Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 22, 2014

Editorial: Eighth Street won't work until key issues resolved

Traverse City Commissioner Tim Werner was probably right. Unfortunately.

During a recent walking tour of Eighth Street from Union to Woodmere, Werner jokingly objected to characterizing the argument about whether Eighth should be reduced from four to three lanes as the “never-ending debate.”

“I think we can solve it in 30 or 50 years,” he said.

Given the current state of agreement on that question — and just about every other Eight Street issue, for that matter — 30 years doesn’t seem to be out of the question.

The rehash of the three-lanes debate was part of a visit to the city by planning consultant Robert Gibbs of Birmingham-based Gibbs Planning Group, which specializes in applying fundamental retail and merchandising principles to historic downtowns and new town centers.

The walk along Eighth had attracted the city planner and city engineer, a few city commissioners, some developers and about two dozen in all. And like everything else about Eighth, there were probably as many opinions about what it would take to turn the street into a thriving business and residential hub as there were walkers.

Gibbs didn’t offer any earth-shaking insights that day, but did have some observations. He liked the energy of the Eighth and Lake Street area - “That makes it a real place,” he said. He liked the Old Town Parking Deck and praised the city’s decision to leave room between the deck and the street for two apartment buildings, and the exterior of the Randy’s Olde Towne Service building

The rest of Eighth has potential but doesn’t rate as highly. He said rents and property values are below the downtown area and said the corridor lacks an identity as a shopping district. Businesses have to attract customers on their own.

A key to positive change, he said, is to make the street more walkable without altering the buildings’’ historic nature.

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