Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 19, 2012

Traverse City boat launch update planned

Tunnel entrance and riverside area to get some attention

TRAVERSE CITY — Bayfront construction will extend south across Grandview Parkway with two separate construction projects estimated to cost about $600,000.

City commissioners approved accepting a grant to reconstruct the boat launch on the Boardman River in a more environmentally friendly way, part of a $350,000 reconstruction of the area. It also approved hiring an architectural and engineering firm on a $20,800, no-bid contract to draw up a new south tunnel entrance to Clinch Park. The tunnel along Cass Street will cost an estimated $250,000.

City staffers recommended hiring Cornerstone Architects, instead of bidding out the project, based on the "pizzazz" of its conceptual drawings.

The city planner and engineer rejected drawings proposed as part of the bayfront reconstruction project.

"They were too angular and didn't add any capacity," said Russ Soyring, city planner. "We wanted something with a little more pizazz ... light and airy and bright."

City engineer Tim Lodge redesigned the entrance to widen it and provide more egress to help disperse crowds during special events. The design is compatible with the north side tunnel entrance and construction will be done at the same time. Both entrances will have heated walks, ramps and stairs so the city won't have to close it in winter over ice concerns.

City commissioners questioned the selection process.

"Why did this firm have the ... opportunity to provide a plan instead of some of the other architects in town?" Commissioner Jim Carruthers asked.

The Downtown Development Authority will fund the project and Soyring said the desire was to have something nicer than Lodge's drawings to present to the DDA. Cornerstone agreed to do the drawings at no cost, and its effort, along with the city's time constraints, earned it the contract.

Engineering and design work for the new boat launch will go out for bids once the city obtains grant agreements to help fund the work.

The boat launch started out as a $150,000 repaving project for the parking lot paid for by the parking fund, Soyring said. It will now include: a new launch ramp; wider turn-around area; a launch for kayaks and canoes, plus porous pavers and rain gardens to reduce and treat storm water run-off.

The project will be paid for with a $50,000 donation from Hagerty Insurance, a $156,200 grant from the Michigan Waterways Commission, and a $40,000 Coastal Management Grant to pay for the storm water control features.

The city would like to do the boat launch in the spring, but a fall construction start is more likely, Soyring said.

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