Pointe redevelopment project. This has been a controversial project since it was approved back in 2004. The idea was to take a scruffy piece of land at the entrance to Petoskey's downtown and turn it into a several story complex of stores, condos, a hotel and some much needed underground parking. Many people opposed the project for a variety of reasons including claims that it was too big, blocked views of the bay, was out of character with the rest of Downtown, etc. The City Council finally approved the project and a city-wide referendum to block it was defeated. Existing buildings were torn down and a large hole was dug. Since then, the developer has been unable to obtain financing and the hole is still there with a big ugly fence around the entire block. Ironically, with the old buildings down, there is now a great view of the bay but there is still that hole. That live webcam shot of the Petoskey Pointe hole up at the top of this paragraph is courtesy of our friends at Gaslight Media. It is live but, other than the cars passing by, don't expect it to change much any time soon.

After giving the developer several extensions, in early March the City sent them a notice that they were in default. The City is now waiting for a response. So, the short answer is: Yes the hole is still there.

THE HOLE IN THE WALL. The other famous hole in town is a large gap in the breakwall that protects the town harbor. A couple of springs ago during a major storm a section of the concrete gave way. The gap lasted for a while and became one of the most photographed and painted sites in Petoskey (as seen in this pastel by Artist Market artist Jan Vandenbrink). The breakwall is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. They gave the breakwall a temporary patch last year so the big gap is no longer there. The current word is that the Corp of Engineers will begin Phase One of reconstruction this spring as soon as weather and ice conditions allow. The 300-foot outer section of the wall from the lighthouse in to the end of the damaged portion will be replaced first. Construction is expected to last the rest of the year. Many local youth are concerned that construction will restrict the popular but illegal practice of jumping off the wall into the bay. Somehow, I have faith that exuberance and hormones will overcome whatever obstacles are created by the Corp and its work and this local ritual of summer will somehow survive. (Although we of course do not OFFICIALLY condone such illegal and irresponsible behavior.)

I know that many of you who do not live here for the whole year still feel a deep and reverend connection to Northern Michigan. You are all a part of the Northern Michigan community as far as I am concerned. In this space we try to do our part to keep you informed of all the really important and culturally significant happenings. Please feel free to comment on this post by clicking the COMMENT link at the end or email me any questions you may have about whatever stuff from up here you are wondering about during the part of the year when you are not fortunate enough to be in Northern Michigan. Then check back here and I will fill you in.

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