People, Products & Properties to Watch in ’07


The Barns property

You know about the progress being made at the former State Hospital and Building 50. But what about those historic barns nearby? Something will happen in 2007, mark our words. Public input sessions are planned for January-April, spearheaded by a partnership between Garfield Township and Traverse City and conducted by a team of local consultants. The outcome could be anything from a botanical garden to a new zoo to a special event venue or a combination of these.

State Theatre/Kurtz Building

The Theatre is owned by Rotary Charities and hasn't operated as an everyday movie house since the late 1980s, but we expect an announcement soon that the Traverse City Film Festival has secured this downtown gem. Meanwhile, right next door, chef Dan Marsh (yes, that Marsh family) will open Ginger, an Asian-inspired restaurant this year as well. More great momentum for downtown TC.

Former Goodwill building

There have been plenty of inquiries into the former Goodwill building site next to Tom's Market on U.S. 31, but no buyers yet. Realtor Jim Schmuckal says he has one to two legitimate prospects, and they're waiting for more information on wetlands that adjoin the property. The $849,000 sales price is based on the useable uplands-about 1.2 acres. The property has been rezoned C-3 commercial, making it prime for retail, offices or a restaurant. It will be up to the seller to remove the building.

Harleysville Lake States Insurance building

Have $5.75 million burning a hole in your pocket? Check out the Harleysville Lake States Insurance building on M-22 along West Grand Traverse Bay. Built in the 1980s, this 64,000 square-foot waterfront space is primed for redevelopment as condos. Write your check and you'll even get control of 19 sizeable boat slips. Our guess is that-despite a brutal real estate market-someone will step forward in '07 and make an offer.

Sugar Loaf

Okay, stay with us here. We've been through bankruptcy, a jailed former owner, disputes over sewer service-but still no skiing again this winter. However, progress is on the horizon. Sugar Loaf has finally reached a tentative agreement with the Sugar Loaf Service Company to resolve the wastewater dispute, pending an okay by Sugar Loaf's primary lender. Meanwhile, Cleveland Township is finishing zoning changes that will clear the way for Sugar Loaf's redevelopment. Now owned by Kate Wickstrom, "The Loaf" will submit a redevelopment plan in the coming months. Wickstrom's attorney Joe Quandt says, "We look forward to the approval of the redevelopment plan and reopening the ski operations and a portion of the hotel, including food and beverage service, in 2007."


Ah, the dilemma of what to do with perhaps our greatest resource-the open space created when the zoo closes permanently. Community input sessions are planned for January for this 13,000 linear feet of shoreline parcel along West Grand Traverse Bay. The challenge is to keep the space public and satisfy those who crave more open space as well as those who hope for a fresh-air market or amphitheater. Our bet is on the latter.


Leland's Fishtown Preservation Society (FPS) thinks it's in "pretty good shape," according to President Rich Rossman, to meet its self-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to raise $2.5 million to proceed with the second phase of a plan to purchase and preserve Fishtown. As of Dec. 14, FPS had raised $2.32 million in cash and pledges toward the $3 million purchase price set by the Carlson family. If terms of the purchase agreement are met by Jan. 10, the society will move forward with plans to raise another $2 million to complete the sale, preserve Fishtown's historic structures, and develop historical and environmental interpretive information opportunities ( FPS is collaborating with the Leelanau Historical Society and Inland Seas on the project.

West Front Street

Two developers, two parking deck proposals, and one contentious ongoing debate as to what should be built, how high it should be and how state brownfield dollars should be allocated. Gerald Snowden wants to build a mixed-use development at 305 W. Front St. that could include public parking. Federated Properties wants to put in parking at 145 W. Front. Will either or both of the proposals pass through the city? Stay tuned…

Elberta development

There are great things in store for the village of Elberta (pop. 457). This year will see the continued revitalization of the former Lake Michigan railroad and car ferry town's waterfront, a project nine years in the making. This winter, dredging work will begin on the first phase of the 140-slip marina. Come spring, construction will commence on the 20,000 square-foot "boathouse" condominium building-seven two- and three-bedroom units including a two-bedroom condominium on the top floor with a cupola overlooking Betsie Bay, boat wells and the service area for the marina.

