TRAVERSE CITY — The opportunity to dine in a street-side parking space could become the latest epicurean delight — or potential nightmare, in one official’s mind — to arrive in downtown Traverse City.
A committee of city commissioners will consider a proposal to allow restaurateurs to convert parking spaces in front of their eatery into sidewalk cafes. Diners would sit on a raised platform that extends seven feet from the curb and be surrounded by a railing at least three feet high.
“It could be a nightmare with parking and a nightmare with traffic so close,” said city Commissioner Barbara Budros, a member of the review committee. “But other places that have looked at it have been very successful, so we should see how it goes.”
City officials began to study the idea because of pedestrian congestion caused by sidewalk cafes, summer extensions of local restaurants that are increasingly popular, but potentially violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other cities around the nation and in the state of Michigan have installed the street-side platforms with great success, Budros said.
The proposed ordinance would allow a restaurant owner in the downtown district to commandeer parking spaces in front of their business for $10 a day, per space. Business or property owners on either side of the restaurant would have to grant approval.
The city would allow restaurant-constructed decks from May 1 through Oct. 1.
Mark Davies, co-owner of Union Street Cantina, said it’s not a bad idea if city officials can show it’s safe.
“We have limited seating outside and everybody wants to sit outside during our two days of spring and the summer,” Davies said. “My concern would be safety. I’d hesitate to put my children out there.”
The platforms work pretty well for the restaurants, diners, and neighboring businesses, city Planner Russ Soyring said. The loss of a few parking spaces should not create a concern.
“Having a lot of customers near your store is also a good way to get customers into your store,” Soyring said. “People attract people. People are very curious about what other people are doing and it makes the whole area more inviting.”
Committee members will meet March 13 at 3 p.m. in the Governmental Center to formulate a recommendation on a revamped ordinance for consideration by the entire city commission.