Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hospital Deadline, Golf Course Rejection, and Another Frigid Winter


WELL, HERE IT is, the end of August, the supposed deadline for a decision on the relocation of Marquette General Hospital, so it should happen this week, right?

Don't count on it, if the city's Roundhouse location is one of the two final candidates, which we hear it is.

The thing is, the City Commission's subcommittee on the hospital would have to approve a possible deal and then the City Commission as a whole would have to vote publicly on it before the city could assure Duke LifePoint that the deal is a go.

That's not likely to happen by the end of this week.

Now, if DLP has already decided it's selecting the Township site behind the Westwood Mall, that's a different story. It could happen this week.

But what we hear is that DLP is still having talks with the city over the Roundhouse site--questions answered, details clarified--while communications with the Township have been silent for about a month. That may mean DLP is totally satisfied with the Township offer while it's got doubts about the city's offer.

Or it may mean...

Oh hell, who knows what it means?

IN CASE YOU'RE wondering why the Marquette Golf Club ended talks with Duke LifePoint a week ago, here's why.

The club, after building the highly acclaimed but financially taxing Greywalls course almost a decade ago, remains about four million dollars in debt. It's a tough nut to crack.

A substantial offer from DLP for half of the Heritage course could have solved the problem but DLP's offer was somewhere in the neighborhood of three million plus. After taxes and various costs, the club would have cleared maybe two million at most, probably less.

And they would have been left without a clubhouse and a pro shop. If they had rebuilt those and taken care of other maintenance issues, their remaining cash from the sale would barely have made a dent in their debt.

And they would have been saddled with a nine hole course and an eighteen hole course divided by a huge hospital complex which, for the next couple of years, would have been nothing more than an ugly, dusty construction zone.

Hardly a wise strategy to attract new golf club members.

What could Duke LifePoint have offered to change a few minds? "Ten million would have been a good number," according to one member, half jokingly. Or maybe not.

THE TRIALS AND tribulations of ABC 10 continue.

News director and anchor Rick Tarsitano has left the Ishpeming-based station for a more lucrative position on Lake Michigan--Chicago's WGN.

Bigtime. Big station. And both Rick and his wife are from the Chicago area.

He'll be a sports producer there, not on the air for now, but don't rule that out in the future. He's a talent who provided some much needed stability at the chronically underfunded ABC 10.

"Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be TV journalists..."

Rick's had to walk a rocky path ever since he got into TV a few years back. He was hired as an off camera producer (for peanuts) at TV6 and struggled to get on the air, despite having a strong work ethic and obvious talent. He was frustrated. Then he was explicably canned.

Then, he caught on as a reporter at ABC10 (for fewer peanuts)...at one point considered going back to TV6...then with the departure of ABC 10's news director Cynthia Thompson, he found himself appointed the new news director and anchor and who-knows-what-else (for a few more peanuts).

And now, less than a year into his tenure, he's off to Chicago in an entirely different role.

Ya gotta be flexible as a TV journalist. And willing to live on peanuts. Small market TV does not lead to riches.

Meantime, ABC 10, the little engine that could, will continue to chug forward. A new news director and anchor have yet to be named.

AS IF POWERHOUSE TV 6 needed any more advantages...

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns TV6, recently announced that it's also taken ownership of WLUK in Green Bay. Yeah, the same WLUK that used to broadcast Fox programming and Green Bay Packer games in the UP.

None of that will change because Fox UP (also owned by Sinclair) now has rights to that, but the ownership change is significant because now the news departments of TV6 and Fox UP will be able to readily trade stories with WLUK. Together, they'll be offering blanket coverage of the UP-Green Bay region.

The rich get richer.

BY NOW WE'VE all heard the dismaying news that this upcoming winter may be as bitterly cold as last winter. So says the Farmer's Almanac which claims an 80% accuracy rate.

So what says local weather guru Karl Bohnak? Surely, he'll dispel such nonsense.

Well, as a matter of fact...no.

He says water patterns in the Pacific Ocean point toward a cold winter. Looks like we'll have a weak El Nino which also lends itself to a cold winter.

There is a greater likelihood of an eastern US-based frigid winter, rather than a Midwest-based freeze, but here in the U.P, we're still likely to feel it.

Bohnak reminds us that we had a frigid winter in '95-'96, and that was followed by record-breaking cold in '96-'97, so there's precedent for this.


One ray of sunshine here: September should be an average month, maybe even a bit warmer and sunnier than average.

Woohoo. Let's throw a beach party just before we head down to Getz's to buy our mittens and swampers.

