Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

June 29, 2014

Editorial: Munson Ave. project must offer more low-rent options

Affordable housing has been on the front burner in the Traverse City area a lot lately, and for good reason.

As the region’s service industry continues to boom, the people who make it run pretty much can’t afford to live in or near Traverse City, where much of the work is.

Instead, they have to look for more affordable housing miles away from their jobs. Young people and young families often find it a challenge to do a 20-mile round trip to get groceries or get the kids to the doctor or do any of the dozens of other chores that are part of daily life. Double that in the winter; triple that when you’re driving a balky used car.

So it is that local officials have been watching with interest a proposed brownfield redevelopment project at East Front Street and Munson Avenue next to Northwestern Michigan College.

The project is to include 12 to 16 affordable apartment units but will also eliminate 25 affordable units when the Forest Hills Apartments are razed. And the developer wants $7.8 million in tax reimbursement. As officials have already said, that’s not good enough.

There are a lot of valuable moving parts here beyond the affordable housing aspect. The $35 to $37 million project would also create two buildings NMC has said could provide student housing and a new bookstore. Plans for new NMC offices seem superfluous.

The plan calls for construction of a four-level private parking deck, the razing of Forest Hills and the Shadowland Motel, construction of a 12-unit apartment building, a three-story commercial building with 8,000 square feet of retail space, a single-story executive training center and a four-story, 80-unit apartment building, all served by the parking deck.

NMC has expressed interest in renting the 80-unit building for student housing that developer Alex Mowczan, owner of the adjacent Cambria Suites Traverse City, would rent out in the summer.

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