MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Developers behind a $250 million project adding a marina, condominiums, retail and public space to Muskegon Lake have reached an agreement with the city.

Tuesday night, the Muskegon City Commission unanimously approved a consent agreement with Adelaide Pointe that gives the developer access to the city boat launch for Adelaide Pointe’s in-and-out boat storage business. In return, Adelaide Pointe will give the public access to its peninsula and lakeshore, which spans nearly a mile, according to Adelaide Pointe co-founder Ryan Leestma.

“This is a huge step,” he said.

The public use agreement will remain intact as long as Adelaide Pointe uses the city boat launch.
The new deal replaces a consent agreement approved by the city last year. The measure had to be updated because of changes involving the project.

After a Monday work session, city planning staff updated the current agreement to remove an exclusivity clause to clarify that Adelaide Pointe could use the boat launch during the terms of the agreement. But a couple residents voiced concerns about the city moving too fast on developing the lakefront.

“I agree that these guys are very nice and that the development is going to be beautiful, but how much of it do we need and where do we draw the line? And for me, we need time. I don’t think we’re taking enough time. We just got our lake off the list of crappy lakes in the country and now instantly we’re going to build giant waterscapes of docks, floating docks. And I understand that you can fish and you can walk and you can do these things. But how much should we do?” resident Derek Olson asked.

“I just don’t want to see us do the same thing that the previous generations did by building and filling the lake with things that aren’t natural and that isn’t pristine,” Olson added.

Ryan Leestma countered concerns by explaining how the development team plans to voluntarily invest $1.5 million to restore the lakefront.

“Our goal was to actually make everything better,” Ryan Leestma told the commission.

(A May 26, 2021 photo shows a view of Muskegon Lake from one of two peninsulas slated for restoration as part of the Adelaide Pointe development.)

He says Adelaide Pointe will use a floating dock to not disturb the bottom of the lake, will minimize the height of the rock wall and use Michigan fieldstone and logs to create lake habitat. They also plan to add native plant species that survive and thrive on lower light levels created by the docks.

Leestma says Adelaide Pointe will also minimize dredging and remove foundry sand dumped in the lake when the property was used industrially.

“Nobody in the state of Michigan has directly mitigated a dredging project,” Ryan Leestma said.

“What is the south shoreline of Muskegon Lake historically? The place that has the most environmental injustice than anywhere except Detroit. That’s not right, that’s not right. Well how do we fix that? We make all these environmental improvements,” Ryan Leestma added.

“I just want to encourage everyone. There’s a lot of information out there. Everyone’s very interested in seeing the best for Muskegon Lake and I think that this is a good thing,” said resident Craig Person, who created a video about the development and talked to environmental experts about it.

“We had so many positive comments come from the general public and thoughtful questions we could answer. And I appreciate the public sort of entering into a trust with us,” co-founder Emily Leestma, Ph.D., said. “We don’t take that public trust lightly, and so we appreciate the public trust we’ve experienced with this project.”

The space the public would have access to would include a bike path, fish cleaning stations and grilling stations in addition to lakefront views.

Adelaide Pointe also plans to restore and reopen the boat launch to the community.

(A photo provided by Adelaide Pointe gives a bird’s-eye view of the east basin owned by the city of Muskegon.)

“It’s a big win for the city of Muskegon to officially have all this public access,” Ryan Leestma said. “It’s a big oppurtunity. This is something Emily and I have been passionate about in helping to bring people to the lake.”

Leestma said the next steps are getting a city development agreement to pursue financing and securing a permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy for the marina work.

“That is a very long process. The DNR and EGLE, obviously they don’t look at projects like this very often. In fact, this is really the first major marina construction project that’s taken place in the state of Michigan for about 30 years. So like, the emphasis is super on, ‘how do we do this right?’” Leestma said.

“This isn’t the end of it. This is kind of the beginning of the formally we’re getting underway,” Muskegon Mayor Ken Johnson said.

Ryan Leestma says as soon as the EGLE permit comes in, the team will begin work on the rock wall immediately. He said there’s also $65 million in development projects he wants to start as soon as possible. He says that’s why he and Emily Leestma sold their Roger B. Chaffee Complex in Grand Rapids for $11 million — a deal that should close in the coming weeks.

Adelaide Pointe will also consider adding a 110-room hotel to its plans in the future. If all goes well, the marina would be done in May or June 2023 and the multiuse building would be done between August and November 2023 and then the bike path would reopen.

Ryan Leestma encourages people to follow Adelaide Pointe on Facebook for updates.