Traverse City News and Events

53-Unit Apartment Complex Planned For East Front Street

By Beth Milligan | Sept. 19, 2022

Traverse City commissioners will consider approving a tax break tonight (Monday) for a planned affordable housing complex on East Front Street, which will be built by Woda Cooper Companies across four connected parcels and feature 53 apartments targeted to a mix of singles, seniors, and families. Commissioners tonight will also consider issuing a request-for-proposals (RFP) for one or more developers to build workforce housing on three city-owned parcels on Beitner Street and Woodmere Avenue.

East Front Street/Bradley Commons
Woda Cooper Companies – the development group behind Traverse City housing projects including Ruth Park, Brookside Commons, and Boardman Lake Apartments – is planning another 52,870-square-foot apartment complex at 1024, 1026, 1028, and 1040 East Front Street. Bradley Commons, as the project is called, will take over parcels currently occupied by Prout Financial and a rental property to construct a new four-story, 53-unit apartment building, with a combination of one and two-bedroom apartments (including six barrier-free units). One-bedroom units will average 653-678 square feet and two-bedroom units will average 780-895 square feet. Woda is expected to invest $15 million into the project.

Bradley Commons (pictured, rendering) will be LEED-certified and offer amenities including energy-efficient appliances, an outdoor patio, benches, bike racks, a community room with kitchenette, and a fourth-floor exterior terrace with views of Grand Traverse Bay. The project includes an off-street parking lot with 22 vehicle spaces and 12 bicycle spaces. In a memo to commissioners, Assistant City Manager Penny Hill noted a BATA bus stop is approximately 115 feet from the site, “which will help in allowing for alternative transportation.” She added that the project will also “eliminate four existing curb cuts along East Front Street, reducing the number of vehicle conflict points in that area.”

Thirty-four of the apartments, or 64 percent of the total building, will be targeted to tenants earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). “This income group is sometimes referred as the ‘missing middle’ and safe affordable, energy efficient housing for this group of wage earners is desperately needed in the region,” Woda wrote in a project memo. “At 80 percent AMI, a single person could earn up to $49,600 and live at Bradley Commons, and a family of four could earn up to $70,800.  Rents for the attainable workforce units are targeted at $950-$975 for the one-bedroom units and $1,150-$1,175 for the two-bedroom units.”

Other units would be targeted to lower income levels, with Woda seeking funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for low income housing tax credits (LIHTC). According to Woda, LIHTC net rents for one-bedroom units will range between $360-$975 and for two-bedroom units between $440-$1,175. Woda committed to maintaining affordable rents for the units for 45 years, or 30 years longer than the required LIHTC compliance period.

In addition to MSHDA funding, Woda is seeking a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement with the City of Traverse City, or a tax break designed to offset costs for constructing affordable housing. A PILOT agreement allows developers to pay a percentage of rental income to the city – in this case, six percent over 16 years – in place of traditional taxes to offset costs associated with developing affordable housing and charging below-market rental rates. The PILOT for Bradley Commons would be in place from 2023 to 2039 and would result in an annual estimated city tax break of $82,500 for Woda. City staff are recommending approval of the PILOT application, noting the project scored 30.86 out of 36 possible points on a scoring matrix the city uses to grade such applications. That scoring matrix awards points for desired components like maximal land utilization, green infrastructure, universal accessibility, access to transportation and walkable services, and housing unit and tenant diversity.

Woda stated in its application that “an abundance of employment opportunities surrounds the site with entry-level jobs, full and part-time retail/service/industrial jobs as well as volunteer opportunities. The walkable proximity of amenities and jobs make the site ideal for active adults, children, and seniors.” Bradley Commons is one of several major changes that could soon be coming to the area around the East Front Street and Garfield Avenue intersection, with the road set to be fully reconstructed in 2024 and the Burger King and Cuppa Joe properties recently listed for sale for redevelopment.

Beitner Street RFP
In another housing-related agenda item, commissioners tonight will consider issuing a request-for-proposals (RFP) to develop workforce housing on three contiguous city-owned parcels at 715 and 723 Beitner Street and 535 Woodmere Avenue. Commissioners Tim Werner and Ashlea Walter requested the RFP proposal be placed on the agenda, noting that the three parcels “topped the list” when commissioners discussed city properties in March that could be used to develop housing.

“To avoid a single monolithic structure occupying the three parcels, the commission should consider accepting RFPs for each of the three individual parcels and creating deed restrictions to prevent the combining of the parcels,” Werner and Walter wrote in a memo. They suggested prioritizing development proposals that maximize the number of residential units, minimize the carbon footprint, and “create community through building design” by having retail on the first floor facing Woodmere and offering a diversity of price points.

If commissioners are supportive of the proposal, an RFP could be issued in October, according to a recommended timeline from Werner and Walter. City staff noted that when the parcels were purchased in 2018, a contract term stipulated they couldn’t be resold again for five years, meaning an outright property sale (if such an option was pursued) could only take place in October 2023 or beyond.

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