New report identifies recommended downtown expansion, projects and TIF extension

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A new report focused on the current and future needs of downtown Traverse City – including how the TC Downtown Development Authority (DDA) should be funded and governed – calls for better inclusion of “outer neighborhoods” like West Front Street and East Eighth Street in Downtown, focusing on connecting and delivering key infrastructure projects such as the planned West Front Street parking lot and new Civic Square, and extending the TIF 97 district for 30 more years. Members of the DDA Board of Directors and City Commissioners will review the report at a special joint meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. in rooms 106 and 107 of NMC’s Timothy J. Nelson Innovation Center, followed by two open days Thursday from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. 6:45 p.m. at the Delamar Hotel.

The consulting firm Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA) conducted a planning project called Moving Downtown Forward, the objective of which is to analyze the organizational structure and financing mechanisms of the DDA, to compare downtown Traverse City to other downtowns across the country and examine trends and best practices to make recommendations on how the DDA can position itself, and the downtown core in general, to thrive in the years to come. come. After gathering feedback from more than 1,300 local residents and stakeholders – and completing a market assessment of the opportunities and challenges facing downtown Traverse City – PUMA will present its draft final report to city leaders. and to the public next week.

The report identifies several “key takeaways” from the community engagement survey and market assessment. While the city center “has become a powerful economic engine and a gathering place for the region” – especially compared to 25 years ago, when it faced empty storefronts, polluted parcels and a lack of private investments – it still presents vulnerabilities today, according to PUMA. “The vulnerabilities facing the downtown include maintaining and supporting small independent and distinctive businesses; the availability of affordable housing for the workforce, low-income people and younger populations; determine how new infrastructure and investments in the downtown core can support sustainability in all its dimensions (economic, environmental and equity); and protect and preserve a vital downtown in the uncertain times ahead,” the company says.

Regional prosperity is linked to the presence of a “vital” downtown in Traverse City, PUMA continues, noting that downtown “serves as an economic anchor not just for the city, but for the region.” As a result, “the downtown is not finished” and the community has clear priorities for moving the downtown forward. » Key community priorities identified include improving downtown stormwater and wastewater management, increasing parking supply by adding more parking structures, making downtown more user-friendly and accessible to pedestrians and increasing housing options downtown. PUMA sets out five “guiding principles” that the DDA should use to prioritize investments in the future, including: “Designing a great place for all ages and for future generations”, “Advancing the sustainability and stewardship of Environment”, “Protect and Preserve Independent Small Local Businesses”, “Defend the Development of Accessible and Workforce Housing” and “Support Job Growth and Diverse Career Opportunities”.

The report also contains key recommendations for funding and governance of the DDA. PUMA notes that there are “limited options” in Michigan to raise funds for public infrastructure projects, including the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) in local government budgets, state or federal grants. competitions and tax increment financing (TIF) through a DDA. “TIF is the only state mechanism that allows for regional cost sharing of localized improvements,” PUMA writes. “In the case of a town centre, the logic follows that town centers generally provide economic benefits beyond the boundaries of a local government, and town centers are often used by residents and visitors from outside local government boundaries. It is therefore fair and reasonable to ask regional beneficiaries to share the cost of downtown improvements.

Given the “lack of other financial tools and resources” and the number of major infrastructure projects still needed downtown, PUMA says “that the smart, cost-effective and fair option for financing infrastructure projects additional public service in downtown Traverse City is with a 30-year extension of TIF 97 through a revised funding plan for tax increases. With TIF 97 set to expire at the end of 2027, its extension would generate approximately $4 million the first year (2028) PUMA recommends that the DDA divide these annual revenues into three tranches: a bond of 70-80% ($2.8-3.2 million) for transformational projects such as the West Front parking lot, civic plaza and riverside improvements; 15-20% ($600,000-$800,000) for DDA operations and services; and 10% ($400,000) for revenue sharing with other tax jurisdictions. PUMA warns that “if the DDA and the TIF disappear, the ratepayers of the Town of Traverse City will bear 100% of the financial burden of implementing the region’s priority physical improvements and services for the downtown. »

The report outlines other ways the DDA can generate more revenue, including recruiting more sponsors for downtown festivals and events, contracting with the city for certain downtown services (such as cleaning garbage collection and park maintenance) and seeking more charitable contributions through a DDA-affiliated 501(c)(3). On the governance front, PUMA recommends “tighter definition of board seats (DDAs)…to ensure downtown stakeholders are directly represented,” including a mix of owners and directors. businesses/types of use and a seat for a downtown resident. The Downtown Traverse City Association (DTCA) – the downtown merchants association – should also “amend its bylaws to expand its ability to create a conduit to diversify funding for downtown projects; provide board and committee participation options that include a variety of downtown stakeholders; and be an advocate for downtown by providing education and analysis on issues impacting downtown,” according to PUMA

The report stresses the importance of focusing on “peripheral districts” on the periphery of the DDA, as well as new community and management partnerships that may be needed in the future. PUMA specifically points to West Front Street and East Eighth Street as areas where streetscape improvements and business growth have increased activity. “While TIF boundaries are firm, DDA district boundaries are more flexible and adaptable,” PUMA notes. “Therefore, there are opportunities to bridge the boundaries of the various downtown sub-districts in the future, creating a more seamless experience across downtown…there are several options for bringing DDA services to these districts, including the expansion of the DDA district. The DDA could also offer an “opt-in” option to businesses in the outlying district to pay the same 2 million levy as other downtown businesses in exchange for services and support, and/or create an improvement district. downtown or a business improvement district in those neighborhoods.

“It is important to note that the DDA should also consider organizational options and opportunities that may not be feasible today,” PUMA concludes in its report. “Additional affiliates may be required over time to accommodate a new improvement neighborhood (i.e. Eighth Street), management of a new public space (i.e. Plaza civic), or perhaps a joint venture development and management opportunity with a partner community and/or civic.”

After residents and city and DDA leaders have had an opportunity to review the report and respond next week, the DDA should then begin working on a plan to implement its findings and recommendations, according to the CEO of the DDA, Jean Derenzy.

Pictured: Excerpt from the PUMA Moving Downtown Forward report

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