TC Housing Commission and BATA closing on LaFranier property, prepare to move forward with housing/transit center

The Traverse City Housing Commission (TCHC) and Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) have closed more than 50 acres of property near the intersection of LaFranier and Hammond Roads – a critical step toward building a transit center and accommodation provided on site. TCHC also received $6 million in the state’s recently approved budget for workforce housing on the property, potentially paving the way for construction of the first apartments to begin next spring.

TCHC and BATA completed the purchase of the LaFranier Road property on August 1, according to TCHC Executive Director Tony Lentych. Both entities received approval from the Township of Garfield earlier this year for a planned unit development (PUD) for the site, or a zoning plan tailored to a specific property. BATA plans to build a new 87,000 square foot headquarters – including administrative offices, a bus storage garage, and maintenance and dispatch facilities – as well as a new bus transfer station. BATA’s portion of the project is estimated at $28 million, with the organization already receiving $13.3 million in federal funding and working to secure additional federal and state support to fill the funding gap.

TCHC plans to build a workforce housing complex called The Flats at Carriage Commons (pictured, rendering) with more than 200 rental apartments, which will be income-tested and cost between $680 and $820 a month for residents current rates including all utilities. Fifteen Habitat for Humanity single-family homes, a daycare center and a coffee shop are also planned, bringing the residential component of the project to approximately $65 million. The development also includes the permanent preservation of 20 acres of forested wetlands to protect the headwaters of Mitchell Creek. According to the project partners.

Because the LaFranier property is zoned for housing, not a transit development like BATA’s, Garfield Township administrators wanted guarantees that housing would be built as part of the project. They attached conditions to their PUD approval stating that TCHC must have either an award from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) or a “matching grant award” for workforce housing before BATA can begin construction on his side of the project. The terms also state that TCHC must begin housing construction before BATA can apply for a certificate of occupancy. Lentych says he thinks the $6 million allocation in the state’s recently approved budget for The Flats at Carriage Commons will fulfill the first requirement. BATA executive director Kelly Dunham agrees.

“We hope, and are confident, that the $6 million allocation from the state will provide adequate funding for (TCHC) to start the project, and that it will be sufficient for the needs of the township to give the green light to BATA,” she says. TCHC is also submitting two applications to MSHDA this summer and fall for additional funding, with the goal of starting Phase 1 of apartment construction next spring, estimated to cost between 20 and 22 million dollars.

This project could see TCHC build its first two apartment buildings, containing around 110 to 120 apartments. “We would lead the way in the spring if we got one or both of the awards (MSHDA),” says Lentych. “Timber prices are falling, and we’re trying to achieve economies of scale with construction.” Up to three more multi-family buildings could be built over the next few years, bringing the total number of rental apartments to more than 200. TCHC and BATA estimate that fifty new full-time positions will be created due to housing development and the transit in transit, child care, retail and housing, with over 75 core construction workers employed during the various construction phases and over $15 million generated in short-term local expenses.

The project may be followed by even more residential construction directly to the east of the property near the intersection of Hammond and Garfield. Township of Garfield planning commissioners recommended approval on Wednesday of an application to rezone nearly 24 acres of land – originally part of a larger parent parcel that included the BATA/TCHC site before properties were divided – from agriculture to multi-family residential. The property was historically used for agricultural purposes, but has not been actively cultivated recently. Extensive wetlands populate the north and west sides of the plot. The township’s future land use map calls for the property to be used for high-density residences, which is consistent with the rezoning request, staff said.

Outlook Development, the rezoning applicant, wrote that the application “will allow new opportunities for the development of new housing for the much needed workforce”. The size of the property could allow the construction of “80 new affordable housing units“, according to the company. Township staff determined that the rezoning to multifamily residence “provides an acceptable transitional land use between commercial uses at the intersection of Hammond and Garfield Roads and industrial uses south of Hammond Road to the single family residence in the Carriage Hill Subdivision to the North.” With the unanimous support of the Planning Commissioners, the rezoning application now heads to the Township administrators for final approval.

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