TRAVERSE CITY — City planners offered a mixed reaction to plans for a multi-building project anchored by a nine-story structure on the western end of downtown.
Several planning commissioners said they liked a concept proposed this week by architect David Hanawalt of Traverse City for a four-building complex of apartments, retail shops, restaurants and parking deck on the southwest corner of West Front and Pine streets. But an equal number questioned its combined size, as well as the height of one of the buildings, as compared to other downtown uses.
“Something that might be problematic for this development is the proposed mass,” said Bill Twietmeyer, planning commissioner and city treasurer. “I suspect the mass will be much more than what we already have.”
Planning Commissioner Janet Fleshman said she had already received comments from people about the “overwhelming mass” of the project.
But John Serratelli, planning commission chairman, said he liked the concept.
“I think it could be a nice step for drawing people downtown farther west,” Seratelli said. “It would bring more activity and life down there.”
Planning Commissioner Michael Dow said he wouldn’t oppose the concept of a nine-story building if it was done correctly.
The proposed building would stand just under 100-feet-tall at street level, making it taller than the adjacent Riverview Terrace apartments, but shorter than the Park Place Hotel. The building would sit less than 15 feet from curb.
The tallest building’s face would ascend in a series of steps so it would not seem so tall from the sidewalk, Hanawalt said. Treating the sidewalk as a “human scale place” with trees and canopies also would reduce the sense of mass.
Planning commissioners had several detailed questions for Hanawalt, most of which he said he couldn’t answer.
“I really don’t know; I’m just doing the drawings,” Hanawalt said when asked if the building had to be nine stories tall.
Hanawalt didn’t know if the parking deck would be private or public, but hoped to put a garden on the upper deck to catch storm water. He also couldn’t answer how tall the Pine Street building might be or if the project would be built in phases.
After the meeting Hanawalt said he wasn’t there to answer detailed questions because the proposal is so preliminary. His goal was to get a sense if the planning commission thought the project feasible.
“We have a limited window,” Hanawalt said. “There’s an opportunity to buy the land, but we need to know what we can do with it and if this will work.”
Hanawalt identified the developer as Michael Niedzielski of Traverse City. Niedzielski did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment.