Rental Complex With 148 Units Proposed For Hammond/LaFranier Corner
The development group behind the Ridge45 and Trailside45 apartment complexes in Traverse City is aiming for another rental development on the northwest corner of LaFranier and Hammond Streets. Project representatives appeared before Garfield Township Planners last week to conduct a conceptual review of the 148-unit complex, which also calls for a mall that will provide neighborhood amenities to residents. The proposal comes as a new housing report suggests that rental supply in Traverse City and other surrounding markets continues to lag far behind demand.
Scott Jozwiak of Jozwiak Consulting presented an overview of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) – or a local zoning plan – of a new mixed-use development called South 22 on 21 acres of vacant land north of Ridge45 (pictured). “We spent a long time thinking about what to do with the next lot next to the Ridge,” he told the community planners. Two traditional tenement houses of 56 units each (a total of 112 units) are said to be located along LaFranier Road, approximately 150 feet from the street. Jozwiak compared the buildings to those on Trailside45 on Garfield Avenue, but said they wouldn’t be that tall – two to three stories instead of four stories, with back steps and a mix of roof lines to break up the look of the buildings up the street.
The apartment buildings will have a mix of units, including studios – which Ridge45 didn’t include – through to two-bedroom units. The multi-family houses will be served by a combination of parking spaces and underground garages. The remainder of the South 22 development includes nine quadplex buildings, each of which will contain four units (36 units total). “There is a demand for more conventional living in the form of quadplex houses. Each includes a two-car garage with a large driveway that can hold up to four more cars at a time. The residential units are configured as either three bedrooms or two bedrooms and a den. Patios are provided for each apartment, ”says a project protocol from Jozwiak.
According to the memo, South 22 will offer similar amenities as Ridge45, including pocket parks, a dog park, barbecue stations, and sidewalk networks, including a possible bridge or boardwalk over on-site wetlands. While Jozwiak said the market for South 22 is “slightly different” from Ridge45, developments are expected to have complementary architecture and extensive connectivity between them.
Another key component of the development will be the addition of a retail center at the intersection of Hammond and LaFranier, according to Jozwiak. He noted that the resident population in the immediate vicinity between South 22, Ridge45 and King’s Court would number in the thousands. Meanwhile, the nearest grocery store – Oleson’s on Three Mile Road – is nearly three miles away. The provision of a food or convenience market or other retail offerings such as a coffee shop is “important and part of good planning” in the PUD, explained Jozwiak.
Planners were largely enthusiastic about the residential side of the development, but expressed concern about the commercial center, particularly over concerns about the impact on traffic conditions on Hammond Road. Chairman John Racine pointed out that in 2019 the community turned down a proposed gas station and mall just across from South 22 on the northeast corner of LaFranier and Hammond – a piece of land that is now being used for a new BATA transit center and Traverse City Housing Commission is provided development.
“Some of us had serious problems with the idea of a commercial knot,” said Racine. “We’re trying to keep Hammond on a pretty fast moving road and we don’t want it to turn into South Airport Road. There are already some commercials a quarter of a mile away on Garfield and Hammond, and we didn’t see the need to put anything on the corner of LaFranier and Hammond. So we said no. I have exactly the same concern (go to the northwest corner). “
Project officials said they wanted to reduce the impact on traffic by just creating one new access point – a right turn from LaFranier Road into the development’s business park. All other South 22 entrances and exits would come from the existing Ridge45 drive on LaFranier Road and the Lloyd Lane and Hammond Road intersection that the developers have offered for the reconstruction. Some planners encouraged the developers to consider a different location for the mall – further north, for example – or to limit its use to those who actually serve the adjacent neighborhoods and would not draw traffic from the entire region. Planning Commissioner Molly Agostinelli, who was off the board when she turned down the previous LaFranier / Hammond commercial center across the street, said she took the opposite view as affected members, saying the adjoining retail trade would actually help reduce the traffic impact too reduce.
“(Residents) can get on their bikes and go anywhere and get a loaf of bread and not get in their car,” she said. Planning Commissioner Chris DeGood encouraged developers to look into the possibility of obtaining permission to install a signaled HAWK pedestrian crossing across LaFranier Road, which would make it easier for residents to access the new BATA transfer station during construction. “Pedestrian connectivity in LaFranier would be really good business,” he said. The developers will take into account the planning commission’s contributions to the conceptual plans and will return at a future meeting with a formal request for approval.
South 22 could be one of several planned housing projects in Garfield Township and the surrounding communities that are helping to bridge an increasing gap between supply and demand for rental units. According to a new report from Housing North and Networks Northwest that analyzed housing demand in the 10 counties area over the next five years, the area could support over 15,000 new housing units by 2025, including 10,880 rental units and 4,660 owner-occupied units. The greatest need is in Grand Traverse County, which is nearly half the rental need with a need of 4,085 units.
According to Northern Express, sister publication of The Ticker this week, the offer doesn’t even come close to the number of units needed. Recent statistics show the region is adding about 1,000 units annually, far less than 3,000 units, to keep up with demand. In the meantime, short-term rents have further exacerbated the crisis. Although northwest Lower Michigan lives just three percent of the state’s population, it makes up a quarter of Michigan’s short-term rents. From 2016 to 2018, the offers increased by 233 percent. Those numbers have continued to rise during the pandemic with around 180 percent growth over the past year.
“We’re just trying to get a pulse on what people really need,” Yarrow Brown, Executive Director of Housing North, told Northern Express about the new report. “And I think sometimes we don’t know [what we need] until we really dive into a market study or do a survey. It is really important that every community understands their needs so that they can get their residential goals in order. We shouldn’t just build things that think they’re going to be filled. It will of course be filled in the face of the market. But there is still a lot of empty land that is set up for development that has not yet been built on. How can we incentivize those properties that are ready to develop and get the right types of units on them quickly? “