City parking RFP needs work: commissioners

TRAVERSE CITY — A draft request for proposals to redevelop three Traverse City parking lots is in by the deadline, but two city commissioners don’t think it’s ready for primetime.

Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe and Commissioner Christie Minervini separately said they want to hold off on putting the proposal to redevelop city parking Lots O, T and X out for developers to answer.

Shamroe said she wants to hear more about Lot G, another city parking spot the Downtown Development Authority wants to redevelop. She’s considering asking that the discussion be tabled until the DDA’s request for information process is complete.

That lot was once part of a proposed swap to build a civic square where TCF Bank — formerly Chemical Bank — sits at State and Union Streets. Now, the bank isn’t requiring a new location.

Jean Derenzy, DDA CEO, said developers have until April 15 to submit what they think is possible to build on Lot G. Those proposals will be presented to the DDA board and city commission either late May or early June.

Like the city’s draft request, the DDA’s included project goals — a mixed-use building with first-floor retail, eco-friendly construction and minimal parking spaces. But unlike the city’s, the DDA’s is more informational, with a committee to later choose developers and ask them for more formal proposals, Derenzy said.

Before the city can put out its own request to redevelop the other three lots, Minervini said she thinks the request language needs more work.

“I think we probably put an unfair deadline on staff for coming back to us with a draft, and I can’t speak for my colleagues but I would definitely delay taking action on it on Monday until we can get some more information or at least include more information for prospective developers,” she said.

Minervini helped write the DDA’s request for information, and echoed Shamroe in saying the city could borrow from that. Minervini thought the request city commissioners will discuss was too vague, both in comparison to the DDA’s and to get the kind of proposals city commissioners want.

That guidance is especially important to developers spending the time and money on a proposal, Minerini said. She agreed with Commissioner Brian McGillivary’s point that developers won’t bother if they don’t think they have a real shot.

The draft, penned by Mission North Principal Rob Bacigalupi, lays out the process where developers would submit their designs, and the goals and criteria on which city commissioners would weigh them. Major points include buildings with apartments, a “substantial” amount which should be rented at prices affordable for people making 70 to 120 percent of Grand Traverse County’s Area Median Income.

Michigan State Housing Development Authority figures put those incomes at $41,650 and $71,400, respectively, as of April 1, 2020.

The draft suggested setting a deadline some time in July

Neither Minervini nor Shamroe thought the city should have to sell the lots for market value, as the draft proposes. Both said cutting a deal with a developer could make building attainable housing more feasible, and Minervini said the deed restrictions requiring reasonable rents would instantly cut the property value.

Any proposal to redevelop a city lot would have to provide a long-term benefit, Shamroe said. That’s especially true for Lot T, which is essential parking for the nearby Sara Hardy Farmers Market and downtown businesses and employees.

But she also understands construction in Traverse City is pricey, so having flexibility on the land sale price is key.

“So the goal for me is to be open to allow developers to be creative, but also to really underline and put in bold, all-capital letters, this needs to be an exceptional project,” she said.

Some of the application requirements seemed onerous or off-base to Minervini, she said, like requirements that developers pay a 2-percent deposit on the lot they’re after, or to submit renderings with their proposal.

She also wanted to give developers more specifics on what the city wanted in terms of sustainable building, among other particulars in the city’s draft request for proposals.

Lot O, at State and Cass streets, has 26 spaces; Lot T, at Union Street and Grandview Parkway, contains about 150 spaces and is west of the lot that hosts the Sara Hardy Farmers Market; and Lot X is Traverse City Light & Power land and its 42 spaces are near its Hall Street substation, as previously reported.