Traverse City News and Events

City Commissioners Approve Splash Pad Improvements, Property Purchase, Spruce/Sixth Stop

By Beth Milligan | Sept. 20, 2022

Traverse City commissioners Monday approved spending up to $126,057 to upgrade the Clinch Park splash pad, voted to purchase a 42-foot strip of property on West Front Street for a planned future parking deck, and agreed to test out a four-way stop at the intersection of Sixth and Spruce streets. Commissioners also approved state easements for the planned reconstruction of Grandview Parkway, authorized a two-year contract extension for a school resource officer at Northwest Education Services, and approved a tax break for a planned affordable housing development on East Front Street.

Clinch Park Splash Pad
The Clinch Park splash pad will receive several upgrades this off-season to improve its energy efficiency and accessibility for different user groups. City commissioners approved spending $108,746 – plus a 15 percent contingency in the amount of $16,311, for a total amount not-to-exceed $126,057 – with Vortex, a leading firm in splash pad installations. Vortex will install rain and wind sensors to allow the splash pad to gauge weather conditions and adjust operations automatically. Chemical levels will also be balanced automatically, and each half of the splash pad will be under its own activator, meaning the big arch will shut down if people aren’t under it for a certain length of time (activity will reactivate the splash pad).

A new Cascade River feature will allow for “hands-on water exploration through flow play and interactive waves and orbs,” amenities that are accessible to a wide range of users and encourage “collaborative play by allowing many children to play at the same time,” according to a memo from Vortex. The planned upgrades will “greatly” reduce the amount of water, chemicals, and energy used at the splash pad, according to Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michelle Hunt. A $300,000 settlement the city accepted in 2016 from Hamilton Anderson Associates – the firm blamed for initial design flaws in the splash pad – will pay for the upgrades. Work will take place this fall and spring and be completed by the time the splash pad reopens next summer.

Property Purchase
Commissioners unanimously approved spending $827,640 to purchase a property parcel at 145 West Front Street – the site of a planned third and final downtown public parking deck. The city previously purchased land in the rear section of the property at the same address in 2016 for $1.3 million, but a 42-foot strip on the northern portion of the site remained under private ownership. The city is now buying that strip at an estimated cost of $100 per square foot, which Mayor Richard Lewis noted was significantly below market value downtown. The city also bought the former Master Dry Cleaners building at 115 Pine Street in 2020 as part of the property accrual needed to eventually build the west-side parking deck.

Spruce/Sixth Four-Way Stop
The intersection of Spruce and Sixth streets will be converted to a four-way stop on a trial basis for three months to evaluate its effectiveness after commissioners approved the proposal Monday. Commissioner Tim Werner requested the change be considered after numerous neighborhood residents petitioned to address the intersection’s safety. The current two-way stop has resulted in several accidents in recent years from vehicles failing to yield on Spruce Street. The four-way stop will be installed under a traffic control order (TCO) for 90 days, with city commissioners set to reevaluate the intersection at their December 5 meeting.

Also at Monday’s commission meeting…
> Commissioners approved an agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) providing easements for the state to grade, reconstruct sidewalk, and/or close driveways in 19 city-owned locations as part of the reconstruction of Grandview Parkway and East Front Street in 2024. That includes removing two existing driveways that access city property, including one at parking lots T and B (where the downtown farmer’s market is held) and one that accesses the Senior Center’s gravel parking area. City Engineer Tim Lodge told commissioners those driveways are obsolete, and that the city requested MDOT close them as part of the project – a move that allows the city to pass on those costs to the state.

However, after Werner raised questions about whether the city might want or need either of those driveways in the future, commissioners added a stipulation that the city retains the right to rebuild driveway access at those locations if desired in the future. MDOT will need to approve that stipulation before the agreement is finalized. The state will pay the city $59,802 for the various easements, which will be invested back into covering part of the city’s costs for the reconstruction project.

> Commissioners approved a two-year contract extension between the Traverse City Police Department and Northwest Education Services for a school resource officer (SRO) for the school system. Officer Jennilyn Oster has been an SRO since 2016 and is assigned to the Career Tech Center, Creekside School, New Horizons, Bridgeway, and Transition Campus. Northwest Education Services reimburses the city for all SRO costs. Multiple educators and co-workers from the school system praised Oster Monday and spoke about the importance of the position to the district. Commissioners voted 5-2 to approve the agreement through June 2024, with Werner and Commissioner Mitch Treadwell opposed.

> Commissioners unanimously approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) – or a tax break designed to offset costs for constructing affordable housing – for Woda Cooper Companies to build a 53-unit apartment building on four parcels at 1024, 1026, 1028, and 1040 East Front Street. Bradley Commons, as the project is called, will offer a variety of income-restricted apartments, including 34 units for tenants earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). Also related to housing, commissioners discussed putting out a request-for-proposals (RFP) to develop workforce housing on three city-owned lots on Beitner Street and Woodmere Avenue, but ultimately pushed that agenda item to their October 17 meeting to allow staff more time to research answers to several commission questions about the proposal.

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