REAL ESTATE: Musings of a real estate voyeur

As a real estate appraiser and consultant, I view the market from a detached point of view. Although I have investments in the local real estate market, most of the work I’m involved in requires that I distance my self interests. I look at the market from an analytical point of view that does not consider my tastes, but what I think the market will do. Here are some of those thoughts and a little background on what’s happening around the area.

As you read this, Traverse City may have already enacted its proposed zoning ordinance, although somehow it looks like things may drag on a while. There appears to be factions pulling in several different directions. One faction is the city planning staff, which has a very specific idea of how they would like the city to look in the future: very European, with retail and office uses on lower floors and residences above. And let’s not forget traffic circles.

Another faction: planning commissioners–some of whom are also city commissioners–want to maintain Traverse City’s small town appeal by keeping its buildings short. This thought is also supported by some residents. Another group of residents is aligned with the city planning staff, saying that a way to limit urban sprawl is to have high-rise buildings in the Central Business District, thereby clustering the population and reducing the need to travel very far by car. And then, of course, is the faction that says “why fix it, it ain’t broke.” It will be interesting to see which group wins.

It’s also interesting to see who can get their spade in the ground first. There are so many new projects planned for the near west side area that it looks like the market for the space could run out before the last building gets started.

While discussing new projects, you may want to give the Traverse City Planning Commission some input on the proposed project for the Red Mill Lumber property. A friend of mine on the Community Mental Health (CMH) Board recently told me that the city is questioning their use of space–that too much is being devoted to offices and not enough for other uses.

CMH provides a very important community service and they picked this site because it works better than any of the alternative sites for their clients and staff. If you have an interest, avail yourself of the public forums and let the commissioners know what you think.

Meanwhile, the River’s Edge project continues to roll along. Mico’s Restaurant and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter have opened for business in the first building. This building has 10 residential condominiums, most of which have already been sold. Their second building is well under construction and much of it is already reserved.

Michael Anton has started construction of his building on the former Krouse Tire site. This property required significant site work for the building foundations because of its Boardman River frontage.

The building will contain about 40,000 square feet and should be finished yet this year. Mike told me about 25 percent will be used by his firm and a bank. The remainder is available for lease. He indicated that lease spaces could be flexibly laid out.

Nielson Enterprises also has foundations in the ground for their new multi-story building on West Bay Shore at the former CAP Computer site. This building will also be around 40,000 square feet and will be mostly offices with two residential condominiums. A representative of the developer told me that one whole floor is reserved, along with one of the residential condominium units.

A proposed office project for the former Sweitzer’s Restaurant will not be going forward. Instead, Howard Schelde, owner of Schelde’s Restaurant and North Peak Brewing Co., will reopen it as a restaurant, according to Realtor Bill Sage, who handled the sale.

Bernard Stover’s project on the former Rickerd Monument site is planned to start early this spring and the old buildings have already been removed. This project fits right in with the city staff’s idea of how they would like Traverse City to look. From the renderings that I have seen, it will be a very attractive structure, French Renaissance in design. It’s planned to be four stories, with a mix of office, retail and residential uses.

Michael Tarnow is president and a partner of Northern Michigan Real Estate Consultants. The company specializes in the appraisal of all property types throughout northern Michigan and the U.P. Tarnow holds the MAI and SRA designations from the Appraisal Institute. BIZNEWS

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