TC DDA Talks Government Center Parking and Downtown Projects

Board members of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) on Friday approved a proposal to eliminate public parking in the southern half of the Government Center parking lot, meaning that the 103 parking spaces in that part of the lot will only be available to authorized City/Grand Traverse County employees and board members for use in the future. The proposal, which then goes to city commissioners for final approval and preserves a row of metered 30-minute free spaces for public use, comes over concerns that nearby developments being built will further exacerbate the problems staff parking at the Government Center. The topic is one of many parking and project-related agenda items that DDA members discussed at their Friday meeting.

Government Center parking lot
Visitors to the Government Center may soon need to use metered spaces or nearby street parking when visiting the city-county facility under a new parking agreement submitted to city commissioners. city ​​for approval. According to DDA Transportation Mobility Director Nicole VanNess, the plan will require vehicles to have a permit to park in the South Lot of the Government Center Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the county and the city ​​to distribute permits to employees and city/county. council members to use the lot. Twenty-five metered spaces and six handicap spaces will still be available for public use on the northern portion of the lot closest to the building, including a row of spaces offering 30 minutes of free parking.

Highlighting the anticipated parking demand likely to occur when the Commongrounds development opens across the street later this year, VanNess said there will always be “a possibility of after-hours parking use.” open to the public, as well as on weekends”. County Administrator Nate Alger said it was the impending opening of Commongrounds and other nearby developments that prompted the requested change, with officials concerned the projects could increase demand for weekday parking. on the already stressed terrain of the government center. “You don’t have to look very deep in our lot to understand why we have to do this,” Alger told DDA board members. “Parking is problematic for our employees, both city and county.”

DDA board member Pete Kirkwood, owner of The Workshop Brewing Company, wondered why county and city employees would get free parking permits to use the parking lot when other employees of the downtown have to pay for their permits. “We’re trying to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation and not have a whole bunch of parked cars taking up space downtown all the time,” Kirkwood said. “What is the reason for waiving parking fees for people just because their job is here? My staff does not get a free parking permit. VanNess said that unlike other parking lots, the county owns the Government Center parking lot, “so it’s not on current public inventory.” She compared the arrangement to that of Northwestern Michigan College, where parking is also enforced by the city, but spaces are either permitted privately or metered.

The DDA will have to spend more time patrolling the parking lot under the new deal, according to VanNess, but will also receive money from fines. Parking violation fees go to the DDA’s parking fund, while revenue — the money people pay to park in the parking lot — is split between the county (74%) and the city (26%). ). The distribution reflects the distribution of county-city ownership of the governmental center. County commissioners have already approved the proposal; if city commissioners follow suit, parking services “will work with the county and city to ensure signage is installed and changes are communicated to employees before beginning any enforcement,” according to VanNess.

Also at Friday’s board meeting…
DDA CEO Jean Derenzy provided board members with an overview of the proposed budget for 2022-23, including upcoming downtown projects. Within the general fund, these include the extension of a contract with Traverse Connect for economic development services and business retention and recruitment, the completion of an inventory of downtown assets and the completion a public vision process to create the conceptual design for the planned new civic plaza at the corner of Union and State streets. The TIF 97 budget includes funds to assist with two upcoming bridge projects on South Union and North Cass Streets and the planned conversion of State Street to a two-way street. The Old Town TIF fund includes boardwalk projects near Midtown and River’s Edge and the installation of a snowmelt system along Union Street. Meanwhile, the parking budget includes two resurfacing projects in city parking lots: Lot B, the Farmer’s Market lot, and Lot C next to Traverse Connect. Derenzy said the DDA would seek to time these resurfacing projects around this year’s bridge projects and the Grandview Parkway reconstruction next year so the area isn’t completely closed off during construction. “When people arrive downtown, we need to make sure they can also stay downtown and park,” she said.

Several other major projects are also on the horizon, including the planned redesign of the north walkways of Blocks 100 and 200 of Front Street, construction of the new Civic Plaza, construction of a planned new parking lot on Front Street West and the reconstruction of Rue Front Est. Some of these projects will require modifying/extending the DDA’s TIF 97 plan and/or bonding the project costs. The DDA hired a consultant, Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), to help create a plan for the future of the downtown organization, including recommendations on how best to implement these projects. That report is due later this year, with the DDA likely to go through a public process in the fall to extend the TIF 97 plan and then tackle bonding in early 2023. The DDA is also working with the city on a mobility and cycling plan that will present a cohesive vision of how the network system interconnects throughout the city. Derenzy said the pushback of cycling and walking communities on a planned redesign of East Front Street illustrated the need for a mobility plan “so we know what a complete street can look like.”

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