Senior Center, Madison/Jefferson Reconstruction, Governmental Center Parking On City Agenda
By Beth Milligan | Sept. 26, 2022
On the heels of a recent announcement that the state is allocating $7 million to rebuild the Traverse City Senior Center, city commissioners tonight (Monday) will review an updated site plan for the new facility, revised cost estimates, and a project timeline that calls for building construction to start next summer. Commissioners will also receive a staff update on the planned reconstruction of Madison Street and Jefferson Avenue next year and discuss parking plans for the Governmental Center.
Supporters who’ve longed for years to see the Traverse City Senior Center rebuilt got a major boost this summer when Michigan legislators included $7 million in the recently approved state budget for the project. But with rising material and construction costs, the rebuild is now anticipated to cost more than $10 million – leaving a gap that local leaders will try to close over the next year to stay on track for an August 2023 groundbreaking.
City commissioners will discuss the rebuild tonight with architect Ray Kendra of Environment Architects, who completed renderings of the new building. Kendra recently updated his 2019 renderings to reflect “senior needs and uses post-COVID-19,” according to City Manager Marty Colburn. The new building is expected to be double the size of the current facility and will include a dining room that can be converted into meeting spaces, an activity lounge, a covered outdoor area and waterfront patio, multipurpose and exercise spaces, administrative offices, and a kitchen that can potentially accommodate commercial and catering uses. Shuffleboard, tennis, and pickleball courts are also part of the plans.
Kendra participated in a public open house on September 16 to discuss the updated design and answer questions. City commissioners tonight will get a similar update, with county commissioners set to receive the same update at their October 5 meeting. The Senior Center is located on city parkland at 801 East Front Street on West Grand Traverse Bay. Grand Traverse County’s Senior Center Network has managed day-to-day operations and programming at the city-owned building through an intergovernmental agreement since 2011.
At the September 16 meeting, Kendra and city and county leaders discussed options for closing the gap between the $7 million committed by the state and the now estimated $10.2 million price tag. Some property amenities could be scaled back or eliminated to save on costs, including a covered drop-off entrance and a green roof, officials said. But using grants, fundraising campaigns, and private donations to close the gap was also discussed, as was the possibility of using part of the $18.2 million Grand Traverse County is receiving in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The Senior Center was named by local survey respondents as the top infrastructure need that should be addressed with ARPA funding. Grand Traverse County is officially accepting applications for ARPA funding now.
Many officials and seniors said that their main goal was to keep the project moving forward, avoiding any delays that could either jeopardize state funding or cause costs to balloon further. A project timeline that will be reviewed tonight calls for going through zoning and permit approvals this fall and winter, completing construction drawings between January and April, putting the project out to bid in May, and starting construction in August. A 2023 late summer groundbreaking would put the facility on track for a fall 2024 completion date. However, Mayor Richard Lewis noted that the timeline is heavily contingent on approvals, fundraising, and other project milestones staying on track.
Commissioners tonight will receive an update on the planned reconstruction of Madison Street and Jefferson Avenue in Slabtown Neighborhood next year. According to City Engineer Tim Lodge, staff have held multiple meetings with the Slabtown Neighborhood Association and impacted homeowners to gather input on the plans.
Lodge says the project will include improvements to mobility, safety, wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water, including new mains (upgrading from clay to new PVC). Manhole upgrades and the replacement of clay sewer leads will also help reduce stormwater infiltration and inflow issues in the neighborhood. Drinking water improvements will include new water mains – replacing existing four and six-inch mains with eight-inch mains – which will also improve fire flow and capacity. Stormwater improvements include the reduction of impervious surface by narrowing the streets and deploying stormwater treatment solutions including bioswales, leaching basins, dry wells, infiltration trenches, and outlet covers, according to Lodge.
The project will add sidewalk on the north side of Jefferson and reduce the crossing widths at the intersections on Madison to “encourage shorter pedestrian crossing distances,” Lodge says. “Speed tables were included on Madison (in the new design) to discourage excessive speeds within the long blocks. Parking was moved to the east side only on Madison to enhance mobility where sidewalks are most accessible.” Twenty-seven street trees are also being planted “to increase the density of the existing canopy and fill in areas where street trees would be most appropriate,” according to Lodge.
Governmental Center Parking
Finally, commissioners tonight will revisit a proposal from Grand Traverse County to convert a significant number of public parking spaces at the Governmental Center to permit-only parking for employees and board members.
The county, which co-owns the Governmental Center with the city, proposed in the spring to convert the southern half of the property’s parking lot into a permit-only lot, requiring vehicles to have a permit to park in that area Monday-Friday from 7am-5:30pm, with the county and city to distribute free permits to employees and city/county board members. Twenty-five metered spaces and six handicap spaces would still be available for public use in the section closest to the building, including a row of spaces that offer 30 minutes of free parking. The southern lot would remain available for free public use evenings and weekends. County Administrator Nate Alger said the looming opening of Commongrounds and other nearby developments prompted the requested change, with officials worried those projects will drive up weekday parking demand at the already-stressed Governmental Center lot. Under the proposal, the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) – which handles parking enforcement for the city – would patrol the lot and receive revenue from fines.
While county commissioners and DDA board members both approved the proposal, city commissioners rejected it in April for reasons varying from opposition to charging the public to visit their own governmental center to believing employees should pay for permits instead of receiving them for free. Lewis asked to put the proposal back on the agenda at tonight’s study session for another look at the request of both city and county administrators. Lewis suggested commissioners look more closely at different options for enforcement, the allocation of parking spaces, and the permit process to determine if there’s a version of the plan commissioners could support for managing Governmental Center parking.Comment