Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 14, 2012

DDA may buy land for parking

Surface parking eyed at first, but a structure could follow

TRAVERSE CITY — Downtown development officials are looking pave the way for public parking on the city's west side.

Bryan Crough, the Downtown Development Authority's executive director, said the DDA board will review proposed requirements for real estate that Traverse City could buy for use as a public parking lot.

The DDA hopes to acquire property on West Front Street, Pine Street or State Street. Crough described the area in question as "the whole curve," from the Record-Eagle office to the river and from Pine Street to the post office.

DDA officials will consider the matter when they meet Friday morning. City officials said they are not working with any developers at this stage of their public parking study.

The city initially would use any land it acquires as surface public parking. But more surface-level parking could lead to a parking deck or similar structure, Crough said.

"If there is an opportunity to swap for land or build on the land we might acquire, we would have our foot in the door," Crough said.

A 2006 Federated Properties parking project became mired in controversy when then-state Sen. Jason Allen involved himself in project discussions after Federated's CEO made $20,000 in campaign contributions to Allen. City voters rejected public financing of the Federated deck by a seven-to-three margin.

Plans for a parking deck at 305 W. Front Street, a property owned by developer Jerry Snowden, fell apart more recently.

Snowden said a prospective commercial tenant pushed for development of a parking deck at that site, but that tenant's interest in the project slipped as the economy soured.

A public parking shortage has long hampered development on the city's west end, and the tax revenue associated with it.

"I'm not sure there is a quantifiable loss," City Manager Ben Bifoss said. "There is perhaps more lost opportunity than anything in terms of redevelopment."

Much of the land which investors could develop currently is being used for leased parking, making the west side parking shortage more complicated.

"Anything that happens will not only need more parking, but it will take away existing parking," Crough said.

Crough cautioned the DDA's plans for more west side parking are a work in progress.

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