Traverse City News and Events

Downtown Plan Outlines Priorities, Projects For Coming Year

By Beth Milligan | May 17, 2018

Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members will consider approving a strategic plan for the organization at their Friday meeting, as well as a “yearly work plan” for recently hired CEO Jean Derenzy – both documents that will prioritize a list of projects the DDA will focus on in the coming year.

Board members were working on updating their strategic plan since before Derenzy’s arrival in March. In sessions with professional facilitator Tim Ervin, the board came to identify real estate development/placemaking, parking and transportation, and business recruitment and retention as their top three areas of focus between now and 2020. The proposed strategic plan also commits the DDA to building up three core strengths, including leadership, marketing and promotion, and partnerships and collaboration.

With board members set to officially adopt the strategic plan Friday, Derenzy took those areas of focus and created a proposed “work plan” for the next year. “I have put much thought into the yearly work plan,” she wrote in a memo to the board, “and believe I have captured attainable plans that will have significant impact for both DDA districts, identifying the DDA as a leader in economic growth, identifying communication as a key component for successfully engaging public involvement, and (collaborating) with the city on marketing (and) communication for economic opportunities for the corridors.”

In the categories of real estate development/placemaking and business recruitment/retention, Derenzy outlines four high-priority DDA projects for the coming year. Those include developing a cohesive plan to better utilize and showcase the Boardman River downtown (see below), and developing building standards for downtown that would help guide façade improvements for existing buildings as well as design aesthetics for new development. Derenzy is also recommending redeveloping Parking Lot O at the corner of Cass and State streets next to The Omelette Shoppe – a lot that is owned by the city.

“Right now it’s surface parking, and what I’d like to do is a get a private-public partnership in place to redevelop that lot into a taxable component for our city,” Derenzy tells The Ticker. “It could have things we’re looking for downtown, whether a housing component or an office piece. We’re looking to get it back on the tax rolls. We’d also need to address where we’d put the permit and metered parking that’s in that lot and make that up somewhere else.”

With the DDA also eyeing a major upgrade of the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market, Derenzy believes that as a fourth undertaking, the DDA needs to answer two major questions in the coming months before embarking on that project: “Are there other locations within the DDA district that could hold the farmers market?” she says. “And can the farmers market space, whatever the space is determined, be used for more civic activities?”

In the third priority area of parking and transportation, Derenzy calls for two major projects in 2018-2019. The first is developing the schematic design for a planned West Front Street public parking deck, as well as getting a firm grasp on the costs for that project. City officials purchased property at 145 West Front Street for $1.3 million in 2016 with the goal of building a deck on the site; city staff initially estimated construction could cost roughly $12.4 million. The proposed deck is anticipated to offer around 400 parking spaces.

“After we identify how we’ll build it (in the schematic design), then we’ll know what the costs are,” says Derenzy. “I went to the Central Neighborhood Association meeting (this week), and one of the important parts of this project will be reaching out to the public on how the deck will be designed and will look before…we begin any zoning changes that may be needed relative to that property.”

As a second parking/transportation project, Derenzy hopes to have the Traverse City commission officially approve a three-year parking plan recently adopted by the DDA board and begin implementing the first year of the plan. Steps for year one include rolling out a downtown employee commuter program and purchasing license plate recognition technology that will help parking staff collect data on parking trends downtown.

Also at Friday’s DDA meeting…
> DDA board members will consider authorizing a contract with Elmer’s Crane and Dozer for just over $486,000 for construction of the Boardman Riverwalk project near Uptown. Project plans call for repairing the Boardman River boardwalk between the South Union Street Bridge and Parking Lot E (behind the U.S. Post Office), adding 3,000 new square feet of boardwalk extending the path from the bridge to the Uptown site, replacing the public stairs near the Post Office down to the river with a new universally accessible ramp, and replacing the stairs on the northeast side of the bridge. Construction of the ramp will require the elimination of 14 trees, the majority of which are either unhealthy or dead, according to engineering documents. Plans were adjusted to save another seven trees in the project area.

> Board members will also consider authorizing Derenzy to help put together a leadership team to work on creating a “unified plan” for the lower portion of the Boardman River stretching from Boardman Lake to Grand Traverse Bay. The plan will “identify recreational and access opportunities” as well as “projects and programs for stormwater management and control, habitat protection and enhancement,” according to a memo from Derenzy. The primary purpose of the leadership team will be to complete the plan in 2018 to help identify “facilities, amenities, programs and other considerations that should be implemented to encourage maximum use and enjoyment of this remarkable natural resource that bisects our downtown.” Members of the team would include representatives from the DDA, city staff, the Watershed Center, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the downtown business community, city residents, and the National Parks Commission, among others.

Pictured: DDA office in downtown Traverse City

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