Also in the works is a four-story building, reminiscent of turn-of-the-century Great Lakes waterfront architecture, with 20 more condominium units. To make way for the project, developer Scott Gest, managing member of the Elberta Land Holding Co., oversaw the removal of 12 asphalt storage tanks, as well as a number of other abandoned structures from Elberta's former industrial days that had long plagued the village.

Three Mile/U.S. 31 corner

Care to buy a block that sees more traffic than nearly any other within 100 miles? Three Mile Road home and business owners unhappy with increased traffic have banded together and put their properties on the market. Photographer Michael Cole, Mitchell Creek Inn, and two homeowners have listed with International Realty. And, the adjacent former gas station, now owned by Lamar Advertising, is also listed for $350,000 with Real Estate One.

Several Three Mile residents have requested a zoning change to "Regional Business," which the East Bay Planning Commission denied. "They did, however," says the township's Leslie Couturier, "discuss the possibility of changing the zoning to 'Professional Office.'" She added that the Commission will look at the area again during a review in the coming months.

Our bet? Somehow, some way-a national hotel chain steps in in the next year or two…

Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is doubling-down on northern Michigan gaming, as construction continues on a new 347,000 square-foot casino resort at the site of the current Turtle Creek Casino. When completed, it will include an eight-story, 135-room, state-of-the-art hotel, 54,000 square-foot gaming floor, concert/entertainment venue, restaurants, and shops. Grand Traverse Resort & Casinos CEO Ron Olson says the new resort will be "unique to the Midwest in its design and business model." With a new casino in Petoskey and stiff competition from Detroit, we can't wait to see what is in the cards here in TC.

Cross Creek

More waterfront condos, anyone? Garry Gates is looking to develop the 47-room Cross Creek Motel on Munson Avenue into 92 condominiums. He purchased the property from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians in November. The East Bay Planning Commission recommended approval of Gates' plan, and the township board will discuss the issue at their January meeting.


Let the games begin! A new "Y" will be built on a 20.5-acre parcel on Silver Lake Road just south of Traverse City West Junior Hig. Expect two pools (a family recreation pool and an eight-lane competitive pool), four gyms, six indoor tennis courts, a teen room, chapel, meeting room, fitness area, and possibly a day care. Rotary Charities recently granted $250,000 to help fund construction of the $18 million, 130,000 square-foot building. Depending on community feedback, it might be built in phases. Clark Walter Sirrine is the architect.


Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell

This homegrown duo already owns North Peak Brewing Co., the legendary Bowers Harbor Inn and Bowery, and downtown's Blue Tractor Cook Shop. Watch for new condominiums to be nestled near the Bowers property, with another restaurant always a possibility. "TC's our home and a growing market to operate a business," says Carlson.

Russ Soyring

Developer forums are underway to brainstorm the future of downtown Traverse City. The TC Chamber says regional planning is among its top priorities. The Land Use & Transportation Study Group is working toward a massive, public process to plot the future look of the region. Proposed parking decks, waterfront open spaces, growth at the former Building 50, and more. The common denominator in all of it? City Planner Russ Soyring, a soft-spoken visionary who's at the absolute epicenter of the tension between explosive growth and small-town appeal.

Tom Menzel

Maverick, n., (mav-er-ik): 1. non-conformist; independent thinker. 2. Tom Menzel. In less than a year, Menzel has done more to shake the branches of the National Cherry Festival than anyone else has done in 50 years. He's changed the governance structure, urged the City to renegotiate its arrangement, and is trying to sell the HQ building. In '07, watch for a more streamlined Festival in terms of finances, management, and image.

Tino Breithaupt

Tino's been a busy guy since he arrived here last spring from the Michigan EDC. In his first seven months as senior vice president-economic development at the Traverse City Chamber, he helped facilitate 13 successful deals, creating more than $32 million in private investment throughout the region, 139 new jobs and retaining more than 300 jobs. But his top accomplishment, according to his boss, Doug Luciani, was managing a process-with staff person Steve Morris-to bring together 12 regional tool & die companies to form a collaborative legal partnership that successfully created the "Northwest Michigan Tooling Coalition" (which earned tax breaks).

On Tino's To Do List for 2007: Ensuring high-speed wireless connectivity throughout the Chamber's five-county region, and laying the groundwork for our region to become the global policy maker for fresh water research activities.

