When Rob Mossburg talks about the potential for a hotel and mixed used development on the former "Petoskey Pointe" project site (also informally known as "the hole"-- an entire city block in downtown Petoskey that has existed, nearly untouched, for six years now), he returns to the word "iconic" again and again. The owner of the Cottage Company in Harbor Springs presented some initial ideas to the Petoskey Planning Commission on Thursday, September 19 for a possible public/private partnership to develop the property, which is currently owned by Northwestern Bank.
The Cottage Company would be assisted by the Boyne City-based Landmark Development Company in developing the property.
Mossburg presented two concepts to the Planning Commission. Both included an upscale hotel with an "iconic skyline." The first concept would basically be the hotel structure, with parking surrounding it. The second concept, which Mossburg said he prefers, includes the hotel and some underground parking, with an "organic mixed use development" -- think restaurants, living space, offices, shops-- to be built along Petoskey Street.
"This kind of opportunity, to guide the development of an entire city block, it only comes around once every 50-100 years," Mossburg said in a recent interview with this newspaper. ""
"I have a high degree of respect for the Petoskey planning commission. Like our own here in Harbor Springs, they work very hard at what they do, are willing to take a collaborative approach to development proposals, and obviously care a great deal about the design aesthetics of their community," Mossburg said. "They also seem to have embraced those principles we all intuitively know are important to vibrant, sustainable downtowns - today often defined as new urbanist and place-making concepts."
Mossburg said he is pleased the commissioners supported a mixed-use plan with underground parking over the other single-use hotel plan with surface parking.
"Obviously, the site is vacant and basically dug out and ready for a parking structure to be put in place. To put parking underground at any other location within the city, even if you could find such a location, would likely not be cost effective. If we look to Traverse City for any insight, they have built two parking structures thus far (and are considering another) that have realized good market acceptance; however, theirs were built above ground and, lets face it, take up space that might be better suited for a building generating commerce and a more pleasing, turn-of-the-century architectural vernacular," Mossburg said.
"My personal opinion is that the opportunity to place parking underground, especially in the heart of the city, is something Petoskey simply should not pass up," he added.
The one concern echoed by some Planning Commission and community members was about the potential maximum height of the hotel. In a later interview, Mossburg noted the property slopes enough that from all streets except US-131, it would appear the hotel only has six stories (top height approximately 86-feet), with a 3,000-square foot restaurant as its seventh story (there is some partially underground parking viewable from US-31). The restaurant would top out at approximately 99-feet from Petoskey Street view, 110-feet from US-31. The Petoskey Pointe project was slated to be 80-feet. It is important to note, however, that the Petoskey Pointe height variance was for the entirety of the project, and it terms of total square-feet for the building area, Mossburg's proposal would be a 24-percent reduction. The maximum height of the hotel structure would only be for the seventh floor restaurant; the street-side mixed used development would be three or four stories, matching what currently exists downtown.
"We are grateful to the Planning Commissioners and community members who attended for their thoughtful comments and well intended-- and well taken-- suggestions," Mossburg said. "There was some concern over the height of our lead building so we will work with our architects, city staff, and planning commissioners to see what might be done to relieve this concern."
Mossburg said his focus, should the project move forward, is to collaborate with the community and create an iconic and useful city block that supports the development and vitality of Petoskey's historic downtown district for the next hundred years.
"We were delighted that the commissioners seemed to support the idea that lodging and residential uses were desirable elements of the plan," he said. "These uses are certainly at the top of our list in terms of having the most positive impacts on a downtown community. They also happen to be those uses we believe are most in demand from a market standpoint...funny how that works."