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Downtown Traverse City Improvements

DDA Eyeing Downtown Traverse City Improvements

July 26, 2013
DDA Eyeing Downtown Traverse City Improvements

From improving trash collection systems to extending the Boardman River boardwalk to sprucing up crosswalk bumpouts, the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is currently spearheading a number of beautification projects in an effort to enhance the downtown corridor.

Taking Out the Trash
Locals and tourists alike have complained about unusually high levels of trash in downtown Traverse City this year, citing overflowing bins on Front Street, litter on the beaches and messy public bathrooms at Clinch Park. DDA Interim Executive Director Rob Bacigalupi says increasing numbers of visitors – “generally a good problem to have” – means the DDA must now consider both short-term and long-term solutions to efficiently manage the refuse caused by heightened foot traffic downtown.

“We used to have a night city crew that would clean up the sidewalks and streets, but no longer,” says Bacigalupi. (The city department responsible for street and park maintenance has shrunk by 22 percent since 2005; it's now down to 35 employees.)

“We need to deal with the impact of that, as well as having more people downtown.”

One short-term solution targeted for immediate implementation is the installation of at least 16 new trash receptacles in strategic locations throughout the 100 and 200 blocks of East Front Street. The DDA is accepting bids for the project through August 9 and will execute a contract for its execution as soon as August 16.

Some City Commissioners have expressed concern that the new receptacles will still need to be emptied regularly in order to be efficient, and that reduced staffing may make this difficult. But Bacigalupi says Parks and Recreation Superintendent Lauren Vaughn, who oversees trash cleaning for the city, supports the project and that both believe it will markedly improve the situation downtown.

“It won't completely solve the problem, but it will make things better while we consider other long-term strategies,” says Bacigalupi, who notes city staff will be meeting soon to develop more permanent solutions for trash management in the district.

Boardwalk Empire
University of Michigan landscape architecture students who presented a proposed Lower Boardman River Revitalization Plan to DDA board members this spring may soon see a portion of their recommendation enacted, as city officials consider a project to extend a boardwalk bordering the Boardman River from Union Street to the West Front Street Bridge.

The DDA board agreed last week to authorize a $6,995 contract with Ann Arbor-based architecture firm Beckett & Raeder for professional design and engineering services for the boardwalk's extension. Midtown Development Inc. in Traverse City, which is planning to build approximately a dozen townhouses at the corner of State and Pine Streets along the Boardman, has offered the city a river-adjacent easement to facilitate the boardwalk's construction.

“Our tax increment financing (TIF) 97 plan calls for boardwalk improvements, and this (U of M) plan demonstrated how it could actually be done,” says Bacigalupi. “We've always talked about extending the boardwalk further and connecting the unconnected parts of it. Now we have a real opportunity to do so.”

Bacigalupi notes that to extend the boardwalk all the way to the West Front Street Bridge, the DDA will need permission from other property owners along the river – most notably developer Jerry Snowden – to obtain additional necessary easements. He plans to meet with the property owners Friday to discuss the proposal.

Bumping Up the Bump-Outs
Based on a recommendation from former DDA board member and Influence Design Forum Principal Nate Elkins, the DDA has agreed to allocate $2,600 for services to redesign downtown's crosswalk bump-outs, the curb extensions that serve as a buffer between downtown sidewalks and streets. Elkins has proposed the bump-outs be both aesthetically improved and redesigned to be more “people-friendly” for pedestrians.

“We're looking at how we can still accommodate the trash cans and bike racks that are in these spaces now, while also making them more inviting to people,” explains Bacigalupi.

The DDA is planning to seek funding assistance from the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments Placemaking Grant Program to offset its costs. The design stage of the project is now underway.

Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013 2:26 AM by Jon Becker

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