It’s a time-consuming process, but it appears that the housing shortage in the city of Marinette is being addressed.

The Marinette Plan Commission recently took a major step forward to assist Newcap, Inc., a member of the Community Action Agency umbrella, with a long-term plan to convert a long-time community eyesore in the downtown area, into a housing complex. The step comes on the heels of recent progress in the proposed development of a housing project on Pierce Avenue where the former Marinette Knitting Mill once stood.

A countywide study of available housing in the county showed a dire need for additional housing. The city in particular has had a demand for more housing due to an employment splurge at several local manufacturing plants. In an unrelated housing project, the city will also see additional housing for elderly residents, including a good-sized section devoted to dementia patients. The project is currently under construction on Cleveland Avenue in the vicinity of the former American Excelsior plant.

Newcap intends to develop vacant lots in the 1500 block neighborhood on Main Street into multiple-family housing units. The lots were identified as the sites for the former Colonial Building, Contamone LLC Property and Bay Area Medical Center parking lot. The sites at one time were locations for industrial plants and the properties were found to be contaminated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The city is prohibited from utilizing the property unless it cleans up the contamination, which is expected to be an expensive project.

The Newcap proposal has been in the hands of city officials for more than a year. Newcap has had strong support for the housing project from such stalwarts as Wisconsin Public Service, Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and CoVantage Credit Union.

There’s a lot of barriers that have to be removed before the project can move to the construction stage. These types of projects require extensive preliminary work, especially when contamination is involved. The start of construction is not expected until April 2020, which gives the public an idea of the complex issues still in front of the developers.

Alderman John Marz, who supports the proposed project, suggested the city have a backup plan for the future. He warned about potential parking problems once the project is completed. We think the alderman, a veteran member of the council, makes a valid point.

We look forward to the continued spirit of cooperation between all of the participants involved in this major project. The city has been looking for ways to improve the appearance of its tired downtown for decades. This project could be the catalyst that gets things started.