TRAVERSE CITY — A unique project combining a Bay Area Transit Authority center with more than 200 units of workforce housing, 15 Habitat for Humanity homes and a neighborhood childcare facility was the focus of a presentation at the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting Wednesday.
Kelly Dunham, executive director of BATA, and Eric Lingaur, director of communications and development, told commissioners that the project is planned for 50 acres on LaFranier and Hammond roads in Garfield Township.
Purchase of the property was recently finalized and groundbreaking on the Traverse City Housing Commission/BATA project is expected to take place next year. It will be built in phases, with the first phase including a 90,000-square-foot BATA operations center and two of five multifamily buildings that is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Cost of the property was about $1.39 million, with BATA paying $830,000 for its share and the TCHC paying $560,000, Lingaur said.
Total cost for the project is estimated at $90 million. BATA received $17 million from the Federal Transit Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation toward the project. Another $6 million from Michigan’s budget has been allocated to the housing portion of the project.
A renewal of an operational property tax for BATA is on the Nov. 8 ballot that will bring in about $4.8 million in its first year. The money is for the continued operation of bus services and is not being used on the project, Lingaur said.
The BATA site will combine services in one location with administrative offices, a maintenance facility and a garage that can park 100 vehicles indoors, with room for expansion. Up to 130 employees will work there.
Once the new BATA center is built, offices, a bus barn and other facilities located along the Cass Road corridor will be sold and the money allocated to the project.
Lingaur said the project is one of the first of its kind that combines transit and housing.
“I can’t wait to get some dirt moving,” he said.
The Flats at Carriage Commons, a TCHC project, is made up of five multifamily buildings with a total of about 215 units. Rents, which will include all utilities, will be set between $680 and $820.
A bus transfer station will be located in front of the complex. Construction of the childcare center is slated for future phases of the project.
Tony Lentych, executive director of the TCHC, said the idea came about after he read about transit-oriented design that has been used in high-density urban areas in Chicago, New York and Massachusetts. Lentych said the idea addresses the housing crisis in the Traverse City area and cuts down on traffic congestion.
“People can catch buses in front of their homes,” Lentych said. “A young couple could probably get by on one car.”
Lentych said some ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families spend as much as 20 percent of their household income on transportation – with many of them paying high insurance rates, owning unreliable vehicles and driving a long way to jobs in Traverse City because they can’t afford to live there.
“This would be a double win for some families,” Lentych said.
Construction on the 15 Habitat homes will begin once the infrastructure is in, said Wendy Irvin, CEO of the Grand Traverse Habitat agency. That could be in 2025 or earlier if infrastructure is in, she said.
“We’re looking forward to the green light so we can get started with this,” Irvin said. “I think it’s a phenomenal project.”
The homes will be about 1,000 square feet in size and will have three bedrooms, one and 1/2 baths and a one-car garage. That model of home is one that was used in the Depot Neighborhood project, though there could be some minor changes, Irvin said.
The homes have not been opened up to the application process but when they are there will be an “overwhelming response,” she said. Future homeowners must have the ability to make a mortgage payment, which is personalized to be 30 percent of their income. Homeowners also have to put in sweat equity hours toward their home.