Traverse City News and Events

Garfield Changes: Funeral Home Coming To Former Rite Aid, Burger King/Cuppa Joe Buildings For Sale & More

By Beth Milligan | Sept. 12, 2022

Significant changes are underway on the stretch of Garfield Avenue located in the city limits, including Beacon Cremation & Funeral Service relocating from State Street to the former Rite Aid building on Garfield and Eighth, the Burger King and Cuppa Joe properties going up for sale at the Garfield/East Front intersection, and several new business and infrastructure projects underway.

Passersby might have already seen renovations underway at the former Rite Aid building, which will soon serve as a new 9,000 square-foot location for Beacon Cremation & Funeral Service. Beacon co-owner Courtney Barz says the building belonged to her in-laws and “just changed hands within the family,” allowing Barz and her husband Kirk to relocate the company’s Covell-Traverse City Chapel location from East State Street to the Garfield/Eighth intersection. The couple expects to open the new facility by the end of the year.

A funeral home might not seem like a likely fit for such a high-traffic commercial corridor, but City Planning Director Shawn Winter notes it’s an allowed use by right in the district. That’s a function of the city’s “pyramid zoning,” he says, which stacks allowed uses as districts move outward. “A use that might be very fitting in one district might be carried up the chain to other districts,” he says. For her part, Barz says the location offers numerous benefits for Beacon’s business missing on State Street, including close proximity to Oakwood Cemetery, ample parking, no steps (a helpful accommodation for older mourners), and space to hold a variety of services, including traditional funerals, celebrations of life, memorial services, and luncheons.

“A lot of people appreciate being able to do everything in one place,” says Barz. “It’s going to be open and modern. (The location) 100 percent makes more sense than being on a one-way street with no parking.” Barz says the future of the State Street building “hasn't been determined, but it'll no longer be a funeral home.”

Just a few blocks north, major changes could also soon be coming to the Garfield/East Front Street intersection. The Casciano family – who own multiple Burger King franchises in Traverse City – have listed the property containing both the East Front Burger King and Cuppa Joe buildings for sale. According to realtor Kevin Endres of Three West, the Cascianos have decided not to renew their franchise agreement with Burger King, as renewal would’ve required tearing down the existing Burger King building and constructing a new version like the one just built at the Cherryland Center.

Instead, the family has put the 1.24-acre property up for sale for $3.45 million. “It’s the corner of corners,” says Endres of the prime location. “There are only a few major prominent intersections like that. We’ve had a wide variety of different people with different types of uses interested.” Endres says the “highest and best use” of the property would likely include a residential component, such as an apartment complex or two mixed-use buildings with commercial retail on the first floor and condos or apartments upstairs. He anticipates that regardless of what materializes, the existing buildings will be knocked down to make way for new development. “It’s an underutilized property,” he says.

Winter agrees, saying the site offers a “unique opportunity because it’s such a large piece of land right at the intersection.” Winter says he’s heard from other residents who live on the first floor of buildings along the East Front corridor that traffic volumes are “very disruptive” to residential living, but sees potential in upper-floor residences. The city planning director is hopeful the Casciano property could transition away from drive-thru uses toward a development with potential to reduce traffic conflicts and curb cuts at the Garfield/Front intersection. Any new development is likely to trigger new zoning standards and “a lot of site improvements” at the property, Winter says.

Those won’t be the only changes coming to the vicinity. In addition to the state’s planned complete reconstruction of the Garfield/East Front intersection as part of the East Front/Grandview Parkway project in 2024, the city recently issued a request-for-proposals (RFP) to hire an engineering firm to design a TART Trail expansion between West End Beach and the Garfield/East Front intersection. The city and TC Downtown Development Authority (DDA) have budgeted $150,000 each for design engineering, along with an additional $200,000 committed from TART.

Further south on the Garfield Corridor, other infrastructure projects included recent road work to resurface Garfield, narrow lane widths, and reduce lanes from four to three on Garfield between Eighth and Hannah. New bike lanes were also added. The Lincoln Street and Washington Street intersections were upgraded in 2021, along with additional pedestrian improvements such as a pedestrian refuge island near the Civic Center crossing. Around the corner, Traverse City Light & Power is undertaking a major transmission line project between Barlow Street and Airport Access Road to rebuild 2.71 miles of an electric transmission line that serves approximately half of TCLP’s customer base. That project required a major power outage in the Eighth/Garfield intersection area for most of the day Friday.

Meanwhile, more new businesses are flocking to the area. In addition to the emergence of neighborhood spots like Oakwood Proper Burgers in recent years, businesses including Grand Traverse Sauce Company, Cordwood BBQ, Prout Financial, and Common Good Bakery are all claiming space near the Garfield and Eighth intersection. “We’re starting to see more interest for sure in that area,” says Winter. “When I had the master plan consultant team in town, we stopped at the Rite Aid parking lot specifically because they saw the potential of that area. I think there’s cheaper land and rent than downtown, and you’re seeing a sense of character and an entrepreneurial node of local businesses develop.”

Winter adds that the Garfield corridor – particularly around Eighth Street – has potential for more growth. “There’s land available, there’s development potential, and it’s pretty low scale right now,” he says. “There’s the intersection there of two commercial corridors, which are surrounded by residential neighborhoods. That fits in well with what we’ve been talking about at the planning commission of the ‘15-minute city,’ where people can access their daily needs within a 15-minute walk of home. That intersection is very high on my radar as an area for redevelopment.”

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