Traverse City News and Events

Land Bank Plans New Uses for Crestwood, Kingsley, Boardman Properties

By Beth Milligan | March 25, 2024

New life could be coming to local properties thanks to the Grand Traverse County Land Bank Authority, which partners with other area governments and groups to rehabilitate properties for affordable housing and economic development projects. The Land Bank board Friday approved pursuing a project with the Traverse City Housing Commission to redevelop the former Crestwood Motel in Acme for housing. The Land Bank has also finalized the purchase of four parcels in Kingsley to help redevelop an entire block with the Kingsley Downtown Development Authority and is working with the City of Traverse City on possible uses for property near the Boardman Lake Loop Trail.

The Land Bank is eligible for up to $500,000 in grant funding through the Blight Elimination Program, a state and federal program funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The State Land Bank Authority has issued guidelines for how those funds can be used, including the “rehabilitation of blighted and vacant publicly owned structures for the purpose of developing affordable housing,” according to County Deputy Administrator Chris Forsyth. Counties must submit projects for preapproval to the State Land Bank Authority by March 31 in order to use the funds. The projects must then be completed by 2026.

Local Land Bank officials agreed Friday to pursue state preapproval for a housing project in Acme. In partnership with the Traverse City Housing Commission (TCHC), the Land Bank would move the former Crestwood Motel buildings – located at 5200 US-31 – off the site to another property nearby, which the Land Bank would acquire. The property the motel buildings are on now is valuable waterfront-facing real estate – too costly for the partners to acquire for affordable housing – but the buildings themselves could be bought and moved for a “modest” price, says TCHC Executive Director Karl Fulmer.

“The owner is amenable to providing the units for removal, and it just so happens that a property in close proximity came open two weeks ago,” says Fulmer. “We are looking at moving the buildings to that property and expanding and renovating them.” Fulmer says the project could provide nine workforce housing units, which would likely be targeted to renters with 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI).

“The rents would be set as low as we could get them,” Fulmer says, estimating they could come in under $900 per month. “We’re looking to serve service-sector employees.” While TCHC often works on large-scale housing projects – such as The Flats at Carriage Commons, the planned new apartment complex on LaFranier Road that will have over 200 income-based rental apartments – the organization will also take housing wins on any scale whenever possible, according to Fulmer. “Small infill projects are certainly also important,” Fulmer says.

Both Fulmer and Forsyth note the Crestwood project is still in its infancy – with state preapproval, property negotiations, and funding finalization still to go – but are hopeful the project could eventually bring more critically needed rental housing to the area.

Crestwood is one of multiple projects the Land Bank is currently juggling. The authority has also taken possession of four parcels in Kingsley with the goal of redeveloping a downtown block in partnership with the Kingsley Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Under the deal, the Land Bank acquired John’s Auto from John and Melinda Sedlacek at 103 West Main Street for $350,000 – which spreads across three parcels – and purchased the neighboring Auto Tech property at 115 West Main Street from Cy and Nadine Baker for $440,000.

As The Ticker  reported last summer, both the Sedlaceks and Bakers wanted to retire – offering Kingsley and the Land Bank a unique opportunity to step in and take over the properties with the aim of revitalizing the entire aging downtown block. With the Land Bank now in possession of the properties, next steps will include working with the DDA this year “to develop a plan for the redevelopment of the site, which will involve significant community input,” Forsyth says.

The Land Bank is also working with the City of Traverse City to explore uses for property near the Boardman Lake Loop Trail. A 2.73-acre strip of land owned by the Land Bank was once intended to host a new road around Boardman Lake connecting Fourteenth Street to Eighth Street. When city officials abandoned that plan, it freed up the property for other uses. In 2022, the county installed a new public lakeside fitness court next to Oryana on part of the property.

The Land Bank said at the time that two other phases of development could follow. A small triangular area south of the fitness court could be used for placemaking and recreation, the Land Bank said, such as small gathering places, a playground, or other amenities for public enjoyment. Even with those improvements, there would still be “substantial developable area” left on the parcel, allowing for a potential phase three that could accommodate a “collaborative and effective approach to expand housing options in the city,” the Land Bank previously said.

The remaining property has challenges: Its narrow width, accessibility, and topography will require “careful and thoughtful design,” as well as the possible need to bury or relocate a major electric distribution line running through the site, according to the Land Bank. Since a few years have passed since the fitness court was installed and the Land Bank discussed those additional phases, Forsyth says he met with city staff on March 5 to restart conversations on the “potential redevelopment” of the site. “Everything is preliminary,” he says, “and involves letting the city and city staff take the lead.”

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