Fred Kopplow

A hearty welcome to Fred Kopplow, formerly of the Tribune Company/Tribune Media Services, who recently took over as publisher of Traverse Magazine. Kopplow brings savvy in technology and licensing to Traverse, and we suspect his imprint on the publication will begin to take effect in '07. Traverse launched a digital version of its magazine last fall.

"With his background in digital media, print and building strategic partnerships, Fred brings tremendous experience and understanding of digital and new media platforms," says Deborah Wyatt Fellows, founder and editor in chief of Traverse.

Mike & Denise Busley

It was a fruitful trip to a pie shop that led the Busleys to quit their high-paying jobs in California, move to TC and open Grand Traverse Pie Co. on Front Street 10 years ago. They've just sold their ninth bakery-café franchise-this one in Mt. Pleasant-with another 25 franchises to come. Their original shop has been featured both regionally and nationally as a premier destination for great pies. With bakery-cafes in Brighton, Burton, Norton Shores, Okemos, Petoskey, Sterling Heights and Ann Arbor, we expect their piece of the pie market to only get bigger.

Karmin Philp

This powerhouse is in line to replace Brad Niergarth as president of the Traverse City Area Chamber board. She's loyal-she's been with Manpower for 34 years and is currently executive vice president-and she's influential, having served on the Chamber board for three years and on the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board for three years. Last year she was also on the newly-formed governing board of the EDC.

Among her many '07 goals: building on the successful Leadership Grand Traverse program, aggressively implementing training and utilization of the Chamber's New Designs for Growth Development Guidebook, and continuing to develop the Chamber's legislative advocacy efforts, including its role as part of the Tri-Chamber Alliance with Petoskey and Cadillac area chambers.



Traverse City's Britten Banners has long been an innovator in grand scale signs and banners. Now CEO Paul Britten has another new trick up his sleeve-a small bracket that allows outdoor banners to remain taut, even in 70 mph winds. The product's taking the industry by "storm," particularly in Europe, where dealers have already sold hundreds of thousands of BannerSavers. Check out for more details.

Cherry products

From Leland Cherry Company's Hip Bones™ for dogs to Cherry Republic's new hot cherry salsa, to Traverse Bay Farms' tart cherry dietary supplement-expect to see the almighty cherry popping up in all sorts of products.

And who knows what cure Ray Pleva might come up with; his company, Cerise Nutraceuticals, is currently working with CMU researchers to study the effect of tart cherry concentrates and fatty acids to treat Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's-even diabetes and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Will Sub

Techies have created web applications for virtually everything…converting currencies, conducting auctions, matching paint colors, and so much more. Now northern Michigan's own Dr. Gilbert Mosher has married the web to the last-minute world of substitute teaching. Districts across the state are sitting up and taking note of this new online service that automates and simplifies the process of finding and securing a substitute when a teacher calls-in sick. More at


More and more Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems will be installed in Traverse City as the infrastructure starts to improve. However, outlining areas will not see much growth in VoIP due to outdated infrastructure, says Dave Barth at ASCOMNORTH.

Metropolitan areas are seeing faster growth as their external networks and internal data networks have higher bandwidth. Without the bandwidth, you get "choppy" distorted voice reproduction.

Having a data/computer network that's able to handle the voice traffic is critical to a VoIP integration, as is working with a company with experience in voice traffic.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid cars will be out in full force at the North American International Auto Show, Jan. 7-21 in Detroit, illustrating the growth that this automobile segment is experiencing. Currently, 15 hybrid models are available to U.S. consumers and, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, automakers will be adding at least 15 additional hybrid models to the U.S. market by 2010. Within the next calendar year alone, you can expect to see the launch of the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Ford MKZ Hybrid, GMC Yukon Hybrid, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Lexus LS600hl Hybrid, Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid and the Mazda Tribute Hybrid.

Locally, sales of hybrids have done well, according to Gary Moss, sales manager at Grand Traverse Auto.

"Locally, there is more demand than we are able to fill," said Moss. "As soon as we can get a hybrid in stock, it sells almost immediately."

Hybrid car sales tend to do well and make sense in areas where commuters are spending a lot of time traveling at 35 mph or lower, Moss explained. BN