A Storied Beginning
The tale of the Marysville Power Plant, or as locals affectionately called it, the Mighty Marysville, begins far before its foundations were laid. This ground, nestled on the banks of the St. Clair River in Marysville, Michigan, was home to the first European settlement in St. Clair County.
A lumber mill first stood here in 1690, a testament to the dynamic spirit of the settlers. Then, in the late 1800s, this area and other small settlements were consolidated into the community now known as Marysville.
When it came time for the power plant to be built, the mill and the Bunce homestead were demolished, and Bunce Creek was rerouted. However, a rock and plaque still mark the location of the Bunce homestead, standing as a silent testament to the history of the land.
The Birth of the Mighty Marysville
Construction began on the Marysville Power Plant in 1914, with electricity demand growing north of Metro Detroit. The Power Plant started generating electricity in 1922 with its first two units.
In 1926, two additional units were added to the infrastructure, and in the mid-1940s, the “high side” was introduced, featuring higher pressure steam that could power higher capacity 75MW generators.
During its prime, the Marysville Power Plant was a bustling hub of activity with nearly 300 employees, and it boasted a peak capacity of 300MW when both its low and high sides were fully operational. This period in the Power Plant’s existence showcases the Marysville community’s enduring resilience and inventive spirit.
The End of an Era
Like all great things, the Mighty Marysville in Michigan had an end. The Power Plant was idled between 1988 and 1992, but it roared back to life in 1992, running with the two “high side” units with a total of 150MW for nearly a decade.
But in 2001, the Marysville Power Plant was idled again. Finally, in 2012, it was officially decommissioned, and the property was placed on the market. DTE Energy held an auction to sell any remaining equipment of value inside the plant.
In 2013, the property was sold to the Commercial Development Corporation, and contractors began the work of demolition. By November 7, 2015, the remaining boiler house was imploded, marking the end of the Mighty Marysville era.
Imagining the Future
Following the decommissioning and demolition of the power plant, the CDC, in collaboration with the City of Marysville, unveiled a robust waterfront redevelopment concept known as the “Marysville Riverfront Master Plan.”
This plan aimed to redevelop the 30-acre site previously occupied by the power plant into a unique riverfront destination, reflecting the site’s rich history. The proposed architecture and streetscapes would feature detailing reminiscent of the 1920s when the power plant was commissioned.
A kiosk was suggested to walk visitors through a historical timeline of the St. Clair Riverfront along Marysville—the master plan aimed to maximize waterfront views and access by orienting developments towards the St. Clair River.
The site’s north end was planned to re-shore and expand the existing bulkhead to accommodate a new public marina. This marina would include facilities like a fueling station, towing service, bath/shower house, and a public ferry service to transport passengers along the St. Clair River.
An existing park would be retained and expanded, and walking and bike trails would be extended throughout the site. A new five-story, 100-room hotel was also proposed along the waterfront, with condominiums on the top floor.
The heart of the development would be the riverfront promenade, which would house a two-story 25,000-square-foot amenities building and a one-story 30,000-square-foot office retail building. These buildings would provide space for banquets, boutique shopping, specialty restaurants, art shops, and a gelato bar.
The south end of the master plan envisioned a 12,500-square-foot fitness center and a 6,500-square-foot pad site, which could be used as additional retail space or a standalone restaurant.
While this grand plan was released by the CDC and the City of Marysville, it’s important to note that there were various other suggestions and proposals for the site’s redevelopment. These suggestions included a casino, water park, hotel, condominiums, a possible downtown for Marysville, or a retail center.
There was also a fun instance where fifth graders in the city suggested their ideas for the redevelopment of the site, which included a theater, a museum with pieces of the old power plant, a nature center, an underwater observatory, a Great Wolf Lodge, and more.
Conclusion: A Tribute to the Past, A Vision for the Future
The Marysville Power Plant may no longer stand, but its legacy lives on in the hearts of the people of Marysville. It’s a symbol of a time when coal and steam-powered our cities and the hum of turbines filled the air.
But it’s also a symbol of change and progress, of a community ready to embrace a new future. So the plans for the site are a tribute to the past and a vision for the future, reflecting the spirit of innovation and community that has always characterized Marysville.
The Mighty Marysville will always be remembered, but it’s clear that the best days for Marysville are yet to come.