You got news? Email me at briancabell@gmail.com

If you want to receive Word on the Street as soon as it's posted, go to Word on the Street by Brian Cabell on Facebook, and "like" it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Golf Course Is Out, Coast Guard Is Out to Lunch, and Huron Earth Deli Will Serve Lunch No Longer

LOOKS LIKE WE can cross one of Duke LifePoint's options off the list.

The Marquette Golf Club Board Wednesday morning voted to cut off all negotiations with DLP regarding a possible location for the new Marquette General Hospital.

Duke LifePoint, at last word, had been considering half of the Heritage course as one of its three options for relocation. But communication between the golf club and DLP over the last few weeks had gone silent and DLP's last offer to the club had been woefully inadequate.

Not only that, but the ongoing negotiations and gossip had upset the club membership and some of the surrounding neighbors. So, the board said, Enough.

Which apparently leaves DLP with two sites left on its list: 1) the 42 acres behind the Westwood Mall in Marquette Township, and 2) the Roundhouse property on the western fringe of downtown Marquette.

Maybe there's some unpublicized, darkhorse candidate out there. Who knows? We should have an answer by the end of this month.

REMEMBER THAT GREAT property trade that Marquette made with the US Coast Guard several years back?

You know, the one in which the city got almost nine acres of coastal property for a public park, and the Coast Guard, in return, received one and a half acres on which to build their fancy new station.

Worked out great. The Coast Guard immediately built their $5 million, 6000 square foot facility in 2009 and opened it up to rave reviews, and the city...well...uh...the city...well, it seems that the city, you know...

The city still doesn't have squat.

Five years later, the city still doesn't have ownership of the property. It's fenced off. "No trespassing" signs abound.

Why the delays? Last year's government shutdown is one supposed reason. Whatever. That reason's getting old.

The government has determined that before the city takes ownership, the lighthouse and the other buildings on the property need to be repainted to encapsulate the old lead-based paint. Okay. That should take...what?...two or three weeks?

The real reason for the delay apparently is government bureaucracy. Despite pressure from our elected representatives, the Coast Guard clearly has not made this a priority. We all love the Coast Guard and appreciate what it means to Marquette, but clearly five years should be more than enough time to complete a deal. A deal was made and a promise was made but neither so far has been honored.

HOW WOULD YOU like to work 70 hours a week and not earn a paycheck?

Welcome to the world of Andrew Sear, the owner and chef at Paladino's Café at the Peter White Public Library.

He, along with a tiny staff, has been at it for three months now turning out what most consider to be remarkably tasty and inventive food. Eclectic. Fusion. Local produce, local meat. Farm-to-table.

Problem is, it's a tiny café with a limited clientele and limited revenue even as its catering business grows. Thus, so far no paycheck for Sear. He's paying the bills, that's all.

So what's the plan?

He's looking to grow--start another Paladino's, a larger café-deli, preferably in Marquette but he's not ruling anything out. He's looking for investors, people with money who believe in his food and his vision. That hardly makes him unique, but you can't fault him for trying and dreaming and working 70 hours a week.

This week's special, by the way, is the Hot Mess which includes roasted pork, pickled red onions, kimchee, Michigan brie and bread. Yeah, that would be fusion. And eclectic.

NOT TO PLAY middle man in all this, but a venue Sear and his angel investors might be considering is the building on Third Street currently housing Sweet Basil and MacDonald's Music Store.

If you passed by in the last week, you couldn't help but notice the For Sale sign on the building. The sign is roughly the size of a minivan.

Great location. It also includes four apartments. Two showings so far. $349,000.

As for Sweet Basil, business owner Shelly Morley says she'll either stay in the current location, or move it elsewhere in town if the new building owner asks her to move. But Sweet Basil, which has built a substantial catering business over the years, is not going away.

ON THE OTHER hand, the Huron Earth Deli on South Third Street is going away.

The little café and deli tucked away into a mostly residential neighborhood is shutting down a week from this Friday. A shame. Good, wholesome high quality food here.

What this tells you is that even if you work hard and offer a great product, the profit margin in the restaurant business is tiny, sometimes non-existent. For every Vango's, there are a dozen good restaurants that go under within a couple of years.

The Huron Earth Deli building is up for sale at $325,000, but there appears to be a very interested owner from out-of-state. Another restaurant? We'll have to wait and see.

THE BAYOU IN Harvey is now brewing its own suds under the brand name Chocolay River Brewery.

After a series of delays, the beer is now flowing under the direction of brewmaster Grant Lyke.

Here's what they have to offer so far:
   Bayou Blonde Ale
   Blueberry Wheat
   Gitchigoomie Black Ale
   Shot Point Wheat
   Rock Cut American Pale Ale

Needless to say, a distinctly local flavor.

You got news? Email me at briancabell@gmail.com

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

B and B News, Upfront Interest, Hospital Guessing, and Eccletico Encores

IT'S NOT A sure thing yet, but it's getting there.

The long awaited Nestledown Bed and Breakfast on Lakeshore Boulevard, across from Picnic Rocks, may be just a few weeks away from groundbreaking.

Ken and Sue Schauland bought the property two and a half years ago and tore down the existing building with the expectation that they'd soon be building a unique B and B on prime property right across the street from the beach.

Not so fast. Zoning, financing, and environmental concerns cropped up. In fact, in the eyes of some, the project seemed dead.

The Schaulands (who Sue describes as "regular people with a dream") persisted. Now, they have one final financing obstacle to overcome, and with any luck, they'll put shovels to the ground by the end of summer. Their hope is to be open for business next summer.

The Schaulands both have Scandinavian blood and Nestledown will feature a distinctly Scandinavian theme, complete with a sauna. It'll consist of six guest rooms in the main building, and one room, for longer term guests, over the garage.

Question: Why doesn't the city of Marquette currently have any B and B's? There are  a few in the area--in Sands, on M-28 toward Munising and in Big Bay--but none in the city proper. Strange. It seems like an ideal location--scenic and outdoorsy but with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars. Nestledown may be carving out a niche all to itself.

In any case, Lakeshore Boulevard is coming alive. Looks like Lakeshore Cottages, a group of seven condos, will be going in up the block from Nestledown...then a mile away, they'll soon be breaking ground on the Clark Lambros Beach Park...single family homes continue to be built at the corner of Fair and Lakeshore...and Cocos recently underwent a renovation.

Traverse City, here we come.

Just kidding.


THE UPFRONT BUILDING downtown remains for sale, but it is drawing interest.

Six potential buyers, two of them corporate, have taken a look at the property so far. No offers yet.

The asking price remains $3.9 million. Realtor Dan Keller says the current owner Rhyss Mussman has at least twice that much invested in the property.

Upfront has plenty going for it--great space, attractive venue, solid infrastructure.

Now all it needs is an investor with money, vision, and a willingness to bet on Marquette.

THE GUESSING GAME continues on the hospital relocation front.

Rumors are running rampant--"The Roundhouse property is definitely out!" "No, it's the odds-on favorite!" "The golf course is rapidly losing favor!" "The township site is all but a sure thing!"

Bottom line, no one but a select few at Duke LifePoint know how the process is going.

What we do know is this: the Township has submitted all its documentation regarding the 42 acre site behind the Westwood Mall, and Duke Lifepoint, in response, has said virtually nothing to Township officials for the last three and a half weeks. Good news? Bad news? Who knows?

The city, which apparently still has the golf course and Roundhouse sites under consideration, has had "dialogue" with Duke LifePoint recently, but nothing that could be characterized as "negotiations." Just questions.

Questions. That pretty well characterizes this entire story. The final answer, if we're to believe Duke LifePoint, should come by the end of the month.

QUITE A SCENE at the Ore Dock last weekend.

The increasingly popular string group known as Eccletico tried to finish their set and make room for the headline band, but the boisterous crowd wouldn't let them go. Eccletico, worried about overstaying their welcome, did play one encore but the crowd would have been much happier with five or six.

They're a group of up to 15 members (it varies) who all play string instruments, along with a drummer.

They play hit songs--rock, pop, country, jazz, folk, alternative--but they class it up with their strings. The music is infectious and exciting. Just imagine a line of violinists stomping their feet to the music and you get the idea.

Don't be surprised if these violinists and cellists start attracting groupies.

Eccletico's next gig is at Harbor Fest, Saturday, August 23rd, from 3:30 pm to 5 pm.

AN INTERESTING AND eclectic little shop has opened up next to Frosty Treats on Third Street.

It's Superior Vitality, which features in its cute but compact space, a raw juice and smoothie bar, organic soaps and lotions, herbs, hemp products, massage and Reiki therapy, clothes, cards...and breast prostheses and bras.

It's the brainchild of Penny Aldrich, herself a breast cancer survivor. The idea is to provide convenient and comfortable service to other breast cancer survivors, and to invite all of us to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

If you're interested in the First Chakra juice at Superior Vitality, your beverage would include red beets, carrots, ginger, fennel and lemon. The Fourth Chakra juice would consist of honeydew melon, pear, apple, cucumber, kale, celery, parsley, and lime.

Gotta be healthy, right?

Certainly a teensie bit healthier than the sweet, succulent and oh-so-popular soft serve ice cream and yogurt next door at Frosty Treats.

You got news? Email me at briancabell@gmail.com

If you want to receive Word on the Street as soon as it's posted, go to "Word on the Street by Brian Cabell" on Facebook and "like" it.