parking lot land swap

This map shows various options for buying land for a third parking ramp in downtown Traverse City. Commissioners previously agreed to swap city parking along West Front Street for land Socks Construction Company owns along State Street.

TRAVERSE CITY — Swapping land in downtown Traverse City for a possible third parking garage will require swapping funds between the city and its Downtown Development Authority.

City commissioners on Tuesday approved an arrangement where the city will spend $5,555,900 in TIF 97 money, which the DDA oversees, to buy land along State Street between Pine and Union streets.

It’ll then pay back $4,947,900 once it sells property it owns in the same block along West Front Street, currently parking Lot V.

The city will repay the remaining $608,900 over three years at 1 percent interest, Lewis said, thanking the DDA for the low interest rate.

Commissioners approved the lending arrangement 6-1, with Commissioner Tim Werner voting against it. Board members for the DDA are set to vote on the same arrangement at their meeting Friday.

Mayor Richard Lewis said it’s another required step for the land swap commissioners approved Jan. 3. Socks Construction Company wants to buy Lot V in exchange for selling the city the property along State Street. That could be the future home of another parking garage on the downtown’s west end.

The site would be easier to build on than previous plans that involved Lot V and would’ve spanned the alley to the south of it, Lewis previously told commissioners. A garage built on the State Street land also could hold more parking spaces.

Jim Carruthers, city resident and former mayor, blasted the deal, asking how long commissioners would keep allowing the DDA to give money to Federated Capital — the previous owner of Lot V and a developer that planned two projects there and across the street, neither of which happened.

Carruthers questioned why the city would go along with the DDA and spend millions more on top of what it has already spent, all for a parking garage that’s sure to cost more than past estimates.

“When is the city going to stop throwing good money away on bad projects and stop the DDA from lining the pockets of downtown developers and property owners? It’s getting ridiculous,” he said.

DDA CEO Jean Derenzy said the land swap is about a long-term vision for the downtown, one that favors redeveloping surface parking and building a third garage to make up for the lost surface parking. She called “stacking cars,” while better utilizing surface lots for development, best practices.

Plus, the city will reap a return on investment for the property it bought from Federated Capital, Derenzy said. It bought much of the land in 2016 for $1.3 million, then a remaining strip along West Front Street in 2022 for a price later revised upward to $1.25 million.

She acknowledged Old Town Garage currently has plenty of empty spaces — averaging at 21-percent occupancy between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, as previously reported. There’s an ongoing push to bring new development and fill existing buildings nearby, she said.


Two neighborhood streets in Slabtown will be rebuilt after much discussion and planning. Commissioners approved a $3,916,000 contract with Elmer’s Crane and Dozer for work on Madison Street and Jefferson Avenue — about 10 percent over estimates, City Manager Marty Colburn said.

“Which, in this environment, isn’t overly surprising,” he added.

That’ll repave three blocks of Madison Street between West Front and Wayne streets, and two blocks of Jefferson Avenue between Madison Street and Elmwood Avenue, documents show. It’ll also replace and upgrade water and sewer lines under those streets, add sidewalks in some stretches and build a number of stormwater control structures, including dry wells and bioswales.

To replace some trees that’ll be cut, the city will plant 27 with money from the city’s parks tree fund.

Werner, who voted no in the 6-1 decision and previously questioned the street design as not meeting the city’s commitments to green infrastructure and complete streets, asked if the $46,700 from that fund would drain it.

Colburn replied the fund has about $76,000 in it, and that it was designed to replace trees when cuttings were necessary for city or park projects.

Slabtown Neighborhood Association President Sam Shore told commissioners he supports the project, and believes city staff addressed a lot of problems in working closely with association members.

“I really appreciate all the work of the various departments around this, so I’m hoping that you will support this,” he said. “The association stands firm that they really want to see the project move forward.”

Construction should be completed this year; a previous timeline from the city had it set to start mid-May and wrap in early November.


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