The City of Traverse City has been the beneficiary of numerous donations of land or money for City properties, including:
Perry Hannah’s many gifts to the City (e.g. Hannah Park, Oakwood Cemetery, etc.),
Floyd Clinch’s gift of the West Bay waterfront creating Clinch Park,
The work of Dr. James Hall and others to acquire the Open Space,
Efforts of the community to acquire the former Smith-Barney property, etc.
Even the transfer of the TCLP Bayside Plat to the City to be included in the Open Space is a way that the City has benefited. In short, most of the City’s prized open waterfront was acquired through the generosity of the community, not through arm’s length purchases. Because of the City’s efforts and vision, other jurisdictions, such as Acme, have been inspired to acquire bay front property for public access.
Great effort has gone into acquiring private, often commercial water front for public use. With the former coal dock, a unique working waterfront is already in the public domain and can now be made accessible in to the public in unique and exciting ways.
No individual or private entity profits. The Discovery Center (a 501 (c) 3 non-profit entity) will be the operator of the Community Pier, Harbor and Marina taking all the financial risks and rewards to sustain the Phase 2 Discovery Center facilities and further its mission and those of its member non-profits. Generating an on-going revenue stream from related business ventures (referred to as a “Social Enterprise”) is an established practice for stabilizing funding for non-profit organization rather than relying solely on fundraising and donations. Conceptually, the market-rate rental slips will cover the non-profit aspects of the Community Harbor and generate about $80,000 a year, after all expenses and debt reduction, toward the operation of the Discovery Center. The State of Michigan will be paid about $25,000 a year for the bottomlands lease and the private property owners will be paid rent in roughly an equivalent amount for the use of their riparian shoreline and sharing their parking. However, they will not participate in any profits.
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.
Elmwood Township hosted this industrial use and has suffered the blight, traffic, and coal dust for more than 40 years without even the benefit of property taxes, while the City gets 5% ($1.6M in 2012) of the TCLP gross revenues. With this plan, Elmwood will once again benefit the Citizens of Traverse City through this facility in a very different and exciting way. TCLP has an opportunity to contribute to the change Elmwood is working toward.
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.
The Community Pier, Harbor & Marina proposal will preserve the ability for the dock to serve as a deep-water port, while providing beneficial use to the public. Covenants or deed restrictions protecting that option can be attached to the property. Selling the dock to a private for-profit entity would not preserve the use of the Pier as a deep-water port.