Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 10, 2013

Discovery Center pitches for coal dock property

TRAVERSE CITY — An alliance of water-focused nonprofit agencies hopes to create a regional educational and tourism destination that starts with converting Traverse City Light & Power’s unused coal dock off M-22 in Leelanau County into a community harbor and private marina.

Representatives from the Discovery Center Great Lakes shared their plans with city officials late last week, an initial step to lease or manage the 2.2 acres of waterfront and a key-shaped, earth-filled pier about a mile north of M-72 in Elmwood Township.

Officials from Light & Power, the city-owned utility, recently acknowledged they’d like to unload the old coal dock property.

The proposed $6 million marina project would comprise the first phase of a roughly $20 million, privately funded proposal to create an educational and recreational destination focused on the Great Lakes and the region’s maritime heritage.

”It’s a big project, but it could really be something in the long run,” said Michael Wills, a local developer and the Discovery Center’s board chairman. “This would be a cool thing for the community.”

The conceptual, $13 million to $15 million makeover would triple the size of the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, create a wooden boat building shop for the Maritime Heritage Alliance, and possibly house a fresh water aquarium -- all connected to the waterfront by a pedestrian bridge over M-22.

But the key to creating the long-term vision for the site across M-22 from the coal dock hinges on the ability to create a private marina that produces an annual revenue stream for the nonprofits, Wills said.

The proposed marina would have two components: a private, 100-slip marina in front of private property to the south of the coal dock, and a community harbor that uses the coal dock and the harbor basin it creates. The community harbor would continue to house the tall ship Manitou and ships of the Maritime Heritage Alliance, the Watershed Center, and Traverse Area Community Sailing.

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