Three-Campus Plan Comes Into Focus for County, City
By Beth Milligan | Oct. 3, 2023
A new joint facilities master plan between Grand Traverse County and the City of Traverse City – evaluating nearly 500,000 square feet of facilities, buildings, and courthouses owned by either or both entities – is nearing completion, with consulting firm TowerPinkster recommending pursuing a three-campus plan to consolidate city and county services. The plan, which will be reviewed by county commissioners Wednesday and city commissioners October 16, recommends relocating all county services not required to be in city limits (including the jail and sheriff’s office) to the county’s LaFranier Road campus, building a new city police department on Woodmere Avenue, and significantly renovating and expanding the Governmental Center.
TowerPinkster was hired earlier this year for $98,750 to complete the facilities master plan, with costs shared by the county and city. Ryan Archer, a senior design architect and planner with the firm, will provide a progress update to county commissioners Wednesday. Commissioners will share input and be asked to approve an additional fee for TowerPinkster to collect public input ahead of the plan being finalized. The cost for that service, not included in the original contract, is $3,000 per public survey (split between the county and city).
A copy of Archer’s presentation was provided ahead of Wednesday’s meeting to commissioners and outlines a recommendation to pursue a three-campus plan. All county services not required to be in the city (the county’s seat) are recommended to move to LaFranier Road, including MSU Extension, the Commission on Aging, Parks and Recreation, and county administration and IT. The plan recommends replacing the existing public services building on LaFranier Road – now 17,700 square feet – with a three-story, 75,000-square-foot facility. That building would have room for the public services on-site now as well as the multiple county departments relocating to the campus. It would also have a conference and training center.
A new 34,000-square-foot county facilities and storage building on LaFranier Road would offer storage space for multiple departments, as well as an exterior kennel for Animal Control. That could allow the county to offload one or more properties it’s using now for departmental storage. TowerPinkster also recommends building a new jail/correctional facility and sheriff’s office on LaFranier Road, as well as a 40-bed, 35,000-square-foot juvenile facility south of the health services building.
If the sheriff’s office moved – departing the law enforcement center it shares with the Traverse City Police Department on Woodmere Avenue – that could allow the Woodmere property to become a city campus. TowerPinkster recommends building a new city police department on the site, as well as a new city public services building. The property could be reorganized to “allow for maximum yard space and efficient internal circulation,” according to the presentation.
TowerPinkster recommends a full renovation of the entire Governmental Center, including a 13,000-square-foot expansion of the first floor. Additions to the Hall of Justice could include a new 9,000-square-foot sally port – a protected point of entry typically used for unloading and loading inmates – as well as a new public entry and interior renovations. The Historic Courthouse is also proposed to receive a new public entry and interior renovations. Expanded parking could be built where the jail exists now, assuming it moves to LaFranier. That could allow the parking area south of the Governmental Center to be redeveloped. Archer’s presentation recommends seeking development proposals through an RPF process, with redevelopment generating revenue for the city and county and better utilizing the prime riverfront land.
Archer previously told county commissioners that while local government buildings are generally well-maintained, they often have issues with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility “because they’re older facilities, and this was not code-required when they were built.” Also as a result of age, infrastructure – including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing – is outdated in many buildings, as are the building envelopes (the exteriors). Employees identified the need for improved wayfinding and more clarity around government services, better storage, more training and conference space, and increased safety and security for staff and visitors. As has long been discussed, the Grand Traverse County Jail was singled out as being at capacity and past its useful life – all input that helped inform TowerPinkster’s recommendations.
County Administrator Nate Alger and Deputy County Administrator Chris Forsyth did not return a request for comment on the recommendations. Interim City Manager Nate Geinzer says he’s been involved in many of the facilities master plan discussions and has been aware of the three-campus plan coming into shape. That informed his forceful recommendation to city commissioners in August to halt plans to seek housing proposals for three contiguous city-owned parcels on Beitner Street and Woodmere Avenue. Those properties could be critical to the city’s future growth and the implementation of the recommendations in the facilities master plan, he says. Selling them now could “throw a big monkey wrench” into the planning process, according to Geinzer.
Geinzer notes that TowerPinkster’s report represents “an early, high-level game plan” for a potential path the city and county could pursue. The amount of reconstruction, relocation, and consolidation of services outlined in the presentation could take years and tens of millions of dollars to implement. “If the county and city agree this is the path, we still have to figure out the priorities,” Geinzer says. “What facilities do we focus on first? What kind of design parameters do we need? Even if the county and city love what they see, there are many more steps that need to be taken before you can move anyone.” Those are conversations likely left to the new city commission (following November’s election) and new city manager to undertake, Geinzer says.
Geinzer agrees with TowerPinkster that renovations are overdue at many city facilities to modernize operations, including the law enforcement center and Governmental Center. “To be honest, when I first came here and saw the condition of Traverse City’s facilities, I was a little surprised,” Geinzer says. “We have a lot of work to do to get facilities in a condition that is more efficient, easier to maintain, and built for how things run in the twenty-first century.”Comment