Traverse City News and Events

City Commissioners Approve Property Purchase For Parking Deck

By Beth Milligan | April 7, 2020

Traverse City commissioners voted Monday to approve purchasing the former Master Dry Cleaners building at 115 Pine Street to expand the potential space for a planned future parking deck on West Front Street – one of several issues they tackled during a marathon five-and-a-half hour virtual meeting.

The Pine Street property – which costs $635,000 and will be paid for out of the city’s parking fund – is one of three parcels the city needs to acquire to accommodate a design for a larger parking deck. The city previously purchased land at 145 West Front Street for $1.3 million in 2016 with the intent of building a third downtown public garage on the site. According to a memo from Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) CEO Jean Derenzy, building a 58-foot deck exclusively within the footprint of that property would yield a 370-space garage at a cost of roughly $14.6 million, or $39,681 per space. If the city acquired additional property behind the West Front Street parcel, however, the parking deck could be extended over the alley and built out to accommodate 481 parking spaces. The construction cost would increase to $18.2 million under that scenario, according to Derenzy, but the overall cost per space would decrease to $37,885.

Commissioners voted 5-2 to approve the property purchase, with Mayor Jim Carruthers and Commissioner Roger Putman opposed. Carruthers and Putman agreed with several public commenters who called in to speak during the meeting who argued that the timing was wrong during the coronavirus pandemic to be focusing on a parking deck, and that the property was overvalued and could potentially be obtained in the future at a lower price. Other commissioners defended the project, noting the deck has been in the planning stage for years and that locking down the property now was an important step toward eventually building the deck and investing in infrastructure that would support downtown businesses and workers.

Commissioners Monday also voted to extend the temporary ban on recreational marijuana retail stores in the city through August 30 to provide more time for the city to finalize its rules for such facilities. Staff noted that the ban could be lifted earlier than August 30 if commissioners finish the rules before that date. The commission also adopted a resolution extending the May 6 deadline by which 13 medical marijuana dispensaries are required to open their doors or lose their city permits to August 6 to accommodate potential delays caused by the pandemic.

The commission also scheduled a vote for April 20 on a measure that would forbid any new medical marijuana dispensary permits from being issued after May 5. The move could reduce the total number of medical marijuana facilities in the city. If any of the 13 permit holders fail to meet the extended August 6 deadline for opening, their permit would essentially disappear rather than being passed on to the next person on the lottery list. That could shrink the total pool size in the city – an issue that’s become a concern for commissioners after legal battles have emerged in Michigan over the right of medical dispensaries to co-locate with recreational dispensaries. Limiting the number of medical dispensaries could therefore limit the number of recreational dispensaries allowed in the city.

Finally, commissioners Monday agreed to have discussions during their upcoming budget process in May about a proposal to require all city staff - and potentially city contractors - to earn a "living wage" of $15 per hour or more, and approved a recommendation from Derenzy to offer lease relief to several downtown tenants in city-owned buildings. Those include Brew, Votruba, Great Lakes Bath and Body Works, Scalawags, Crooked Tree Arts Center, and Grand Traverse Rock and Mineral Club. Commissioners approved moving April and May rents to the end of the tenants’ leases, allowing them to "more easily open once the executive order is lifted and provide an opportunity to make payments over a longer period of time," according to Derenzy.

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