Traverse City News and Events

Boardman Lake Fitness Court, GT Commons Study Proposed

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 14, 2022

A 2.73-acre strip of land once intended to host a new road around Boardman Lake could instead become the site of a new public fitness court, playground, and eventual housing development. Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA) members will consider earmarking funds for the first phase of the project, the lakeside fitness court, at their 8am Thursday meeting. The board will also consider earmarking funds for an engineering study and evaluation of infrastructure needs at the Grand Traverse Commons and Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

Boardman Lake Project
A decision in recent years by Traverse City leaders to abandon plans to build a new road connecting Fourteenth Street to Eighth Street – a project long-referred to as Boardman Lake Avenue – freed up a narrow strip of waterfront property along the lake to be used for other purposes, with brownfield and grant funds slated to help spur its redevelopment.

The Grand Traverse County Land Bank Authority purchased the strip – which largely lies between Boardman Lake and the Oryana parking lot, extending from Eleventh Street up to Eighth Street – almost a decade ago on behalf of the city and the BRA, according to Land Bank Authority Chair and County Treasurer Heidi Scheppe. The purchase was made using brownfield funds as part of a larger brownfield plan that called for several improvement projects around Boardman Lake, including the proposed road construction.

With the road scuttled, a county wellness committee is proposing using part of the site to build a lakeside fitness court in partnership with the National Fitness Campaign and Priority Health – who have awarded a $50,000 grant to the project – as well as the city, Land Bank Authority, and the BRA. “The fitness court is a bodyweight circuit training systems designed for adults of all ages and abilities,” according to a project memo. “The fitness court represents the first component of an overall redevelopment along West Boardman Lake that continues to build on the success of the West Boardman Lake TART Trail Extension, Lake Ridge Condominiums, and other development.”

The total project cost for the fitness court is estimated at $194,050. BRA members will vote Thursday to earmark $52,285 in funding for site preparation work, including clearing the property, removing remnant railroad tracks, and excavating and disposing of impacted soils. The Land Bank Authority has committed $86,765 for the equipment purchase, which has already been delivered and is ready for installation, according to the memo. Another $5,000 is being contributed by the wellness committee. Assuming BRA funding approval, site work could begin in March and the fitness court installed and ready for public use by May, according to a project timeline.

Two other phases of property development could follow. “The installation of the fitness court and the completion of the Boardman Lake Trail Loop will bring additional significant attention to the West Boardman Lake area and create an opportunity for continued enhancements to this underutilized area,” according to the memo. “There is a small triangular area south of the fitness court that is owned by the County Land Bank Authority that will not provide for redevelopment but represents an opportunity for placemaking and recreation. The current concept is to clean up the property and develop for small gathering places, a small playground, and other features to provide for enjoyment of this space.” That work, labeled phase two, has an estimated budget of $80,000 and could be funded by pursuing a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the memo states.

Even with those two phases of improvements, there will still be “substantial developable area” left on the parcel, allowing for a potential phase three that could accommodate a “collaborative and effective approach to expand housing options in the city,” the memo states. The remaining property has challenges: Its narrow width, accessibility, and topography will require “careful and thoughtful design,” as well as the possible need to bury or relocate a major electric distribution line running through the site, according to the memo. Doing so would be costly, but those expenses and others associated with housing development could be covered at least in part through brownfield funds, the memo states. “We haven’t delved too deep into the housing option yet,” says Scheppe, referring to the Land Bank Authority board. She notes that phase would require more detailed planning with the city, BRA, and other partners. “But if we can help with affordable housing, I’d personally be happy if we could help with that in any way.”

Commons Study
BRA board members will also vote Thursday on earmarking $400,000 in tax increment revenue financing for an engineering study and evaluation of infrastructure needs at the Grand Traverse Commons and neighboring Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The Grand Traverse Commons Joint Planning Commission – a joint body of the City of Traverse City and Garfield Township that oversees Grand Traverse Commons – is “interested in coordinating an effort to review the current state of infrastructure, including streets, water mains, sanitary sewer, and stormwater systems and determine a course of action for improvements,” according to BRA Director Anne Jamieson.

Jamieson notes the BRA already has $400,000 designated for public infrastructure within the Commons brownfield plan, and that an engineering study would be the “first step” toward evaluating current conditions, prioritizing improvements, and discussing “the best mechanisms to manage infrastructure in the Commons.” With the property continuing to attract heavy public use and more growth anticipated in the future, Jamieson says that adequate infrastructure will be a “key component to supporting additional redevelopment of the Commons” in the years to come.

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