Traverse City News and Events

DDA Talks TIF 97, Parking/Transportation, Projects

By Beth Milligan | Jan. 21, 2019

Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members will form a joint committee with city commissioners to further explore the possibility of extending downtown’s tax increment financing (TIF) 97 plan – a process that will include getting new cost estimates for planned projects like renovating the Sara Hardy Farmers Market and improving properties along the lower Boardman River.

The TIF 97 committee was one of several topics DDA members tackled at their Friday meeting – an agenda that also included changes to downtown parking/transportation programs and updates on several events and projects.

TIF 97 Committee
DDA board members Bill Golden, Scott Hardy, and Gabe Schneider will join three to-be-determined city commissioners on an ad hoc committee tasked with making a recommendation on whether TIF 97 should be extended beyond its 2027 expiration date – and what specific projects it will pay for if extended.

The DDA’s selection of its committee representatives followed a joint study session earlier last week between DDA board members and city commissioners about TIF 97. At that meeting, DDA CEO Jean Derenzy said that building a third downtown parking deck – planned for West Front Street and estimated to cost $15.6-$19.5 million – would be nearly impossible to fund without extending the TIF 97 plan. Several city commissioners expressed skepticism about the idea, however, with Commissioner Brian McGillivary saying extending TIF 97 would essentially be breaking the city’s word to taxing jurisdictions that their tax capture would end in 2027. But commissioners expressed a willingness to form a joint committee with DDA representatives to explore the concept further and make a recommendation on how to proceed.

DDA board members agreed Friday that committee discussion should focus not just on whether to extend TIF 97, but what projects it would cover if extended – and how much those projects would cost. Potential projects include not only the West Front Street parking deck but the overhaul of the Sara Hardy Farmers Market, improvements to properties along the Boardman River – such as potentially beautifying the river-adjacent alleys along the main blocks of Front Street – and making streetscape improvements. Streetscape projects could include installing more snowmelt systems for sidewalks throughout downtown Traverse City – a potential “big line item” cost, Derenzy said.

DDA board member T. Michael Jackson said getting hard cost estimates for projects would be key in making a case on why TIF 97 should be extended. “If the recommendation is to extend TIF, I think there needs to be a well laid-out plan as to what is TIF going to do, and to lay that out so the public can truly understand what TIF means. There’s still a lot of confusion out there,” he said, adding the DDA should describe its plan “item by item” to show the cost-benefit analysis of extending TIF 97. “I think that’s a big question in a number of people’s mind, because they don’t understand what the value (of TIF 97) is.”

BATA Programs/Parking/Transportation
More changes are on the way to downtown parking and transportation programs as the DDA works to improve access and connectivity in the corridor.

Board members approved extending the DDA’s pilot program with Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) to offer free commuter passes for downtown employees. The Destination Downtown program has been in place for 23 weeks and has averaged 17 unique riders per week: six full-time riders, four part-time riders, and 75 total rides, according to Parking Director Nicole VanNess. “Based on the assumption that all riders are round-trip commuters, we are reducing our need for 38 long-term parking spaces per week,” VanNess said. “This equates to the number of parking spaces in lot J off of Union at the Sixth Street dam.”

As part of a full program launch March 1, DDA will implement a small fee structure, requiring employers to chip in to help cover costs. The fee will be $25 for companies with 1-25 employees, $50 for 26-75 employees, and $100 for 76+ employees. Riders will also pay $5 to cover the cost of being issued a Destination Downtown pass (good for continual free rides on BATA to and from downtown for work). Board members also agreed to contribute $5,000 toward supporting BATA’s Bayline program, a free shuttle loop that circulates every 12-15 minutes to popular stops throughout Traverse City.

VanNess also told board members that staff and parking committee members would be revisiting plans to introduce a residential parking permit program in 2019. Discussion about permits has expanded in recent years from an initial request from residents for permits that would allow them to park in front of their homes on city streets to cover a range of topics including guest parking and overnight parking. VanNess said staff plans to now tackle those topics one at a time, rather than all at once, and will begin this year with “residential parking permits for streets that have posted hour limits.” She added the initial program focus would have “nothing to do with guest parking or overnight parking.”

Also at Friday’s meeting…
> DDA board members discussed the possibility of installing surveillance cameras outside new public restrooms on Park Street after staff have had to close the facilities twice due to vandalism. In the latest instance, one of the bathroom sinks was ripped off the wall, according to Derenzy. Board member Steve Constantin said it was “a shame that you provide these amenities” downtown only for them to be vandalized, speculating that the vandalism was “probably (due to) one of our over-served visitors.” Derenzy said she would explore the cost and logistics of installing surveillance cameras outside the restrooms and report back to the board.

> Derenzy told board members a deal with Consumers Energy for the DDA to purchase property next to Central United Methodist Church for a planned FishPass project at the Union Street Dam was nearly finalized, with the property transfer likely to take place within two months. Consumers Energy sold the property to the DDA for $120,000 – significantly lower than its $500,000-plus valuation – in order to help facilitate the FishPass project.

> Finally, board members approved an agreement with TART Trails to hold the organization's ninth annual Recycle-A-Bicycle Bike Swap June 1 in the Old Town parking deck. The agreement allows TART to utilize the ground floor of the deck from 8am to 4pm on event day, to have set-up access the night before, and to pay restroom cleaning charges at a rate of $36.38 per hour. The event allows attendees to sell or purchase bicycles and bike accessories, with 25 percent of proceeds benefiting the Recycle-A-Bicycle program to provide providing economically disadvantaged individuals with refurbished bikes for transportation.

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