Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 26, 2014

DDA sign a 'slap' at local businesses

TRAVERSE CITY — Business owner Sharon Carmean jokes she should send a thank-you note to the driver who took out two light poles at the end of a high-speed chase.

New poles that replaced the damaged set are among precious few city infrastructure improvements at the intersection of Eighth Street and Garfield Avenue, though that doesn't include a sign that's become the point of consternation for some of that corridor's business operators.

Last year the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority raised a directional way-finding sign on Garfield Avenue that points motorists and other passersby to the downtown. The sign didn't sit well with the business owners along the intersection commonly referred to as Eastfield.

"Psychologically, you are going through that intersection by that sign in about 20 seconds and you'll be thinking about the downtown and not what's there," said Bill Fisher, who owns one of the commercial buildings in Eastfield. "It just defeats the purpose of what we've got."

Cynthia Taylor, owner of the Ben Franklin store at Eastfield, called it "A slap in the face.

"Everything's about the downtown," she said. "It's always about the downtown."

Taylor said it would be nice if city officials reached out to stores that have long histories in the city to include them in promotions and other economic development programs. Ben Franklin will celebrate 60 years in the same location in 2015.

"We've serviced this community for all of these years and I think the city should give us some recognition," Taylor said.

The intersection is one of the busiest in the city, but garners scant attention from city officials. The light poles are old and rusted and business owners have to plow part of the city street. Weed control on city medians that create parallel drives and parking are left to the care of the business owners, who complain they pay taxes just like downtown business owners but get little in return.

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