Munising: Ready for future investment

Munising, the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and outdoor adventure, is now a state-designated Redevelopment Ready Community, poised for future investment and development.

The Alger County of nearly 2,000 people has streamlined its development process to support projects that meet the community’s vision to earn the designation from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). 

The city’s vision, as described in its master plan: “Munising will be a community for all ages that embraces its small-town character and capitalizes on its unique cultural and natural assets which are found nowhere else.” The aim is to balance the “quiet residential character that makes Munising a quality place to live” with the economic growth that will make the community prosperous in the future 

“Receiving this RRC designation is wonderful for Munising's downtown,” says  Katherine A. Reynolds, executive director of the Munising Downtown Development Authority. “It has been a lot of work for the city and all of us that have been involved throughout the process.”

“We certainly appreciate all the assistance MEDC has given us along the way in order for us to get to this point,” she adds. “This designation opens up more opportunities for us in the future and we look forward to working with MEDC with future RRC programming and funding opportunities," 

What’s happening: Munising recently was designated a Redevelopment Ready Community by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. To achieve the designation, Munising adopted an updated master plan, created the city’s first six-year capital improvements plan, and adopted a revised zoning ordinance that allows for a diversity of housing types to support future growth. 

A timeline for capital improvements, an updated zoning ordinance and a master plan that lays out improvements in municipal departments and infrastructure were key factors in the city achieving the designation from the MEDC.

Included in the city’s master plan, adopted in June, were the following:
—  Replacing the police department’s high mileage 2018 Dodge Charger with a 2023 Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle
— Upgrading camera and AV equipment at City Hall to allow commission meetings to be recorded and streamed
— Upgrading the Browns Addition Boating Access Site launch site, fish cleaning station and parking area
— Begin replacing the fence at Maple Grove Cemetery
— Working on city parking lots, water and sewer facilities, and city streets

“We have already begun addressing some of the infrastructure items such as our parking lots, AV equipment, and boat launch project,” says Devin Olson, Munising city manager. “Our five-year parks and recreation plan is currently pending approval from the (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) and a number of parks and recreation items will be added to this year’s upcoming capital improvements plan update once it's approved.” 

About Redevelopment Ready Communities: Redevelopment Ready Communities, launched statewide in 2013, is a voluntary initiative that empowers communities to shape their futures by building a foundation of planning, zoning, and economic development best practices and integrating them into their everyday functions.

RRC promotes communities to be ready for development and competitive in today’s economy by using the Michigan Economic Development Corporation “toolkit” which encourages communities to proactively plan, engage stakeholders, and become more attractive to developers. With the goal of becoming a place where people want to live, work, and invest, these Redevelopment Ready Communities are popping up all over the state. Their streamlined approach helps welcome private and public sector support, showcasing a clear vision for the future through collaborative planning.

To date, the MEDC has formally recognized more than 80 Michigan communities. These communities have qualified as “thoroughly prepared” when it comes to planning and zoning, to remove traditional barriers and promote opportunities for prospective investors. 

How it helps: Olson says the RRC Essential certification has assisted the city in two ways. “It helped staff and officials create a transparent and streamlined development process,” Olson says. “The evolution of the master plan in 2020, followed by the implementation of the Zoning Ordinance in 2023, has created a solid framework for community development moving forward.”

In addition, he says, several community development opportunities are now available for residents, business owners, and nonprofits within the city thanks to the designation.  

“These targeted funds will help guide development toward achieving our goals that were identified in the City Master Plan,” Olson says.
“The MEDC program provided a fantastic mechanism to identify and implement a number of best practices into our organization,” he adds, “which has already become a highly valued aspect of our zoning and land use functions.”

What’s next: In addition to the 2023-24 plans, capital improvements in Munising’s master plan through the next six years include such projects as upgrades to sewer, water, streets, city vehicles and the salt storage shed.

“We applaud the city of Munising for achieving Essentials status,” says Michele Wildman, MEDC senior vice president of Economic Development Incentives and Services. “Munising has identified its desired direction for the future and has a plan to achieve its goals for the community. We look forward to building upon our relationship with the city and supporting its continued economic development efforts.”

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange and other Issue Media Group publications. 
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