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TC residents speak out against nine-story development

The WODA Group

A proposal to build two nine-story mixed-use buildings in downtown Traverse City ran into a buzzsaw of opposition last night. Residents warned the city commission the buildings would change the character of downtown.

But supporters say the extra housing is desperately needed for the city’s growing workforce.

It’s too early in the process for commissioners to give the project an up-or-down vote. That will likely come next month. What they did last night was get into the details. Commissioners asked how much the rent would be, how many trees would be removed and what kind of fire suppression system the buildings would have.

“I even have questions about where people will do their laundry," said Commissioner Jeanine Easterday, who urged caution on moving forward and suggested a study session to ask more questions.

A line of people spent an hour testifying about the project. Most of them, like Mike Jackson, were opposed.

“This proposal is not in keeping with either the character or the ambiance of Traverse City," said Jackson. "Nine stories is at least three too many and we don’t need it.”

Mayor Michael Estes pressed designer Doug Mansfield on why the buildings need to be nine stories tall.

“You can build, by right, five floors," said Estes. "So why do have to build nine?”

“We’re building downtown on a very expensive piece of property and we need to go up, in order to do this," said Mansfield.

Paul Danielson owns two Traverse City restaurants and also lives in the Slabtown neighborhood, near the building site. He said he would prefer to see Traverse City grow up – and not out.

“We need people," said Danielson. "We need employees. We need people that power this town. And if we don’t have those people that live here and can afford to live here and want to live here, then we’re going to burst the bubble that we have that’s the growth of Traverse City.”

In the end, commissioners took Easterday’s suggestion, scheduling a study session to ask more questions before a public hearing September 21st.