Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 4, 2013

Editorial: Smart design gives Traverse City options

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — There’s no trademark style — no white columns, no Alpine roofs, no fake wooden beams.

But to those on the lookout for smart urban development that makes the most of limited space and provides reasonably priced living near downtown, there’s no mistaking a Socks project.

Socks Construction, a family owned firm that has made its mark in several Traverse City developments in recent years, is about to begin work on a pretty typical Socks offering. On a relatively tight site at Eighth and Cass streets, the company is planning Old Town Corner, a development that will include 4,000 square feet of commercial ground-floor space with seven two-story townhomes on the upper floors.

The roughly 1,650-square-foot units will sell for around $330,000. They’ll have elevator service with covered parking for residents off the alley. Socks bought the house currently on the site and plans to raze it in mid-June, with project completion slated for early 2014.

It’s urban design that Traverse City could use more of. While $330,000 isn’t cheap, new downtown construction with parking and an elevator and 1,650 square feet of living space is hard to come by. Just having dedicated covered parking is worth a lot, particularly when the tourists descend in the summer and the snow flies in the winter.

Just as important is fitting seven new living units into a small site so close to downtown that walking or riding a bike to work is a given. That’s what downtown living is supposed to be all about.

Socks is finishing up its Ivy Terrace project just down the street on Eighth directly adjacent to the Old Town Parking Deck. That building will include 16 residential units starting at just $200,000 that are accessible to the parking structure — more parking — and literally next door to the commercial strip along Union Street.

The most surprising thing abut Ivy Terrace is where it was built. It was hard to believe a 16-unit residential building could be squeezed between the sidewalk and the parking deck. But that’s a truly urban use of space. Combining commercial, retail and residential spaces is old-school urban and a Socks trademark, as is fitting developments into unexpected places.

“If they feel there’s a market niche, they go for it.” Traverse City Planner Russ Soyring said.

Being downtown and connected is a lifestyle option that has broad appeal and is what urban living can be all about Traverse City can use a lot more of that.