TRAVERSE CITY — State officials’ attempt to bend the funding stream for brownfield projects in Traverse City almost sank a high-end housing development on the Boardman River.
Local officials — with the help of state lawmakers — fended off efforts by the state to require Traverse City officials to change the way they fund brownfield projects in the downtown.
The conflict arose when developers of the Uptown Riverfront Town Homes project planned for Pine and State streets went to Lansing and expected to land a $1.2 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Instead they were offered a $500,000 grant if city officials agreed to kick in another $500,000.
“We said that wasn’t going to work,” said Jean Derenzy, deputy director of planning and development for Grand Traverse County.
Traverse City lawmakers Sen. Howard Walker and Rep. Wayne Schmidt arranged a recent meeting for local officials with the MEDC that resulted in a grant offer of $880,000 for the project.
“It will be tight but ... we got what we needed, basically, so we can get to work,” said project developer Michael Wills, who hopes to break ground in May.
Traverse City meets the local match requirement for brownfield projects in the Downtown Development Authority district by committing to public improvement projects that benefit the development. State officials instead want the city to rewrite rules that govern how the city’s DDA collects and spends taxes it captures in the downtown.
City Commissioner Ross Richardson, who sits on the county’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, said he highly doubted commissioners would agree to the proposed change for the Boardman project.
More meetings are planned between county brownfield redevelopment officials and the MEDC. Traverse City and Grand Rapids are the only communities in the state that meet the local funding match with public infrastructure improvements such as boardwalks, parking decks, or new streetscapes, Derenzy said. Other communities make direct cash reimbursements to developers for brownfield-related costs.