We asked Marquette Downtown Development Authority executive director, Mona Lang, what the future looks like for the U.P.'s largest downtown. Lang has been leading the way for downtown Marquette since 1999, pushing for positive growth and change.
UPSW: What do you see as the top focus for efforts to build and grow the downtown in the next few years?
Lang: A top focus is to provide public infrastructure and aesthetic improvements to encourage and support private development and redevelopment in the downtown district.
Attracting and retaining businesses and strengthening the business climate is also an important component to building and growing the downtown economy as well as supporting increases is residential units.
UPSW: What's the most exciting news happening in downtown this year, and what will it mean for the future?
Lang: It is great to see people excited about redevelopment and new business opportunities in our downtown. This year alone, we have seen investment and redevelopment of several buildings which are providing some really neat businesses.
A building on Front Street that was blighted has been turned into residential units and is the home of our first wine bar, called Zephyr. Vango’s Pizza on Third Street completely redid the exterior of their building and added an outdoor patio. The Delft Theater renovation is in progress and will be the home to the new Delft Bistro. Several older businesses have changed hands with new and young entrepreneurs providing new energy to our downtown business community.
I think that this means that investment and interest in downtown will continue to grow as these events serve as catalysts for continued activity and investment.
UPSW: Are there any particular challenges you need support or help with, and how could the Marquette community do that?
Lang: There are always challenges to downtown and downtown management. In order to keep our downtown vital we need the support of the regional community. It is a challenge to attract local residents to shop and support downtown not only tourists and visitors.
Probably the greatest challenge is the small business owner themselves in understanding that they are not in business for themselves but for their customers. Most of our downtown businesses close their doors at 5:30 p.m. and it is a struggle to get them to understand that they are closed when most of their potential customers are available (tourists and locals, alike) to patronize their shops.
UPSW: If you could tell the rest of the world one thing about your downtown, what would it be?
Lang: I think the most striking thing about downtown Marquette is that it is authentic. Everything about our downtown, from the historic architecture to our businesses, is genuine and true to its essence.