Traverse City News and Events

City Commissioners To Talk Eighth Street, Senior Center

By Beth Milligan | July 6, 2019

Traverse City commissioners Monday will discuss splitting costs with property owners for a number of special improvements to Eighth Street as part of the corridor reconstruction. They will also discuss hiring an architectural firm to provide design drawings and cost estimates for the construction of a new Traverse City Senior Center.

City staff have been meeting with Eighth Street property owners and members of the North Boardman Lake District about entering into a special improvement district (SID) to help pay for streetscape improvements. In an SID, property owners and the city agree to split costs for enhancements like trees, benches, lighting, and bike racks, with at least 50 percent of the affected property owners required to support the proposal in order for city commissioners to consider it. If an SID is approved, it applies to all affected property owners – whether they support the project or not – with payments typically spread out over a number of years on owners’ property tax bills. Property owners have helped pay for streetscape upgrades during the West Front Street and Lake Avenue reconstruction projects through SIDs, as two recent examples.

A first draft of the Eighth Street SID came to $396,000, with the owners’ half totaling $198,000. That proposal includes repaving Railroad Avenue south of Eighth Street and installing light poles and fixtures along the road, as well as covering landscaping and irrigation, 14 benches, 18 planter pots, 14 trash receptacles, and eight bike racks throughout the corridor. Steve Nance, president of the North Boardman Lake District, said the group worked with staff to help scale that initial proposal back, eventually getting the price tag down to $161,500 – or $80,750 for the owners’ half.

“The group was able to say, ‘We can actually cut some of the expenses down by reducing the number of benches and receptacles and so forth,’” says Nance. “So it was a little give-and-take to reduce costs.”

The newest version of the proposal would pay for 40 new trees along Eighth Street ($35,400), other new bushes and plantings ($9,600), an irrigation system ($68,500), and streetscape improvements including four benches, four bike racks, four trash receptacles, and planter pots with water reservoirs ($48,000 total). The Railroad Avenue improvements have been eliminated from the plan. The amount each owner would pay depends on their street frontage along Eighth Street; according to City Engineer Tim Lodge; the average assessment would be $1,090, or approximately $140 per year for 10 years, including interest. The smallest assessment would be $150, while the largest property owner would pay $6,990.

Both Lodge and Nance indicate that property owners seem supportive of the new proposal. “I think the property owners are feeling like that was a reasonable change to get the prices down,” says Nance. “We still have a lot of folks to talk to, so I don’t know if everyone will agree, but having experienced SIDs a number of times myself, I’ve always found the value of them. It improves property values well beyond the scope of the actual expenses over a period of time.”

A memo from Lodge also notes that the city will consider extending its banner program to the Eighth Street corridor, use salvaged red bricks in areas to reduce costs, use a darker gray color on the cycle track, and consider installing a drinking fountain near the Railroad and Eighth intersection at the request of owners. “We’re trying to make the corridor really top-notch…it’s going to be someplace people will want to bike and walk and congregate, so cool things like a drinking fountain just make sense,” says Nance. Because commissioners will be in a study session Monday, they won’t take action on the potential SID; staff instead will give an update on the proposal and hear commission input before moving forward with the formal process of collecting signatures from property owners.

Commissioners Monday will also receive a staff update on the potential hiring of an architectural firm to create a design and estimate for a new Traverse City Senior Center. Long-gestating plans to replace the deteriorating waterfront facility on East Front Street are poised to move forward, with a new build recommended as the preferred option instead of trying to renovate the existing building, which was built in 1969 and is out-of-date with modern code regulations.

The city used a public request-for-proposals (RFP) process to solicit bids from interested architectural firms and received five responses. Through a bid review and interview process, the field was winnowed down to Cornwell Architects – which bid $201,045 – and Environment Architects, which bid $198,263. Staff are checking references for both firms and – after hearing from commissioners Monday – will come back with a recommended finalist to hire at the commission’s July 15 meeting. That recommendation will also go to Grand Traverse County commissioners for their approval; while Traverse City owns the Senior Center property, the county operates the facility as part of the Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network.

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