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Friday, April 25, 2014
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Sidewalk Cafes, WiFi Headed Downtown?

April 25, 2014
Sidewalk Cafes, WiFi Headed Downtown?

Sidewalk cafes, downtown WiFi and bikes and parking are all on the docket for Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members at their meeting this (Friday) morning. Here's a look at some of the key projects that could be moving forward today:

Sidewalk Cafes
Should downtown restaurant owners be allowed to use parking spaces to expand their outdoor seating during warm-weather months? A new ordinance allowing restaurants to construct "platform cafes" is under consideration. City Commissioner Jim Carruthers, studying the issue as part of a commission ad hoc committee with Commissioners Barbara Budros and Jeanine Easterday, says the committee is seeking input from downtown businesses and the DDA board (which will discuss the proposal this morning) in order to help shape the guidelines of the ordinance.

“We'd like to get the input of downtown merchants before we make any decisions,” says Carruthers. “We have some issues and questions...we want to make sure we review any concerns before moving it on to the city commission.”

Commissioners might consider stipulations like requiring restaurant owners to secure the permission of businesses on either side of them before building platforms; standardizing the permitted height and width of platforms; allowing such cafes only in streets with speed limits of 25mph or less; constructing safety barriers around the platforms; and requiring certain pathway clearances on sidewalks and between platforms to ensure continued pedestrian access.

Restaurant owners would pay a daily usage fee for parking spots and might also be required to remove tables, chairs and barriers each night and only operate during certain months of the year.

Downtown WiFi
A long-discussed proposal to bring free WiFi to downtown Traverse City will finally become a reality if DDA board members authorize an agreement today with Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) to implement the project this spring. TCL&P – which will cover upfront project costs of $790,000 and then recoup its expenses over a 10-year period from the DDA – unanimously approved a draft of the agreement at its April 8 board meeting.

The new system would provide WiFi throughout downtown Traverse City and the Open Space and could accommodate 27,500 users simultaneously. Should the DDA green light an agreement, Wi-Fi services could be up and running as soon as early August, according to TCL&P Executive Director Tim Arends.

Bikes & Parking
Traverse Area Recreation & Transportation (TART) Trails will once again partner with the DDA for its upcoming Smart Commute Week May 31-June 7. As part of the week-long celebration, the organization is seeking permission from the DDA board to host its 4th Annual Recycle-A-Bicycle Bike Swap event on May 31 inside the Old Town Parking Garage. TART is also renewing a request to install a seasonal bike rack in a metered parking space in front of Pangea's Pizza on Front Street in downtown Traverse City from May-November, which it has done the past three years.

DDA board members will also consider authorizing a $161,807 contract with Traffic & Safety Control Systems, Inc. for the purchase of twelve parking pay stations for downtown, as well as a $79,719 contract with MacKay Meters, Inc. for the purchase of up to 325 single-space meter housings, which will help protect meters most targeted for theft in the downtown district. Funds for both projects are currently available in the city's parking system fund.


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