Published in The Mining Journal on Jan. 13, 2019
MARQUETTE — Grocery and retail stores, an arcade and cinema, various local businesses, and a restaurant and miniature golf course.
With only two establishments left in the complex, and one expecting to relocate this summer, the Marquette Mall along U.S. 41 near the western edge of the Marquette city limits has undergone an immense transformation since it was developed in the early 1970s.
What once was the home of over 50 establishments now only houses two businesses — Riverside Auto Mall and Dollar Tree. The most recent departure was the Michigan Secretary of State office in June.
“We wanted a new facility and to add new technology for customers and staff to provide better service,” said Fred Woodhams of the Secretary of State in a previous Journal article.
Along with extensive plans to renovate the majority of the mall — including demolishing the mall’s center area — Riverside Auto Mall, which has been part of the complex since the early 1990s, announced its plan to move in 2015 to a new location near Target and Wal-Mart in Marquette Township. Riverside’s general manager at the time, Paul Halbur, said he hoped a new location would provide more visibility.
In 2016, Denis Severinsen, vice president of real estate for Escanaba-based Dagenais Enterprises, which owns the mall property and is Riverside’s parent company, said various factors contributed to the mall renovations not occurring, including lease agreement decisions made by tenants.
As Riverside prepares to move to its new location this year, Dollar Tree will be the only remaining business in the Marquette Mall. Severinsen said there are no future plans regarding the mall to report at this time.
Dollar Tree representatives also could not provide comment on whether or not they will renew a lease, or if they’d be able to, whenever the time comes.
The future of UP North Car Wash and Pizza Hut, which are adjacent to the mall and also owned by Dagenais Enterprises, is also uncertain, although owners previously stated that the businesses are expected to remain operating in those locations.
Last year, according to the Michigan Tax Tribunal website — which was confirmed by City Attorney Ron Keefe — Dagenais Real Estate, Inc. filed a petition against the city of Marquette in the tax tribunal asking that its property taxes be reduced.
“We have numerous commercial properties, and whenever it is feasible, as other property owners do, we appeal to the local tax authorities and ultimately it goes through the Michigan tax tribunal,” Severinsen said in an email.
According to City Assessor Miles Anderson, the property owners paid nearly $105,000 in taxes over the summer, and owe around $5,000 for the end of the 2018 year for the mall parcel, which also contains Pizza Hut and the car wash.
“If the mall were to become totally vacated, it can impact property taxes,” Anderson said. “The more vacancy you have, the less valuable the property becomes.”
Documents found on the tax tribunal’s site claim that Dagenais Real Estate is seeking to cut its taxes by half.
“This case is pending in the tax tribunal. The last entry on the tribunal docket sheet is a notice of a prehearing general call for September 16, 2019,” Keefe said in an email.
After the rise of online retail, The Wall Street Journal referred to shopping malls as things of the past. According to clips of Journal articles found at the Marquette Regional History Center, the Marquette Mall was once a bustling place.
A November 1973 article reported that live palm trees were flown in from Florida for the mall’s grand opening.
“The live palm trees will be set up in the central court area along with trash containers, ash trays and benches for resting. Banners will be hung from many of the stores,” the article reads, stating that nearly 50 shops would open at the same time.
For years, Woolworth and Angeli’s grocery market were the mall’s largest anchors. Woolworth was the largest retail store in the Upper Peninsula at the time, at 78,000 square feet.
Woolworth eventually closed in 1992, and Angeli’s in 1989 after Econo Foods and Super One opened stores in Marquette, driving down prices and heating up competition, an April 1991 Journal article states.
In 1992, Robert Dagenais bought the mall and “spruced it up” by adding the Riverside car dealership, where Angeli’s once stood, another Journal article said.
The Angeli family immigrated to Iron River from Italy in the early 1900s and gradually opened a small chain of family-operated markets throughout the U.P. over the years.
City Manager Mike Angeli said most of his family worked at the markets at some point of their lives. He said he hopes to see the Marquette Mall revitalized in the future rather than being torn down.
“We always like to see our available retail space utilized and we stand ready to assist where we can with anybody to create retail or other type of business space in town,” he said. “There were a lot of memories at that mall. It used to be a hoppin’ place.”