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Consultant hired for ‘transformational project’ | Business

TRAVERSE CITY — A vision of the future of downtown Traverse City — both this year and beyond — dominated a lengthy meeting of the Downtown Development Authority on Friday morning.

DDA CEO Jean Derenzy began the formal business portion of the meeting with an informational bi-annual report to the community, which laid out several big projects for the next fiscal year and beyond, including implementation of the Lower Boardman River Unified Plan and a redesign of East Front Street.

The long-discussed Lower Boardman River plan was part of a lengthy discussion later in the meeting when the DDA board approved entering a $315,000 contract with Inform Studio for consulting services “to assist the DDA in developing a conceptual design for a riverwalk and pedestrian plaza along the 100 and 200 block alleys” of East Front Street.

The initial request for proposals issued in November included developing final engineering design for the project, but was removed so the DDA has a better understanding the construction costs, how to pay for it and securing approval to amend the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan.

Derenzy said an anticipated cost of more than $10 million, the biggest project outside of building a parking structure, will require the issuing of bonds for implementation.

Based in Detroit and Chicago, Inform Studio submitted the highest bid of the three firms interviewed by a committee that included DDA Board members Scott Hardy and Pete Kirkwood, City Commissioner Tim Werner, City Planner Shawn Winter, DDA Chief Operations Officer Harry Burkholder and Derenzy. Several members of the committee spoke to the broad team Inform Studio will bring to the project, especially on delivering on what the public and business owners are looking for in the project.

“Not only is this a transformational project for downtown, it’s transformational for the entire 1.6 miles of the Lower Boardman River,” Burkholder said.

The DDA was looking at two blocks of Front Street because of a sewer relocation project scheduled for the fall. The same thought process was part of a lengthy presentation and discussion on conceptual TART Trail improvements and extension led by TART Executive Director Julie Clark and Winter.

Clark said the trail is “very much piecemeal” as it runs from Division Street to Garfield Avenue and reconstruction of Grandview Parkway scheduled for 2023 is “an ideal time to tackle the trail.”

The conceptual design calls for an overall widening of the trail to 16 feet in some places and 20 feet near Clinch Park. The trail, which Clark said has 2 million visits a year, has shared access for pedestrians and bicycles in some spots along the route and shared access in others.

Better, safer crossings on Grandview Parkway as well as through a tight right-of-way along Delamar Resort and the intersection at East Front Street were also discussed.

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

  • Approved the annual audited financial statements for the DDA for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021 from Vredeveld Haefner LLC. “There are no deficiencies,” Partner Doug Vredeveld said.
  • Heard an overview of bridge construction in 2022 from City Engineering Administrative Assistant Kaitlyn Aldrich. The West Front Street bridge reconstruction underway could be completed by July and would be done before a $1.7 million project on the South Union Street bridge would begin. A second deck replacement project on North Cass Street is expected to cost another $800,000.
  • Applied for an $80,000 USDA Rural Business Development program application specifically for the Downtown Retail Incubator Project.