BY ANNE STANTON
— ACME — Janet and Andy Andres live in a rambling house built by Andy’s dad on land that abuts the property of a future Meijer store.
They missed Tuesday's groundbreaking held at the future entrance of the Grand Traverse Town Center, but applaud the news.
“It’s taken 10 years,” Janet said. “At least now it’s going to go in. It will bring more stuff out here, more business.”
Meijer, targeted to open in August 2015, will serve as an anchor store for the Grand Traverse Town Center, said Acme Township Supervisor Jay Zollinger.
The 196,000-square-foot building, 16 percent smaller than the 2004 proposal, will feature a modern design with flat roofs, a garden center, and drive-through pharmacy, Zollinger said.
A new roundabout will go up at Lautner Road and M-72. A second entrance into Meijer is planned off Lautner Road.
Phase one also includes Meijer, the development’s “Main Street” located about a mile west of Meijer, landscaping, sidewalks, and infrastructure for sewer and water, Zollinger said.
Janet and Andy Andres said added noise and traffic will make it impossible to stay in their home, built by Andy's grandpa in 1905. But they’d like to move to a smaller home anyway.
“I’m ready for a change,” said Andy, 81.
Dennis Ritter, who lives on Lautner Road, said he "can't wait" for the new store. He's not worried about heavier traffic and the new store will spare him trips to Traverse City.
The long-term conceptual plan for the 182-acre site is an ambitious one, complete with a lifestyle center, a high-end, walkable outdoor mall, with an “esplanade,” a two-acre plaza with a fountain and seating. The plan also includes stores, a TART trail, bike lanes on the internal roads, restaurants, housing, hotel, a tunnel across M-72 for bikes, and land set aside for civic uses such as a library or fire department, Zollinger said.
Zollinger said the development will build out over the next five to 10 years as the market demands, although the residential element is required.
The new store will employ at least 200 to 300 people and an estimated 35 to 40 people for the site work.
“And then you have all the trades just to build the Meijer. Those are jobs for a year,” Zollinger said.
Zollinger believes cross-town traffic to Traverse City will drop. He also predicts the project will infuse economic life into Acme, a town of 4,500, and the area as a whole.
"It will bring employment, job opportunities, and extra millage dollars for roads, the college, and the schools," he said. "There will always be people who don't like growth. But we've had the opportunity to do it well and to do it right. We are growing with standards, instead of letting things plop here and there like you see in other areas."
But Virginia Tegel said she is "deeply dismayed by the extended polarity and contentiousness still surrounding the issue."
"I am disappointed at the assumptions that the previous board was somehow responsible for the economic downturn of 2008, and what's happened in Acme," she said. "I am absolutely not convinced that this project is going to be the panacea for Acme's turnaround."
Tegel is a former member of the Concerned Citizens of Acme Township, an activist group that fought with Meijer, and a former member of the Acme Planning Commission. She voted for the project's latest iteration, but said it lacks sufficient pedestrian connectivity. There are no sidewalks along M-72 or Lautner Road in the project's first phase, for example.
The project began in 2002 but stalled two years later because of lawsuits over the project and illegal tampering in two township elections by Meijer.