Traverse City News and Events

Funding Sources Still Unclear For Proposed $12.4M West Front Deck

By Beth Milligan | Aug. 15, 2017

Traverse City officials will work to identify potential funding sources in the coming months for a planned $12.4 million parking deck on West Front Street.

City commissioners discussed the project at their Monday study session, which included an overview of estimated costs and potential sources of revenue that could pay for the project. The city acquired property at 145 West Front Street last year for $1.3 million from development group Great Lakes Central Properties in anticipation of building a deck.

Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Executive Director Rob Bacigalupi noted the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) 97 plan, created in 1997, calls for building four parking decks within the plan’s boundaries. The plan “anticipated constructing parking garages in that district so we can free up land for development,” he told commissioners. Only one deck has been built so far in the TIF 97 district: the Larry C. Hardy Parking Garage on East Front Street. (The Old Town Parking Garage falls within downtown’s TIF 2 district.)

Bacigalupi said downtown’s existing decks prove that parking garages help spur neighboring development, pointing to the expansion of projects like Chase Bank, Radio Centre and Hagerty. “We know that it works,” Bacigalupi said. “The west side is really an area of very low density and a lot of surface parking lots. There’s a lot of potential for a lot more development.”

The proposed West Front deck is anticipated to offer around 400 parking spaces. Estimated project costs include $9.7 million for construction, $1 million for design and other “soft” costs, $300,000 for utilities, $300,000 for bonding costs, and a $1.1 million contingency, for a project total of $12.4 million.

City Treasurer Bill Twietmeyer said that while the city didn’t have enough revenues to pay for the project out of pocket, multiple potential funding options are on the table. Those could include scaling back on other capital projects in the coming years, seeking grant and/or state funding, using TIF/brownfield/parking system funds, and realizing increased tax revenues as additional developments come online downtown. Although four major projects along West Front Street and in the neighboring Warehouse District are planned to move ahead over the next few years, Twietmeyer estimated it would take an estimated increase of $50 million in taxable property value to cover the deck costs. Development coupled with other funding sources might be a more realistic scenario, a draft budget showed.

In addition to funding sources, other questions that will need to be answered about the deck in the coming months include what amenities it will offer, its design, its height, potential green/ environmental features, and more exact estimates on the amount of spaces the garage will offer and projected costs. City officials will also consider whether to construct the garage in such a way that it can be converted to another use in the future if community transportation trends change.

“There are a lot of things we can do to be flexible, one of which is to have a convertible parking deck,” said Bacigalupi. “So that someday, if there’s no need for a parking deck in a particular area, it can be (changed) to another use. That’s something that we certainly will want to look at with this next parking deck.”

DDA board members had voted unanimously at their July 21 meeting to issue a request-for-qualifications (RFQ) to have a firm undertake architectural planning and provide cost estimates for the project. City commissioners are expected to vote on approving that RFQ at an upcoming meeting as the next step in the deck planning process.

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