TRAVERSE CITY — Development of downtown lots dominated discussion at the monthly meeting of the Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors.

After it was added to the agenda, the DDA board learned Friday work on a long-discussed Civic Square project at 203 S. Union St. could begin much sooner than expected.

DDA CEO Jean Derenzy reported the $1.75 million purchase agreement with TCF Bank may convert to a sales agreement after TCF merges with Huntington Bank on June 1. Derenzy said the proposal, which came from sellers, could close after a “condensed due diligence” period.

TCF Bank, which previously merged with Chemical Bank prior to Huntington, was to remain at the current location until a new bank opened nearby. Lot G, declared surplus by the City Commission in early August, was believed to be the site of the new TCF Bank location.

But the sellers’ provision to the agreement indicates it may not pursue the new proposed site at this time.

“ ... we would not have to move forward with a request for information, the redevelopment and moving of a bank from one location to another location prior to building a Civic Square,” DDA board chair Gabe Schneider said. “If Huntington Bank agrees with this new provision that would be in the new purchase agreement, then we would move directly to sale and it would be our property to build a Civic Square almost immediately.

“It’s a huge step toward moving this project to fruition.”

A separate agenda item on the City Commission seeking a request for proposals on developing Lot O (corner of Cass and State streets), Lot T (Grandview Parkway and Union Street) and Lot X off Hall Street also sparked a lot of discussion.

Derenzy pointed out the city owns all three lots, but any redevelopment would “directly or indirectly” affect other DDA projects. Schneider said the loss of approximately 18 percent of the downtown surface parking also would have a tremendous impact.

Mayor Jim Carruthers said proposed development of these lots talks about building workforce housing among other mixed uses. Carruthers added workforce doesn’t always mean affordable, which could be magnified by a pending crisis created by COVID-19 pandemic.

DDA Secretary Debbie Hershey said she’s glad the board is a part of these development discussions. Leah Bagdon McCallum added more public engagement should also be part of the decision-making process.

In other business at the 2-hour meeting, the DDA board:

  • Learned Olson, Bzdok and Howard was selected to serve as legal counsel for the DDA. A contract for legal services is expected at its Feb. 19 meeting.
  • Will enter into a contract with CivicSmart for $123,572 for the purchase, installation and training of smart parking meters, smart cards and sensors. There will be an annual payment of $23,022 for recurring software and communication fees.
  • Went into a nearly 40-minute closed session to discuss a possible property purchase.
  • Heard from Carruthers that an ad hoc committee will conduct interviews Jan. 19-20 for DDA board vacancies.

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