New phase for New Designs, Guidebook

TRAVERSE CITY – This month marks the beginning of a new season for New Designs for Growth (NDFG), a grassroots initiative working under the auspices of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce to promote smart residential and commercial growth. Several new programs and resources will be unveiled.

This year, NDFG will kickoff its DevelopMentor program, which is a panel of seasoned professionals in the development field, such as engineers and governmental planners, who will work closely with those working on new projects to encourage smart development.

"These are people who've been around the block and who have seen good development and bad development and who know what good development is," said Donna Wilson, NDFG's vice president.

NDFG will work closely with the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments and the Traverse Area Association of Realtors to get referrals for the program. Once a developer has been referred, he or she will have the opportunity to sit down with panel in a roundtable format.

"We want to catch people early on, before any plans have been drawn up, or it's too late to make changes, and make sure we communicate, in a positive way, the ways in which they can achieve financial success while preserving our area, said Wilson. "We don't want to settle for status quo. We want progressive designs that complement our region and don't compromise the rural nature of our area."

The DevelopMentor panel will use the Grand Traverse Bay Region Development Guidebook as their main tool in communicating alternatives to conventional development practices. While the Guidebook itself has been in existence for close to 15 years, a new version will be unveiled in January.

"We are doing a major overhaul of the Guidebook," said Wilson. "It's the culmination of a year of research and surveys and the input of developers, government officials, the real estate community, bankers, and community members. We asked them 'What would be valuable in a guidebook that would help set a standard for development in this area?'"

According to Wilson, all the hard work and research has paid off. "This version is so much more sophisticated and graphically appealing," she said. "It's the latest and the greatest."

Once the Guidebook has been unveiled, local governmental officials will have the opportunity to attend the DevelopMentor Institute, which will be offered through a partnership with MSU's Land Policy Program. There, they will have the opportunity to learn more about the Guidebook and its use.

"We want to train them so that they know what it's about and why it's valuable," said Wilson.

Beyond its application locally, NDFG plans to package the Guidebook along with other training modules and offer them to other areas interested in implementing smart growth initiatives.

"Traverse City is way ahead on the learning curve," said Wilson. "We have a lot of experience under our belt. We have a lot to share with other communities." BN