Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 1, 2013

Editorial: Path along Boardman could be link to downtown

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — The north bank of the Boardman River between Union and Front streets is, like so much of the river as it winds through the city, pretty much forgotten territory. But that could change over the next year as a new hotel and a pedestrian bridge over the Boardman link downtown and the Warehouse District in new ways.

A path that runs along the Boardman there is used by fishermen a few times a year but for the most part it’s little used, and most city residents likely don’t even know it’s there.

But Traverse City and Traverse City Light & Power hope to swap a few parcels of land to put the path in city hands and the Downtown Development Authority wants to move ahead with long-talked about plans to build a pedestrian bridge linking Front Street and the Warehouse District.

The path could become a new through-way for people walking between the district and downtown, particularly if it includes suggested improvements like a new trail surface, stabilizing the riverbank, creating rain gardens to handle parking lot run-off and some low-level lighting. Right now, it’s mostly mud with no direct lighting.

Light & Power informally approved a swap with the city for three small, city-owned parcels near two electrical substations. That could open the way for the DDA to build a pedestrian bridge adjacent to J&S Hamburg on Front to connect the warehouse district. The project is included in the DDA’s capital improvement projects for next year.

The rise of the warehouse district, which began a few years ago with a brewery, a restaurant and a few small retail outlets, is continuing, led by construction of the Hotel Indigo, a host of new retail and food outlets, including clothing, furniture and antiques and a working art studio and gallery.

It’s not often a city gets, essentially, a new downtown-like retail area, but that is what the Warehouse District has become. Once the hotel opens, a pedestrian bridge is built and the path on the north bank is built, links to Front Street and downtown should become even stronger.

Outgoing City Manager Ben Bifoss wants the land swaps complete before he retires June 28, which should help ensure they’re completed.

Combined with a proposal from University of Michigan architecture students for additional work along the river presented recently, the city may be discovering what a tremendous asset the Boardman really is, and ways to make use of it.

A new path along the river could help pave the way.