Traverse City News and Events

Rental Complex With 148 Units Proposed For Hammond/LaFranier Corner

By Beth Milligan | May 19, 2021

The development group behind the Ridge45 and Trailside45 apartment complexes in Traverse City is targeting another rental development at the northwest corner of LaFranier and Hammond Roads. Project representatives appeared before Garfield Township planning commissioners last week for a conceptual review of the 148-unit complex, which also calls for a retail center to provide neighborhood amenities to nearby residents. The proposal comes as a new housing report indicates that rental supply continues to lag far behind demand in Traverse City and other surrounding markets.

Scott Jozwiak of Jozwiak Consulting presented an overview of the planned unit development (PUD) – or a zoning plan tailored to a specific property – that would create a new mixed-use development called South 22 on 21 acres of vacant land just north of Ridge45 (pictured). “We’ve been scheming for quite a while on what to do with the next batch of property next to the Ridge,” he told township planning commissioners. Two traditional apartment buildings containing 56 units each (112 units total) are planned to be located along LaFranier Road approximately 150 feet back from the road. Jozwiak compared the buildings to those of Trailside45 on Garfield Avenue, though said they wouldn’t be as tall – two-to-three stories instead of four stories, with stepbacks and a mix of roof lines to visually break up the buildings’ appearance from the road.

The apartment buildings will have a mix of units, including studios – which were not included at Ridge45 – up through two-bedroom units. A combination of surface parking and underground basement parking will service the apartment buildings. The rest of the South 22 development calls for nine quadplex buildings, each of which will contain four units (for a total of 36 units). “There is a demand for more conventional living in the form of quadplex homes…each includes a two-car garage with ample driveway length to park up to four more cars in each. The dwelling units will be configured as either three-bedrooms or two-bedrooms and a den. Patios will be provided for each dwelling,” according to a project memo from Jozwiak.

According to the memo, amenities similar to those at Ridge45 will be offered at South 22, including pocket parks, a dog park, grilling stations, and sidewalk networks, including a possible bridge or boardwalk over on-site wetlands. While Jozwiak said the market for South 22 would be “slightly different” than Ridge45, the developments are expected to have complementary architecture and extensive connectivity between them.

Another key component of the development, according to Jozwiak, will be the addition of a retail center at the Hammond and LaFranier intersection. He noted that the residential population of the immediate vicinity would number in the thousands between South 22, Ridge45, and King’s Court. Meanwhile, the nearest residential grocery store – Oleson’s on Three Mile Road – is nearly three miles away. Providing a grocery or convenience market or other retail offerings like a coffee shop “is important and part of good planning” in the PUD, Jozwiak stated.

Planning commissioners were largely enthusiastic about the residential side of the development, but expressed wariness about the commercial center, primarily over concerns of impacting traffic conditions on Hammond Road. Chair John Racine pointed out that the township rejected a proposed gas station and retail center directly across the road from South 22 at the northeast corner of LaFranier and Hammond in 2019 – property that is now slated for a new BATA transit center and Traverse City Housing Commission development.

“Some of us had some serious problems with the idea of a commercial node there,” Racine said. “We’re trying to keep Hammond a pretty fast-moving road, and we don’t want it to turn into South Airport Road. There’s already some commercial (offerings) a quarter mile away on Garfield and Hammond, and we didn’t see it as a necessity to put something on the corner of LaFranier and Hammond. So we told them no. So I have the exact same concern about that (going into the northwest corner).”

Project representatives said they aimed to reduce traffic impacts by only creating one new access point - a right-in-only turn from LaFranier Road into the commercial area of the development. All other South 22 ingress and egress would come from the existing Ridge45 drive on LaFranier Road and from the Lloyd Lane and Hammond Road intersection, which developers have offered to reconstruct. Some planning commissioners encouraged the developers to consider a different location for the retail center – for example, further north – or to limit uses to those that would truly serve the adjacent neighborhoods and not draw traffic from across the region. Planning Commissioner Molly Agostinelli, who was not on the board when it rejected the previous LaFranier/Hammond commercial center across the street, said she took the opposite view as members who were concerned, saying adjacent retail would actually help reduce traffic impacts.

“(Residents) can get on their bikes and go somewhere and get a loaf of bread and not get in their car,” she said. Planning Commissioner Chris DeGood encouraged developers to explore the possibility of obtaining permission to install a signalized HAWK pedestrian crossing over LaFranier Road that would help residents access the new BATA transfer station when it’s constructed. “Pedestrian connectivity across LaFranier would be a really good deal,” he said. Developers will take the planning commission’s input on the conceptual plans and return with a formal application for approval at a future meeting.

South 22 could be one of several proposed housing projects in Garfield Township and surrounding communities that helps address a widening gap between supply and demand for rental units. According to a new report from Housing North and Networks Northwest analyzing housing demand in the 10-county region over the next five years, the area could support over 15,000 new housing units through 2025, including 10,880 rental units and 4,660 ownership units. The highest need is in Grand Traverse County, which represents almost half of the rental demand with a need for 4,085 units.

According to this week’s Northern Express, sister publication of The Ticker, the supply isn’t even coming close to the number of units needed. Recent statistics show that the area is adding approximately 1,000 units per year, well short of the 3,000-plus units needed to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, short-term rentals have continued to exacerbate the crisis. Though Northwest Lower Michigan is home to just three percent of the state’s population, it encompasses a quarter of Michigan’s short-term rentals, with listings increasing by 233 percent from 2016 to 2018. Those numbers have continued to spike during the pandemic, with approximately 180 percent growth in the past year.

“We’re just trying to get a pulse on what people really need,” Housing North Executive Director Yarrow Brown told the Northern Express of the new report. “And I think, sometimes, we don't know [what we need] until we really dive into a market study, or do a survey. It’s really important for each community to understand their needs, so that they can get their housing goals in order. We shouldn’t just build stuff thinking it's going to get filled. It will get filled, obviously, given the market. But there's still a lot of vacant land that is set up for development and that isn't built on yet. How do we incentivize those properties that are ready to be developed, and get the right kinds of units on them, quickly?”

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