Exhibit A: Eighth Street: Big plans for the master plan’s priority
This year Traverse City is working with the neighborhoods and the investment community to implement our new master plan. Both a quality of life tool and an economic development tool, the TC master plan is organized around two ideas:
First, we are a city of interwoven neighborhoods. The characteristics of these neighborhoods are what residents value about living in the city.
Second, the best way to utilize land-use planning to protect what we value about our neighborhoods is to focus regulation on intensities – more specifically, on containing nuisance effects like noise, traffic, lighting, and size from spilling over from one neighborhood to another.
The right kind of regulation protects assets and, therefore, property values; the wrong kind inhibits creativity and stunts growth. By focusing on intensity and being less prescriptive about use, the master plan promotes the location of jobs, goods and services near residences while protecting residential quality of life. The aim is to protect what we care about and build on it.
The success of any plan is measured by what it accomplishes. With that in mind, we are focusing on Eighth Street between Garfield Avenue and Union Street as the place to launch this new approach – a demonstration project, if you will.
Why Eighth Street? Because of the challenges and opportunities it offers. On one hand, portions of the corridor look like the "before" picture in a redevelopment success story. The physical street between Old Town and Woodmere is in rough shape, traffic speeds are high, and business occupancy rates are low.
But there are also bright spots. There are businesses succeeding by simultaneously serving the high density of nearby residents and the high number of vehicles passing through the corridor. These businesses exist in harmony with adjacent residential neighborhoods. They offer goods and services to the neighborhoods and the many people passing through.
We've made infrastructure investments at both ends of Eighth Street, with the federally funded street-improvement project to the east, and the Old Town parking deck to the west. At the center are several assets and recent improvements: the library, Hull Park, the reconstruction of Woodmere as a complete street, and the Boardman River pedestrian bridge.
The Front Street central business district (CBD) still stands as the model for the city; it supports redevelopment with public improvements that support private investment. In fact, the success of most of our redevelopment efforts is a product of a successful CBD. Old Town, Garland Street, and the improved Bayfront (coming soon) owe portions of their success to their proximity to the CBD. Given the public investments already made in and around Eighth Street, it is the logical next place to extend and continue these successes.
Starting this month, the city plans to put significant resources into implementing the master plan on Eighth Street. We'll start by using a $100,000 federal grant to design and engineer a facelift for the stretch west of last year's stimulus project (at the intersection of Eighth Street and Garfield Avenue), as well as a zoning overlay, based on intensity, for the whole corridor. The idea behind the facelift is to make Eighth Street a pleasant place people want to be. The idea behind the overlay is to foster creativity while protecting the neighborhoods from impacts beyond those they experience now.
There are other resources out there – if our partners want to play. The city has $750,000 from the Michigan Department of Transportation for reconstruction of the bridge at Boardman Avenue, as well as sale proceeds coming from the Depot property. Traverse City Light & Power could work with us on pedestrian-scale streetlights and underground utilities.
The County Brownfield authority has almost $1 million in unused grant money coming back from the Old Town deck that could be put to work along the Eighth Street corridor. The six neighborhood associations that touch Eighth Street can help design the project. And the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce can help make the business case.
It is a simple strategy, really: Take what has worked, and build on it. If we do it right, we get a refurbished mixed-use corridor at the heart of the city – our next great place – and a template we can repeat in other parts of the city.
Chris Bzdok is mayor of Traverse City. Fred Wilmeth is chair of the Traverse City Planning Commission.