Waterfront Watch

Northport, Acme and Traverse City are all taking a good, hard look at their waterfront property and either readying the construction equipment, starting to spend their bayfront bucks or debating what they want to see at the water's edge. Here's the latest goings-on in each of these communities:

NORTHPORT WATERFRONT: "Front yard" access to the village

The plan: The Village of Northport has hired The Schiffer Group, a marine, civil and structural engineering and survey firm in Traverse City, to handle design and project management of a series of improvements designed to revitalize its waterfront presence. Think: patio shelters, restrooms/changing facilities and promenades from the South Beach area, through the marina, and continuing to Haserot Park at the public waterfront's north end. The Village first hired The Schiffer Group last October for the structural design and construction management of repairs to the for repairs to the existing main pier and a new dock house, as well as the study and preliminary design of a new boater's bathhouse.

What's next: "The summer will be smooth sailing," says Jim Schiffer. No dirt moves until after Labor Day, he confirms. In the meantime, the group will be working on completing the construction that is underway on the gas dock and dock house, as well as the further design and development of the aforementioned improvements.

Price tag/who's paying: Both of the marina improvements (gas dock/dock house and bathhouse planning) are financially assisted by 50/50 grants from the Michigan State Waterways Commission (MSWC): $63,000 grant for the gas dock/dock house improvements ($126,000 total) and $28,100 grant for the bathhouse ($56,200 total). The waterfront improvement project will be paid for with a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) coupled with a village match of $167,000. The Schiffer Group was awarded a contract of $73,700 for its design and project management work for the MNRTF portion of the improvements; negotiating with the Village to complete design/construction of the bathhouse, funded with local funds and another 50/50 MSWC grant for $275,000 ($550,000 total).

Completion date: These projects are scheduled to be completed before Memorial Day, 2012.

Long-term: The Village is waiting to hear about a grant application for Northport Creek improvements (south border of Haserot Park); South Beach enhancements via a Coastal Management Program grant which The Schiffer Group just submitted an application for; and future MNRTF funds for northerly waterfront improvements.

ACME: Looking at feasibility and viability of municipal marina

The Plan: Still being hammered out and hinging on one particular question: should Acme Township operate a municipal marina? The township has spent the last several months trying to determine the feasibility of such a project. The privately-owned and operated marina at East Bay Harbor in the township was originally constructed in the early '70s and would require complete reconstruction to meet current marina standards and boater expectations.

The latest: The township hired consultant Edgewater Resources to conduct a municipal marina feasibility study, which included a marina market analysis that was released in April. It also hosted three public meetings with Edgewater through the winter/early spring to gather community input and ideas.

What's next: The marina feasibility study was presented to the Acme Planning Commission last month and will be delivered to the Acme Township Board on June 7. The consultants are presenting several scenarios/locations for the township to consider, says Township Manager Sharon Vreeland. She says the board will then decide the next step.

"The board heard loud and clear that residents want a municipal marina to be financially self-sustaining," says Vreeland. "No taxpayer dollars going toward it."

While the feasibility study will show whether a municipal marina is physically or economically viable, Vreeland says additional questions remain: Do we want to do it? Is enough going on in Acme to require a marina for transient boat traffic?

According to the market analysis, the Acme Township location is considered less competitive than locations like Northport and Charlevoix, which are closer to regional cruising routes. Compared to Elk Rapids and Clinch Park Marina in Traverse City, it is less competitive due to the relative lack of walkable attractions.

Price tag/who's paying? Cost and revenue figures for the various scenarios were not released before press time. Those interested can check out the just-released study at www.acmetownship/marina.htm.

Note: A ribbon cutting ceremony in late May celebrated the first phase of the Acme Shoreline Park. While the area is currently roped off while seeding stabilizes the soil, Vreeland expects the park to be open by early to mid-July. A pathway to the beach is being installed now.

TRAVERSE CITY: First phase of bayfront plan readying for kick-off

The plan: The bayfront revitalization project is a multi-million, multi-year and multi-faceted effort to create both waterfront recreational opportunities and a strong foundation for future economic growth.

The latest: Last week, Traverse City commissioners accepted a $25,000 gift from the Consumers Energy Foundation for the city's waterfront improvement plan. This brings the total local funder support for phase one of the bayfront plan to more than $300,000.

Phase I includes the redesign and renovation of the plaza/entryway to the Clinch Park area, a splash pad, mobility mats for universal access to the boat ramp and beach, new restrooms and concessions stand and a nature playscape with a shallow stream from a redirected aquifer. The existing tunnel will also get a facelift.

Price tag/who's paying: Phase I is estimated to cost $1.6 million. Right now the city has $1.3 million in hand, says TC Planning Director Russ Soyring. That includes $900,000 – $450,000 of which comes from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and a matching grant from the TC Downtown Development Authority (TIF 97 funds). A "capital campaign" seeking gifts from local funders and foundation has netted more than $300,000.

What's next: The city now has a Request for Proposal out for construction documents, with a deadline of June 6, according to Soyring. "Based on the $1.6 million estimation, we're about $300,000 short," he says. "But the city decided to go ahead with the RFP for construction documents, thinking that in this economy construction costs may come in a little lower than currently estimated."

Soyring says the city expects to hire the construction design firm by the end of the month and then have the construction work bid out by fall. Some utility work and demolition are slated for late November/ December in preperation for spring construction. A Phase I ribbon cutting ceremony is already scheduled for July 1, 2012.

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