Riverwalk Redesign Estimated at $63.5M, Proposed For Nine Phases
By Beth Milligan | March 8, 2023
The proposed redesign of the downtown Traverse City riverfront between Union and Park streets – the first major project that could come of the Lower Boardman River Unified Plan – could cost at least $63.5 million, according to estimates provided to Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members. Given the high price tag, work could be tackled in up to nine phases. Board members are expected to vote next week to recommend that the city commission issue request-for-proposals (RFPs) on engineering and design work for both the riverfront and a third downtown parking deck.
DDA board members previously approved a conceptual design for a new riverfront and pedestrian plaza along the Boardman/Ottaway River downtown. The plan calls for two new pedestrian bridges over the river (one extending over Grandview Parkway to Clinch Park Beach), a more naturalized riverbank with enhanced amenities, the conversion of part of the Front Street alley to a pedestrian plaza, and a park-like setting with trees and decorative lighting in the J. Smith Walkway between Pangea’s and Kilwins. The design was based on numerous public input sessions and guided by the city’s recently adopted Lower Boardman River Unified Plan.
At a study session Friday, board members reviewed a site plan created by Inform Studio and Dharam Consulting that broke the design down into nine “segments,” or phases (pictured). The segments and their cost estimates are as follows: Lot B ($4.7 million), North-West Riverwalk ($12.5 million), 100 Block Pedestrian Bridge ($2.5 million), 100 Block Alley Riverwalk & J. Smith Walkway ($17 million), Cass Street Bridge ($440,000), North-East Riverwalk ($8.8 million), 200 Block Pedestrian Bridge ($2.7 million), 200 Block Alley Riverwalk ($6.4 million), and Grandview Parkway Bridge ($8.5 million).
DDA CEO Jean Derenzy said that “given the location and potential scope of the conceptual design, the riverwalk has the potential to be a truly transformational project for downtown.” However, she added that with “the potential costs associated with a project of this significance, we will want to consider all potential applications for implementation and funding.” Going through an RFP process to get design and engineering completed on some or all of the segments “will provide a more accurate cost for construction as well as other project expenses” such as permitting and preconstruction services, Derenzy said.
Cost savings could be realized by working on some segments together, and work is already planned to start on Lot B – the farmers market lot – this spring. Board members will vote next week to approve an RFP to hire a construction firm to oversee the project, which will see a new median installed that completely separates Lot B from the adjacent Lot T, the permit parking lot at the corner of Grandview Parkway and Union Street. That separation could allow Lot T to be redeveloped in the future, since – unlike Lot B – Lot T doesn’t sit on city parkland and can be repurposed for other uses. While pedestrians will be able to cross the two parking lots, cars will not. Lot T will remain open to permit parkers during construction. The Lot B reconstruction will eliminate 30 metered parking spaces, mostly along the Boardman River.
Derenzy told The Ticker that starting design and engineering work on the rest of the riverfront will help identify what other segments could come next. Completing full design and engineering on the entire riverfront will be a major undertaking, so initial work willidentify which segments need to be completed in which order and if any can be combined.
DDA board members also discussed the importance of timing when it comes to constructing a third downtown parking deck. Derenzy provided a series of maps showing downtown parking availability – as well as upcoming losses of parking spaces due to planned redevelopment – between 2023 and 2027. According to the map, there are 2,216 existing parking spaces in surface lots and parking decks downtown. Over the next several years, the DDA is expected to lose 494 spaces due to projects ranging from the redesign of the farmers market lot to the planned conversion of several lots to mixed-use developments (such as Lot O next to The Omelette Shoppe).
The DDA will lose another 52 spaces when it begins construction on the third deck, which is planned to be built along State Street between Union and Pine streets. The project will be built on property that includes Lot P, which is currently used for permit parking. That will bring the total loss of parking spaces downtown between now and 2027 to 546. The new parking deck is estimated to include 625 spaces – creating a net gain of 79 spaces.
That net gain fits with the city’s long-term goal of consolidating parking into decks and redeveloping surface lots into more productive uses like mixed-use buildings with retail and housing. However, carefully balancing when the city pulls the trigger on redeveloping more lots – such as Lot T or Lot G (next to Mode’s), both of which have been eyed for infill development – with the timing of the parking deck coming online will be important over the next five years, according to Derenzy.
“The timing of construction for a west-end parking structure will have implications for the pace at which public surface parking lots are repurposed…as well as the availability of parking for downtown visitors, including current permit holders,” she told board members. “It will be important that we continuously provide parking access to downtown businesses throughout this transition.”
Board members are expected to vote next week on the RFP for design work on the parking deck, which will then go to city commissioners for approval.Comment