TRAVERSE CITY — The closure of two blocks Front Street to vehicle traffic in the summer of 2020 was a bold decision.

While feedback was overwhelmingly positive, not every downtown Traverse City business supported the decision. But Traverse Connect President and CEO Warren Call, in his COVID-19 Regional Resiliency Report to the Downtown Development Authority Friday, said limiting the stretch to pedestrians was a complete success in another way.

“The economic fallout from the pandemic is far from over and I would argue, necessitates continued bold experimentation and trials,” Call said, summarizing a 20-page presentation to the DDA board.

Even if the closure of Front Street is not feasible in 2021 by bridge construction or a lack of support, Call said “experimentation is still valuable.”

Another suggestion from Traverse Connect after completing online surveys, focus groups and individual interviews with businesses is “broadening the perception of what downtown is and its reason for being,” Call said.

Updating and refocusing the brand of downtown and promoting it a place to “live and work fulltime in a culture-rich, diverse environment” was another suggestion in Call’s presentation to the DDA board.

Determining the ideal mix of office, retail and residential downtown is part of that emphasis, Call added.

DDA CEO Jean Derenzy said the Economic Resiliency Report is both “a short-term and long-term implementation plan” and will include more action steps in the future to address child care and housing needs for workers.

DDA Chairman Gabe Schneider said the report will serve as an active plan.

Mayor Jim Carruthers said focus needs to be on all of the businesses and not just the ones within the DDA boundaries.

“The success of the community is the entire community and not just downtown,” he said.

In other business at the meeting, the DDA board of directors:

  • Welcomed new appointees Damian Lockhart, branch manager for Morgan Stanley, and Pam Marsh, co-owner of Red Ginger restaurant. Outgoing board members Debbie Hersey and Collette “Coco” Champagne were recognized for serving since 2016 and 2017, respectively.
  • Unanimously elected Richard Lewis to the position of secretary, replacing Hersey.
  • Entered into a retainer agreement with Olson, Bzdok and Howard for legal counsel. The monthly flat fee for services performed will be $5,325 based on approximately 40 hours of service.
  • Received an unqualified or ‘clean’ opinion of its 2019-2020 audit.
  • Appointed chair Gabe Schneider and Leah Bagdon McCallum to the governance committee. Accepted the resignation of Treasurer Steve Constantin and appointed Marsh to the parking committee, which will add a third at-large member in the future.

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