A proposal had been approved for a new development called Petoskey Pointe, and there was a grand plan swirling around to turn the block into a multimillion dollar hotel, condo, parking, and restaurant project that some said would revitalize the Gaslight District.
The block-sized hole was dug. The retaining walls were put in place. The rest would never arrive.
In spring of 2013, Harbor Springs’ The Cottage Company announced a pending purchase of the property. The new hotel and a shopping district was rumored to be called The Petoskey Center.
But late last year, they too abandoned what was now locally nicknamed either “Petoskey Pit” or simply “The Hole.”
Would this prime block of real estate in downtown Petoskey ever recover?
Now it looks like it might. In December, a third developer purchased the property from Northwestern Bank: Grand Rapids’ Elias Amash, owner of Grip-On Tools.
Amash has reportedly made no decisions yet on what to call the project and details at this point are scarce. Many locals, however, seem to think that Amash’s intentions are in the right place.
Below, the experts – local and not – weigh in.
CARLIN SMITH, president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce
The chamber has felt, since the first development attempt, that a hotel/conference centers seem to be the most feasible as an anchor for the development, as the component that will bring the most economic benefit to the region.
We see downtown Petoskey as an attractive destination for small to mid-size conventions and we know that Petoskey continues to grow as a destination for weddings. We’ve also had numerous studies that have encouraged city leaders to grow residential opportunities in the central business district.
With the views this space affords, and the chance to develop parking as an integral component of the project, we think some condominium-style residential units would also be feasible and would be an economic benefit to downtown Petoskey and the surrounding region.
This area is a full city block, so it makes sense that any type of development will contain a variety of uses.
BECKY GOODMAN, Downtown Director, City of Petoskey
A hotel with conference capabilities would be a tremendous asset. We are so fortunate to have Stafford’s Perry Hotel here, but there is a limit to the number of people they can host. They also understand the value of bringing more people here.
Residences and a movie theater would also benefit the downtown business community. The theater that was on site many years ago drew people to downtown, and we lost hundreds, if not thousands, of visits to downtown per week when we lost that theater. Many people went shopping and had dinner or a coffee in the restaurants before or after the movie, so having these trips back to downtown would be to our advantage.
This is also an opportunity to build additional parking underground, and I would love to take advantage of that possibility. Simply put, the more people who come here, the more customers we have for our businesses. This site may be the most premier development site in northern Michigan, so there is a responsibility to develop it in a premier fashion.
ANDY HAYES, Pesident of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance
It’s too early to get specific about what should be on the site. However, the block could and should be mixed use. Just like any block in any vibrant downtown, it should contain a mixture of commercial, residential, lodging, and restaurants – but whatever the mix is, it must be commercial viable and generate tax dollars.
That’s not to say that green space can’t be part of it, but downtown Petoskey and the entire community depends on the tax base from its commercial district to pay for the public infrastructure that the entire community enjoys.
For downtowns to be successful, they must have people that shop there, work there, and live there.
JERRY SNOWDEN, Commercial Developer at Snowden Companies in Traverse City
I think that location lends itself to a first-class, mixed-use project with a hospitality lodging and/or residential component to take advantage of the views over the bay on one side and walkability to downtown on the other. On site parking is a must.
While the real estate market is heating up and demand is increasing, for residential and commercial there is still a way to go before the market normalizes completely. Whatever uses end up at the site, it will be important to scale and phase the project properly so that it fits in with the surrounding buildings and does not flood the market with too much surplus inventory. That would hurt the project and the local market. It is a highly visible location and if you are coming from the south it is definitely a gateway site to the downtown area. For that reason it is a very architecturally sensitive site, so it should be a timeless design with longevity in mind.
PETER FITZSIMONS, Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau executive director
Sometimes we forget how special of a place this is we get to live in and don’t really realize the high regard that so many people have of our natural beauty, our hospitality and all of our offerings; the sense of place that has created lasting memories and a passion to return. And with these millions of treasured memories comes the corresponding implied responsibility of ‘Don’t screw it up!’ So should it have a boutique hotel, ethnic restaurants, condos, high-end retailers? As long as they are somewhere within the character, the scale, the walkability, and the architecture of the downtown I’ll be happy, because I never want to go on the road and get accosted by people asking, ‘What have you done?!’ This will be the gateway, like it or not, to the Gaslight Shopping District. It needs to mirror and accentuate the existing qualities in design and scale and needs to provide goods and services that will generate their own business, rather than dilute what is already here.