Hotel owner hopes to move forward with multi-million dollar project

By spring, developers hope to start construction on a 80-unit apartment building, a 12-unit apartment building, a three-story commercial building, and a 310 space parking structure.

More affordable housing, conference buildings, and a new parking garage could soon be coming to Traverse City.

It's all apart of a multi-year project that started seven years ago, and could continue as early as spring 2015. Alex Mowczan, President of Summerside Properties and owner of Cambria Suites Traverse City, Best Western, and Comfort Inn hotels says he's excited to see it continue.

"We were working on different kinds of plans throughout the years and we feel really confident in this one that it definitely best serves the community need and also the college," said Mowczan.

The first phase of the project wrapped up when Cambria Suites was finished in 2009 and later stalled when the economy fell, according to project developers. The multiple phase plan, SkipStone Crossing, would start with demolishing the Shadowland Motel and two apartment buildings that sit behind Cambria Suites.

By spring, developers hope to start construction on an 80-unit apartment building, a 12-unit apartment building, a three-story commercial building, and a 310 space parking structure. Developers say a year after that they hope to start construction on the final phase of the project, a single-story executive training center that could be used for conferences, weddings, presentations, or as a smart-classroom.

Northwestern Michigan College has been involved in these plans, and could be using some of the buildings for student and staff use. If NMC decides to move forward in the project, they could use the 80-unit apartment building for student housing during the school year. In the summer, it would be rented out to visitors in the Traverse City area as extended-stay residences.

"We've go our dorms that look like they're basically going to be at capacity again for the fall which is great but we know there's a need and if we had more rooms for students we would be able to take advantage of that," said Andy Dolan, NMC Executive Director of Public Relations.

NMC is also considering using the three-story commercial building as space for administrative offices, and the college bookstore.

The parking deck would primarily serve those who live within the development or work in/use any of it's surrounding buildings, however project leaders say there will be excess capacity at times that will be available to the public for events at NMC or the Dennos Museum. Staff and student vehicles at NMC could also be relocated there, which would free up more space in the existing NMC parking lots.

The entire project would cost around $37 million. Developers are hoping to get a tax reimbursement through the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Authority for the cost to construct the four level private parking deck. The reimbursement would be about $8 million.

The Development Consultant for the project, Mike Wills, says the parking deck will create a larger tax base that would pay off it's cost in about 13 years.

"By taking the cars off of the surface and stacking them up it leaves more room for development, more room for buildings and that creates a greater tax base," said Wills. "So for the city it's a return on investment issue."

Project leaders still need approval from the board to move forward with any plans.

Mayor Michael Estes says he thinks the initial plans sound great.

"On the surface it looks like a great idea," said Estes. "It removes some structures in the area that are antiquated and that really is an improvement in itself for the city. It will also ultimately raise the tax base in the area which is positive. And the whole concept of renting out to college students during those nine months and then using that space for visitors, when we're typically filled with outside interest, is a great idea. We need to hear about the details, what the impact would be on the city finances, if any, and after that. But conceptually the idea is a great idea."

Mowczan and Wills will be meeting with the Brownfield Authority on Wednesday to talk and get their opinions on the project.