Maritime Museum tower could face same fate as failed hotel

The proposed Door County Maritime Museum lighthouse on Sturgeon Bay’s west-side waterfront could be as “dead in the water” as Robert Papke’s failed hotel project.


That’s because the location of the proposed $5.5 million ten-story tower could, like the recently-scuttled hotel project, be on filled lakebed. If so, the Maritime Museum would have to have the City of Sturgeon Bay lease the property from the Commissioner of Public Lands, then sub-lease it to the Maritime Museum.


Sturgeon Bay Mayor Thad Birmingham cautioned museum officials to make sure they know where the ordinary high water mark is located so the tower is not on the side of the line where development is restricted to public use.



The discussion took place over a resolution supporting a grant application for up to $250,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation that was approved by the council.


The Maritime Museum has raised $3.2 million of the $5.5 million needed to complete the tower. The grant of up to $250,000 from WEDC would assist in reaching the total fund-raising goal.


If the application is successful it would come from the Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant program run through WEDC. The program is designed to incentivize downtown community development. According to the executive summary that accompanied the resolution, activities funded through the grant program should lead to “measurable job opportunities, property values and/or leveraged investment by local and private partners.”


The lighthouse tower would be used to expand museum exhibit space and provide facilities for additional educational programs. An observation tower, according to proponents, would also be a significant tourist attraction on the west-side waterfront.


Museum Executive Director Kevin Osgood told council members he is working diligently to clear up questions about the ability to build on what may be filled lakebed. Osgood said more than 200 donors, with a majority from Sturgeon Bay, have supported the lighthouse tower project with their contributions.

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