Traverse City News and Events

Hotel, Housing Projects Planned For East Bay

By Beth Milligan | March 10, 2022

Shovels are planned to be in the ground soon on three East Bay Township projects along US-31, the largest of which – the development of two new six-story hotels and a retail center on the former Pebble Brook Adventure Park property – received renewed township approval last week and could start work within the next month. Township planning commissioners are scheduled to potentially vote on approving the other two projects at their April 5 meeting, including a new 34-unit hotel between the Pointes North resort and Gens Park and a 12-unit apartment complex called Beach View Haus Apartments between Quality Inn and the Traverse City State Park.

Stellar Hospitality
After several years of planning and an initial round of approvals that subsequently expired, development group Stellar Hospitality is ready to move forward on redeveloping the former Pebble Brook Adventure Park. The group could start site work within the next few weeks on the project, which calls for building a pair of hotels – a six-story, 123-room Residence Inn by Marriott and six-story, 122-room Staybridge Suites by IHG – and an 8,692-square-foot retail center that could host a restaurant, drive-thru coffee shop, and other uses.

The Ticker first broke the news in 2018 that Stellar Hospitality was looking to redevelop the former mini-golf property. The project received township approval, and the company had financing lined up and was ready to break ground when COVID hit, project representative Jonathan Azer told The Ticker last year. Stellar Hospitality’s site plan approval expired while the project was delayed, with the company recently resubmitting its application to East Bay Township. Planning commissioners approved the new application last week, allowing the company to move forward with construction.

Andy Andre of Triumph Engineering & Design said the development design has been through “a couple different iterations” and believes the final product “really represents a very good project.” The two hotels will bring a total of 245 rooms to the site, with the retail center likely offering food-and-beverage services and other types of uses that would attract hotel guests as well as local residents. Andre said developers are already in discussions with multiple interested tenants for the retail building. Site work on the project could start within the next few weeks, with foundations going in in May. Construction is expected to be phased and take two years to finish, putting the development on track for a late spring/early summer 2024 completion date.

Township Planning Commission Chair John Sych called the development “a nice project,” though cautioned it was going to have a “big impact visually” on the US-31 corridor once two six-story hotels are on-site. He noted that township officials continue to look for opportunities “to improve this corridor,” with leaders last year discussing creating a Beach District zone with placemaking signage and branding, pedestrian crosswalks, decorative pedestrian lighting, and buried power lines along US-31. Over 36,000 cars per day – 50,000-60,000 in peak summer season – traverse the US-31 corridor. As hotel and other growth continues, township leaders have identified goals including improving pedestrian and cyclist safety along US-31, attracting quality tenants to empty lots, and improving rear access connections between businesses.

Alexandra Inn
Almost directly across US-31 from the Stellar Hospitality project, Wuerfel Resorts is hoping to build a new 34-unit hotel called the Alexandra Inn on a narrow strip of land between Pointes North and Gens Park. There is currently a house on the property, which would be demolished to make way for the hotel. Josh Wuerfel said the project was more of a  “bountique-style property” largely catering to families, with the 34 units consisting of linked sets of bedrooms that would allow guests to book two rooms together and move between them without having to use exterior hallways.

Wuerfel told planning commissioners the hotel would have a unique feature not seen anywhere else on East Grand Traverse Bay: a rooftop deck similar to that of Hotel Indigo in downtown Traverse City. Because the property site is so small, there is “not a lot of outside usable space,” according to Wuerfel, with a rooftop deck providing “open-air opportunities” Wuerfel said were important to guests in the pandemic era. The deck would initially only be open to hotel guests due to limited on-site parking, but Wuerfel said it could potentially be opened to the public if pedestrian connections were improved and/or customer patterns showed that enough guests were leaving during the day to accommodate outside traffic. “We feel it's going to be an incredible opportunity,” Wuerfel said of the deck.

Planning commissioners raised several questions they wanted to see addressed about the project before proceeding, including how the building's height will be measured and whether enough parking will be in place either on-site or through an agreement with another nearby site to cover both guest and employee spaces. Those issues will likely be addressed in more depth on April 5, when the planning commission will hold a public hearing and potentially vote on approving the project.

Beach View Haus Apartments
Planning commissioners could also potentially vote on April 5 to approve a planned new 12-unit apartment complex called Beach View Haus Apartments at 1470 US-31 North between Quality Inn and the Traverse City State Park. The .66-acre site currently has two tiny cabins on the property, which would be demolished to make way for the apartment building. Developer Justin Mortier previously told planning commissioners that each unit would be approximately 1,500 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms per apartment. Mortier said three-bedroom units offered a “ton of versatility” for potential renters, because they could house a family, a couple with an office, or three college students or workers living together as roommates. “It’s a great fit for a lot of different options,” he said.

Some outstanding issues still remain to be addressed with the site, primarily a sign-off from the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department due to the tight manuevering constraints on the property for emergency vehicles. Parking and snow storage issues also need to be addressed. “This is a unique site,” Sych said. “It's very narrow, very tight.” Planning Commission Vice Chair Dan Leonard agreed it was a “tough site," but said developers were “maximizing it for a use we've been looking for” by building rental housing. Mortier expressed his hope that any outstanding issues can be resolved and the project approved by the township quickly so the group can start construction work and get housing in place for local employees. “We are very eager to try and get this project going so that we can make an impact to the housing for next summer," he said. “Time is of the essence.”

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