The Discovery Center itself is a Rotary project: in 2006, Mike Dow donated the property (valued at $1.5 M) for the express purpose of creating a water-related nonprofit place of exploration, learning, and awareness, to Rotary Camps & Services, the land-holding arm of Rotary. The Discovery Center has a framework for managing the property, a sitting Board of Directors, a vision, and a plan for the future as a premier educational, recreational, and cultural attraction. The Community Pier and Harbor project has the full support of the Rotary Club of Traverse City. Rotary Charities has made major investments to insure the success of the Discovery Center. Rotary’s participation in the project lends it the credibility, weight, and experience of the Club’s service to the community for more than 95 years. Rotary is the logical owner and steward of the property, having demonstrated its commitment and success in managing property (over 1800 acres) for the greater public good. Some examples: State Theater, Park Place Hotel, Boy and Girl Scout Camps and large tracts of protected natural areas. Rotary has also incubated and contributed to many other local public projects, including the City’s bay front plan.
Our economy is regional; it does not respect jurisdictional boundaries. Restaurants, hotels, and retailers in downtown Traverse City gain with every dollar spent in the region. Citizens of Traverse City will benefit from increased economic activity generated by greater public access and water related pursuits. Visitors and Citizens of Traverse City and the entire Northwest Region already use the fabulous new Greilickville Harbor Park and will no doubt make use of the Community Pier and Harbor.
While owned by the City, TCLP serves customers in Elmwood Township and several other jurisdictions in the area, not just the City. Converting this former industrial property to a greater public use will benefit the entire region, not just Elmwood Township.
A transfer from TCLP to the City would restrict or limit many legal options (such as leases, use agreements, or transfer to other entities) since the City is bound by more restrictive statutes and charter provisions than a municipal utility. TCLP/City have no plans to use the dock; the Discovery Center plan is well developed and ready to go. This public asset has been sitting unused for a decade already.
By dedicating the dock as a Community Pier and Harbor, the property will not be given away; it will simply be transferred to an independent entity which will be responsible for managing it in a manner that will dramatically increase the value of this property for the community by providing public access to an asset already publicly owned. The true measure of the value of this public asset is its benefit to the community and its impact on the greater good for our region. It is not necessary that TCLP or the City own the property for it to serve the public. Another entity can hold and manage the property.
The Community Harbor and Pier will be a public open space created as an attraction to the residents of and visitors to our region. While there will likely be some fee-based activities in the Harbor (charters, boat tours, etc.), the space itself will be free and open to everyone. The Marina will contain private seasonal boat slips. The Community Harbor and Pier will be created on the public property currently owned by TCLP. The Marina will be connected to private property owned by neighboring properties to the south. While integrated into a single project, the private Marina does not utilize the TCLP property.
Selling the land to the highest bidder would only provide a short-term financial gain. That short-term gain would be insignificant when compared to the long-term value and economic impact to future generations of citizens and visitors that will be realized from an active waterfront providing public access, education, and recreation. The Discovery Community Pier, Harbor and Marina concept is in keeping with the City’s efforts to reclaim industrial waterfront for public use.
Additionally, is a massive private development on the dock preferable to opening an existing public asset to public use forever?
We believe the proposed “Discovery Community Pier, Harbor and Marina” is best dedicated to an independent entity (such as Rotary Camps and Services) for the following reasons:
o Active, working, public waterfronts becoming exceedingly rare, but very important economic drivers
o Needs for waterfront facilities and public access are continually increasing
o Logistical and operational control is necessary in order to manage all the organizations, activities and programming (It is not practical to be going to another body for constant approvals)
o Eliminates liability for TCLP and City
o Saves TCLP and City money by eliminating operating costs and potential future financial risk
o Preserves use of deep-water port through covenants or deed restrictions
On December 10, 2013 the Discovery Center ~ Great Lakes brought an exciting proposal to the Traverse City Light & Power Board. This proposal has huge potential economic, recreational, educational and cultural benefits to the residents and visitors of our region as an ACTIVE working waterfront with offerings such as:
- Major waterfront attraction – economic driver
- Port of call for cruise ships and excursion boats
- Public Fishing Pier
- Base for Fishing Charter fleet
- Base for Tall Ship fleet
- Water Taxi to Power Island and Clinch Park
- Scuba Diving Charters
- TACS High School Sailing Team practice base
- Bareboat Sailing Charters and Sailing School
- Access to boating through rentals, charters, memberships
- Pedestrian access point to the water
- Environmental and scientific learning opportunities
- Recreational activities for all ages and capabilities
- Maritime history education
- Community events like regattas, fishing derbies and Kid’s Free Fishing Day
- Expanded Discovery Center Member Non-Profit Programs and offerings
- Maritime Heritage Alliance
- Watershed Center-Grand Traverse Bay
- Great Lakes Children’s Museum
- Traverse Area Community Sailing
- 118 Market Rate Rental slips that generates the revenue to support all this
To learn more about the potential uses of the Community Harbor click on this infographic:
Proposed Community Pier and Public Access Hub
Note that we are the first to admit that parking on the dock is not desirable or highest and best use, but it allows this project to proceed until safe methods of getting users across the busy highway to remote parking are in place. Once that happens, parking can be removed from the dock in favor of activity space.
PHASE 1- Community Pier, Harbor and Marina