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The Big Three: Downtown Traverse City's Parking Decks
January 16, 2013
The Big Three: Downtown Traverse City's Parking Decks

It can be a challenge for anyone heading to downtown Traverse City – where is the best place to park?

Thanks to the addition of two major parking decks in the downtown district in the last decade, that question has become increasingly easy for shoppers, visitors and workers to answer. With talks of a possible third deck looming over the city, The Ticker checked in to see what's happening with the existing decks downtown – and what might be in store for a new development.

Larry C. Hardy Parking Deck
Opened in June 2003, the Larry C. Hardy Parking Deck is the city's oldest and most expensive deck, at $8.3 million. The 540-space garage between Front and State streets sees an average of 15,000 cars a month, with nearly 25,000 vehicles using the deck in July and August.

Revenues generated from the property were $275,700 this past year, combining with other system revenues to operate the city's parking operations. TIF 97 funds – captured property tax revenues allocated for public improvements – are paying for the deck itself, with the city on track to pay off its debt by 2028.

“We were very conservative in estimating tax revenues, so even with the recession, we're staying ahead of projections,” says Rob Bacigalupi, deputy director at the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

An added benefit of the deck's presence downtown has been an influx of development made possible by the extra parking spaces. Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, the State Theatre and numerous businesses in the Radio Centre building regularly utilize the deck for client and employee parking.

The Old Town Parking Deck
Much like the Hardy deck, the Old Town Parking Deck – a 522-space garage built for $7.5 million on Eighth Street in July 2010 – has helped spurn business development in its neighborhood. Hagerty Insurance Agency recently completed construction on a 44,000 square-foot building across from the deck, while Socks Construction is currently erecting commercial and residential space along Eighth Street that will connect to the deck via catwalks. Taxes generated by both developments will help ensure the deck – which the city owes approximately $5 million on – is paid off by its 2016 deadline.

“The whole point of these decks is to organize parking and get it up and out of the way to make room for development,” says Bacigalupi. “That was the vision for the Old Town district, and in just a few short years we're seeing that come to life.”

(Proposed) West Front Street Parking Deck
After two proposed parking decks for West Front Street fell through in the past few years – a 2006 deck by Federated Properties that sank under political controversy and a development by Jerry Snowden at 305 W. Front recently stalled by the weakened economy – city officials are now taking the reigns on building a third deck downtown.

Mayor Michael Estes and DDA board members are exploring potential sites along "the curve" of West Front for the city to purchase using TIF 97 funds. Those funds would cover the land purchase, but funding for the $7.5+ million deck would have to come from the development of a new commercial building – requiring a developer to partner with the city to complete the project. Bacigalupi says Snowden is one “strong candidate” for the project.

City commissioner Jim Carruthers has questioned the need for a third deck, saying the DDA and city should focus on other areas of improvement: redeveloping State Street, cleaning/improving downtown streets, redeveloping one-story buildings on Front Street and installing public bathrooms downtown. Bacigalupi acknowledges there are "many pieces in the puzzle" to improving downtown, but says a deck on West Front is "crucial" to the long-term health of the corridor.

"Parking is the one thing holding development back in that area," he says. "If you look at East Front Street and the Old Town district and how much they've improved by having a deck - that's what can happen for West Front Street. I'm optimistic we can find a solution. It's just a matter of where we do it – and when.”

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 1:57 PM by Jon Becker

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