Traverse City News and Events

Uptown Development Will Plant On The Roofs

Dec. 1, 2014

The developers behind a new $11.8 million condo development in downtown Traverse City plan to offer homeowners an innovative amenity they say will also help protect the project's neighboring Boardman River.

Tim Burden and Mike Wills of Midtown Development Inc. are overseeing construction of up to 13 luxury units – called Uptown Riverfront Townhomes – along the Boardman on State Street. Sharing concerns voiced by some residents and city officials about the project's close proximity to the river, the developers have contracted with Nate Griswold of Inhabitect to install custom green roofs – also called garden roofs, living roofs or eco-roofs – on top of each unit.

The roofs, which Griswold defines as “vegetation over a waterproofed surface,” feature a heavy-duty waterproofing membrane and root barrier, drainage/water retention layer, filter cloth, soil and plants. The gardens provide a key benefit in stormwater management: instead of rain water hitting the surface of the roof and running off into the river -- carrying particulates from the rooftop -- green roofs retain and filter the water on-site.

“We're dealing with the water on the property in a much more environmentally friendly way,” says Burden. The developer has “investigated green roofs a number of times in the past,” but is implementing them for the first time after connecting with Griswold. Griswold, who has worked on more than 1,000 green roof projects across North America and consulted on stormwater policies for New York City and other cities, says the trend is just hitting Traverse City. He predicts it will become increasingly popular as developers discover its advantages.

“There's a triple bottom-line benefit: social, economic and environmental,” says Griswold. “In addition to stormwater management, green roofs deaden overhead noise (such as from airplanes), increase energy efficiency and increase property values. They also help with health and well-being. You're able to live in a relatively small footprint, but still have gardens where you otherwise might not.”

Uptown green roofs will range from a standard installation comprised of low-growing, drought-tolerant, non-invasive plants called sedums to customized configurations featuring planter beds, ornamental trees and shrubs, perennial flowers and vegetable gardens. The rooftops will also feature outdoor seating and viewing areas.

Green roofs are a more costly investment upfront for developers – 50 to 100 percent more expensive than standard roofing, estimates Griswold – but in the long run “they're going to pay for themselves,” he says.

In addition to Uptown, Griswold is consulting on local green roof projects including the new Cherry Capital Foods building on Barlow Street and Munson Medical Center's Cowell Family Cancer Center, set to open in 2016. Bolstering local interest is a stormwater tax credit offered by the city that's applicable to green roof projects.

“Pretty much every big project or development that's going on right now is at least looking at them,” says Griswold of the rooftop features. “

In other local development news...
After receiving approval for a special land use permit earlier this month, Federated Properties is now eying a spring date to break ground on a five-story, mixed-used development at 124 West Front Street. Project Architect Keith Owen says April or May is a “realistic” timeline for construction to begin. Owen also predicts Federated will begin marketing to potential residential and commercial tenants – including a proposed ground-floor restaurant – “after the first of the year.”

Around the corner in the Warehouse District, progress continues at the site of the future Hotel Indigo. Grand Traverse County Deputy Director of Planning & Development Jean Derenzy says exterior windows and interior wall framing are nearly complete, with the exterior stone veneer set to be complete by December 25. Roofing on the project is also underway. “We're hoping to have (the building) completely enclosed by the end of the year,” Derenzy says.

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