Traverse City DDA Addresses Parking Concerns for Closing Front Street

City Commissioners made it official on Monday night: a small part of downtown Traverse City will be closed to traffic for the rest of the summer.

Commissioners agreed to close two blocks of Front Street starting the week of June 22 and lasting through Labor Day. That is causing some questions and concerns about parking in the downtown area.Street Parking

Curbside parking will be impossible—and feeding the meter will be unnecessary—in the 100 and 200 blocks of East Front Street, between Park and Union Streets.

The goal is to support businesses like restaurants and retail that are limited to 50% capacity because of coronavirus and let them add additional space outside.

Harry Burkholder is the COO of the Downtown Development Authority. He says, “Restaurants could have outdoor seating within the parking spaces in front of their establishments and provide several tables and could expand their capacity for the summer.”

Parking DeckThe DDA says they’ll lose about 80 spaces in the two blocks of Front Street.

They’re encouraging people to use the side streets, the nearby Hardy Parking Deck (in the 300 block of East Front), and Lot B, which is normally used for the Farmer’s Market.

“Parking is always a concern,” Burkholder says. “I think we’ve addressed that though, since closing the blocks will be eliminating some accessible parking spaces. But we’re going to move those to the side streets. So on Cass and Union we’ll have some accessible parking. The two decks are open (Hardy and Old Town). We also have surface lots adjacent to downtown, so there’s going to be plenty of places for people to park.” Farmers Market Parking

Emergency vehicles will still have access and delivery drivers may use the side streets like Cass and Union and back alley entrances for access.

Burkholder says business owners can use the curbside parking spaces outside of their establishments, but “the two lanes of roadway would be closed and preserved for emergencies.”

As for the side streets, he adds, “We’re going to have loading zones next to those accessible parking areas. So if there’s FedEx or mail delivery, they can park in those loading zones. There are some concerns about traffic in the alleyways, not only for businesses looking for deliveries but people who live downtown. So we’re going to address that as the summer goes on and find ways we can make that work.”

Handicapped accessibility and visitors with limited mobility are also being taken into account.

“We’re looking at ways to address those concerns,” Burkholder says. “Certainly, we want to have those accessible parking space close to the intersection of Front Street on Cass and Union so people have close proximity to those blocks. We are looking at ways to maybe include a drop-off zone at those intersections. Really, all options are on the table.”

BATA Bus routes will be modified as well.

Director of Communications Eric Linguar says, “We’ll have to modify some of our routes a little bit with the new direction on State Street (becoming a two-way for those two blocks) and things like that, but the impact shouldn’t be too large for us. With parts of downtown Traverse City blocked off and less parking available in that area, people may consider using public transportation to get downtown and walk around and enjoy;  and take (BATA) back to their vehicles, versus trying to hunt for a parking spot.”

BATA says its existing park and ride services will continue; only two main stops on Front Street will be affected.

“At Meijer (west) and then Woodland Creek on the east side of town are both areas you can park and leave your vehicles and take the Bayline bus into town,” Linguar says. “And all of our village connecting routes have park and ride locations as well.”

On the two main stops on Front Street that will be affected, Linguar says: “We’ll have to just modify around that. Maybe we’ll add stops on State Street, or reroute the bus a little bit to get people as close to the downtown area as we can, and then navigate around it.”

The DDA says don’t expect to see a Friday Night Live atmosphere, with music and crowds, artists and activities. They simply are aiming for a safe and open space for pedestrians to shop and eat.

Burkholder says the plan may still be modified.

“We’ll be continually communicating with our merchants, our business owners, residents who live downtown as well as the people in the community to see how it’s working. This a work in progress. It’s outside the box so we will be learning as we go.”