Traverse City News and Events

Details Emerge On Proposed Hall Street Apartment Complex

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 13, 2021

The developers behind the new Breakwater project on Garland Street in downtown Traverse City are planning a second apartment complex in the Warehouse District – a six-story, 97-unit building slated for vacant property on Hall Street. The project will go before Traverse City planning commissioners Wednesday at their 7pm virtual meeting for site plan approval.

Innovo is planning to construct an 89,000-square-foot building on two vacant parcels at 125 and 145 Hall Street between The Candle Factory and the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) transfer station. The mixed-use development will include over 2,100 square feet of commercial space on the first floor and 97 apartments on the second through sixth floors. The mix of units includes 64 studio units ranging between 416 and 535 square feet, 3 one-bedroom units (584 square feet), 28 two-bedroom units (704-790 square feet), and 2 three-bedroom units (1,370 square feet).

The building will include an on-site, three-story parking garage with 81 parking spaces. A 13-foot sidewalk is proposed to be added along Hall Street, which the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has requested include snowmelt – a feature the DDA has been encouraging whenever new sidewalk is installed downtown. Project plans describe building amenities including balconies with views of Grand Traverse Bay, rooftop rain gardens, platform tennis, bocce ball courts, and a dog park on the west side of the building.

According to a staff report on the project, the building exterior will “incorporate traditional masonry elements” with a red/brown brick veneer and window design that mimics the aesthetics of other downtown buildings. A recessed central portion of the building facing Hall Street is proposed to feature lightly tinted green and blue glass (pictured, rendering). “This was done to support the developer’s commitment to public art by creating an urban interpretation of stained glass,” according to the report. The Hall Street façade has been designed to give the impression of two separate buildings in order to “break up the massing of the building,” the report states.

City staff are recommending approval of the project with several conditions, including that developers continue working with the city to ensure all stormwater, utility, fire prevention, and landscaping and tree ordinance requirements are met. City Planning Director Russ Soyring tells The Ticker that staff evaluated the “stormwater and water and sewer capacity (for the development), and there does not appear to be any issues with that.” On Tuesday, Traverse City commissioners could potentially approve several changes to zoning rules for Development (D) districts in the city, which includes Hall Street. Soyring says Innovo designed the apartment complex to meet both the current zoning rules and the new ones, including potential new restrictions on setbacks and ground-floor parking.

A staff analysis of traffic impacts determined Hall Street has more than enough capacity to handle the project, with the access driveway to the apartment complex to be aligned with Garland Street across the road. The staff report notes the city has already been working with a traffic-engineering consultant to discuss improvements to the Hall and Front Street intersection; BATA has experienced significant challenges with buses trying to turn in and out of that intersection. The intersection meets the criteria for a new traffic signal and already has the underground infrastructure to accommodate one. Soyring says the traffic-engineering consultant will eventually make recommendations to the city on potential improvements to the intersection that could include a signal and/or other upgrades.

The apartment complex could bring new life – and an improved tax base – to property that has sat vacant for years downtown. “We have had a number of proposals on there, from hotels to apartment-type buildings to townhomes, but none of them really moved past a concept design,” Soyring says. Part of that could be attributable to the property being a brownfield site; the parcel used to house a gasification plant and is believed to have underground contamination, which the developers will likely need to cap. Still, Soyring believes the property is ideal for a residential development.

“I think the plans here are exquisite,” he says. “It would be a phenomenal change for the Warehouse District. With a high percentage of small units, they are able to get a lot more dwelling units on the edge of our downtown. It’s convenient to walk to goods and services and amenities, and you have the public transit next door. You can get on the bus and go to Grand Rapids or Sault Ste. Marie, or the free Bayline stop is right next door. You could live without a car and do it pretty well.”

While rental prices were not listed in the project documents – and development representatives could not be reached for comment – Soyring says his discussions with Innovo gave him the impression “they are trying to focus on getting the prices more affordable than Breakwater.” He expects construction on the project could start sooner rather than later. “They were very eager to get going,” he says. “It sounds to me like as soon as permits could be issued, they wanted to start.”

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