TC DDA To Talk Downtown Initiatives, Parking As Part Of Budget
The board members of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will receive an overview of the proposed 2021-22 budget on Friday. This plan includes numerous downtown projects, including a potential retail incubator to help businesses introduce or expand post-pandemic, continued tree planting and embellishment efforts, ongoing support for a downtown police officer, and studies of possible changes to the city center State Street and the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market. While parking revenues have suffered a significant slump during the pandemic, they’re starting to bounce back this year, with tariff and meter changes underway to increase funds.
Jean Derenzy, CEO of DDA, will present the proposed budget for the inner city 2021-22 on Friday. The public hearing is scheduled for May 21st and final adoption is scheduled for June 18th. The DDA budget consists largely of four main sections: the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) 97 district, the Old Town TIF district, the general fund, and the parking fund. TIF 97, which covers most of the downtown area including Front Street and the Warehouse District, estimates the district’s taxable value at $ 155.6 million with an estimated $ 3.1 million in recorded taxes this year Fund will flow. Among other TIF 97 projects, Derenzy suggests continuing to fund a community policeman dedicated to the inner city. This position was created in 2019 and has two years left to land a contract with the Traverse City Police Department.
Derenzy also wants to budget for what she calls a “retail start-up program,” a type of incubator approved under DDA legislation in Michigan and used by cities like Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Sparta was to help new people start businesses or expand in cores in the city center. “As we begin to carefully end the pandemic, it is important to give people the opportunity to start or grow their businesses and help them get off to a good start and become self-sufficient and successful in our downtown area. ” Derenzy wrote to the board members.
Other priorities of TIF 97 are beautification – such as increasing the funds for heavily used facilities such as sidewalks and benches so that, according to Derenzy, the city center looks fresh, clean and well-kept – and the infrastructure. A new downtown tree management plan is expected to result in “significant” numbers of trees being replaced in the next fiscal cycle, while new studies could update plans to improve the farmers’ market and determine the cost of permanently turning State Street into a one-way street. Key questions that remain to be answered are plans for a new parking deck on West Front Street – Derenzy says the timing and cost of this project must be “clearly identified and discussed” so that the city and the DDA can move forward – and the final price tag for bridge projects in the city center. Repairs on South Cass, Eight and Park Street bridges should begin this spring, but bids just returned from the state turned out higher than expected, so staff are working to recalibrate budgets.
In the Old Town TIF district – formerly TIF 2, which covers Old Town, River’s Edge, and Midtown – the district’s taxable value is $ 68.4 million. This year the fund is expected to raise $ 565,959. The TIF district in the Old Town recently “reset” meaning the taxes recorded there are lower than the older TIF 97 district but will increase over time. One of the planned projects in the old town is the replacement of the more than 20 year old Midtown Riverwalk, which is nearing the end of its lifespan.
In the DDA General Fund, Derenzy recommends continuing a contract with Traverse Connect for economic development services. She also suggests that the Board begin “planning for the future” by looking at a “possible new administrative and funding structure for the DDA”. Derenzy says The Ticker’s strategic planning could examine not only the DDA’s organization and funding, but also the DDA’s partnership and service area (e.g. ongoing discussions to include Eighth Street in downtown). “We have been in this structure for years… it’s time to really look at a new vision. Maybe there is a different approach, ”she says.
Parking, the last major area of the DDA budget, saw a significant drop during the pandemic due to reduced traffic – including downtown employees working remotely – and several months when employees stopped enforcing meters the receipts. Parking losses were estimated at $ 1 million in the 2019-20 budget and $ 1.4 million in the 2020-21 budget (the city budget cycles start in July and last through June). The DDA had to use excess funds from previous years to balance the budget for two years and to cover the costs of the park structure. “We don’t expect the Hardy or Old Town revenues to cover the minimal operating costs until employees return to the downtown offices,” says Derenzy.
Tariff and technology changes are expected to help increase sales, especially with the upcoming installation of smart parking meters in the city center. Nicole VanNess, director of DDA mobility for transportation, says smart meters will be in May in the 100-400 blocks of the Eastern Front, 100-200 blocks of the East State, 100 blocks of the North and South Union, 100 blocks of North Cass and 100- 200 blocks will be installed by South Cass, 100 Block Park and 100 Block South Boardman. The new counters can take coins and debit / credit cards right in the parking lot. Later this summer, new Parkmobile stickers with a QR code will be introduced, which smartphone users can use to make a one-time payment without setting up an account. Measuring devices in the 100-200 blocks on the Eastern Front also have sensors that detect when a parking lot is being cleared and zero the time unused in the parking lot. When the meters are installed, slight seasonal rate increases are carried out. Coupled with the removal of downtown leisure buttons, the collective changes are expected to increase both park efficiency and revenue.