Traverse CityTraverse City Development July 12, 2023

Nearly $1.6 Million Approved for Mixed-Use Parking Deck Design


By Beth Milligan | July 10, 2023

Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members voted unanimously Friday to spend nearly $1.6 million for schematic and construction designs for a new mixed-use parking deck on State Street, a project that could include hundreds of public parking spaces, housing, and retail space. Several steps are still needed before construction can actually begin, including obtaining final cost estimates through the design process, bonding the project, and extending the DDA’s TIF 97 plan – with the latter two steps subject to potential referendums.

Fishbeck and Cornerstone Architects were chosen from among five firms that responded to a DDA and city request-for-proposals (RFP) and were interviewed to lead the design process for the new mixed-use parking deck. The city agreed earlier this year to a land swap deal with Socks Construction that allowed the city to obtain five parcels along State Street between Union and Pine streets to serve as the location of a long-planned third public parking deck downtown. The city also owns the former Master Dry Cleaners building at 115 Pine Street, which it purchased in 2020 for the deck project. That property and a small parcel behind it, also owned by the city, could serve as the future access space for the parking garage. Housing and retail space are also now included in the project plans, making it “not just a parking structure” but a mixed-use development that can serve different needs downtown, said DDA CEO Jean Derenzy.

The RFP calls for Fishbeck and Cornerstone Architects to provide different options and costs for configuring parking, housing, and retail within the development – reflecting the reality that more housing, for instance, could cut into the number of parking spaces available. DDA board member Pete Kirkwood emphasized that the structure needs to provide “substantial parking,” a statement Vice Chair Scott Hardy echoed. With several other public and private lots coming offline that will increase demand for spaces near the west side of downtown, the project will need a “very carefully crafted design” to ensure that housing and retail don’t “subsume so many parking spaces that the parking deck itself becomes obsolete,” Hardy said.

The RFP also calls for Fishbeck and Cornerstone Architects to provide options for repurposing the structure in the future, providing alley-only access to the deck (preserving more retail frontage along State Street), incorporating sustainable and climate-resilient design elements, allowing the garage to operate on remote management (eliminating the need for on-site staff), and adding amenities like snowmelt, restrooms, and bike lockers.

DDA board members approved a total not-to-exceed contract with Fishbeck and Cornerstone Architects for $1,591,141. That represents two phases of work, with a critical “pause” planned between the two phases. The first phase, which costs $383,570, is for schematic design work. That is expected to be completed by November and will provide the DDA and city commission with “clarity on the full cost of the project,” according to Derenzy. That includes housing, retail, and parking costs, as well as a recommendation on how a public-private partnership could be structured to manage retail and housing. Fishbeck’s team includes a brownfield specialist that can assist the DDA in leveraging new state brownfield rules to support housing, Derenzy said. Approximately 30 percent of the building design will be completed in the schematic phase.

Once schematic work is done, engineering and architectural work will “pause until full costs are reviewed with the city commission and community,” according to Derenzy. From there, funding would likely depend on two major steps: bonding the project and including it in the DDA’s TIF 97 plan, which is planned to be extended next year and renamed the Moving Downtown Forward TIF plan. With TIF 97 set to expire in 2027, the DDA is looking at a spring 2024 vote to extend the plan another 30 years to continue downtown operations and maintenance, as well cover an updated list of public infrastructure projects – including the mixed-use parking deck.

Bonding the deck and approving the new TIF plan will require city commission approval, with both moves also subject to a public referendum. That means with enough signatures, either initiative could be placed on the November 2024 ballot for voter approval. According to City Clerk Benjamin Marentette, “for a referendum on an ordinance extending TIF, the number of signatures needed for a referendum is 25 percent of the votes received for the candidate who received the greatest number of votes for city office at the most recent election. To give some context, until after the November 2023 election, that would be 661 signatures. This number is based on the November 2021 election for city commission.”

For a referendum on bonding, the number of signatures required is “equal to 10 percent of the registered city voters at the time,” Marentette says. “For context, approximately 1,350 signatures would be required.” Once the city issues a notice of intent to bond a project, there is a 45-day period when city voters can petition to put the bond on the ballot.

If either issue becomes subject to a referendum, the DDA would need to wait until after the November 2024 election to proceed, Mayor Richard Lewis noted. Otherwise, the DDA and city could move forward with the second part of the contract with Fishbeck and Cornerstone Architects – completing construction of the development. The final design phase for construction is $1,207,571, including construction administration. City Engineer Tim Lodge said the DDA and city “have an obligation to see the project through,” adding that he was “excited” about the expertise now on board. “This team is a great team,” he said.

Pictured: Footprint of new mixed-use parking deck on State Street, as seen in red dotted outline