Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Experts Weigh in on Petoskey’s Big Hole

Back in 2006, 200 E. Lake Street – a gateway address with jawdropping views in downtown Petoskey – was poised for change.

Kristi Kates - February 10th, 2014  

A proposal had been approved for a new development called Petoskey Pointe, and there was a grand plan swirling around to turn the block into a multimillion dollar hotel, condo, parking, and restaurant project that some said would revitalize the Gaslight District.

The block-sized hole was dug. The retaining walls were put in place. The rest would never arrive.

In spring of 2013, Harbor Springs’ The Cottage Company announced a pending purchase of the property. The new hotel and a shopping district was rumored to be called The Petoskey Center.

But late last year, they too abandoned what was now locally nicknamed either “Petoskey Pit” or simply “The Hole.”

Would this prime block of real estate in downtown Petoskey ever recover?

Now it looks like it might. In December, a third developer purchased the property from Northwestern Bank: Grand Rapids’ Elias Amash, owner of Grip-On Tools.

Amash has reportedly made no decisions yet on what to call the project and details at this point are scarce. Many locals, however, seem to think that Amash’s intentions are in the right place.

Below, the experts – local and not – weigh in.

CARLIN SMITH, president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce

The chamber has felt, since the first development attempt, that a hotel/conference centers seem to be the most feasible as an anchor for the development, as the component that will bring the most economic benefit to the region.

We see downtown Petoskey as an attractive destination for small to mid-size conventions and we know that Petoskey continues to grow as a destination for weddings. We’ve also had numerous studies that have encouraged city leaders to grow residential opportunities in the central business district.

With the views this space affords, and the chance to develop parking as an integral component of the project, we think some condominium-style residential units would also be feasible and would be an economic benefit to downtown Petoskey and the surrounding region.

This area is a full city block, so it makes sense that any type of development will contain a variety of uses.

BECKY GOODMAN, Downtown Director, City of Petoskey

A hotel with conference capabilities would be a tremendous asset. We are so fortunate to have Stafford’s Perry Hotel here, but there is a limit to the number of people they can host. They also understand the value of bringing more people here.

Residences and a movie theater would also benefit the downtown business community. The theater that was on site many years ago drew people to downtown, and we lost hundreds, if not thousands, of visits to downtown per week when we lost that theater. Many people went shopping and had dinner or a coffee in the restaurants before or after the movie, so having these trips back to downtown would be to our advantage.

This is also an opportunity to build additional parking underground, and I would love to take advantage of that possibility. Simply put, the more people who come here, the more customers we have for our businesses. This site may be the most premier development site in northern Michigan, so there is a responsibility to develop it in a premier fashion.

ANDY HAYES, Pesident of the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance

It’s too early to get specific about what should be on the site. However, the block could and should be mixed use. Just like any block in any vibrant downtown, it should contain a mixture of commercial, residential, lodging, and restaurants – but whatever the mix is, it must be commercial viable and generate tax dollars.

That’s not to say that green space can’t be part of it, but downtown Petoskey and the entire community depends on the tax base from its commercial district to pay for the public infrastructure that the entire community enjoys.

For downtowns to be successful, they must have people that shop there, work there, and live there.

JERRY SNOWDEN, Commercial Developer at Snowden Companies in Traverse City

I think that location lends itself to a first-class, mixed-use project with a hospitality lodging and/or residential component to take advantage of the views over the bay on one side and walkability to downtown on the other. On site parking is a must.

While the real estate market is heating up and demand is increasing, for residential and commercial there is still a way to go before the market normalizes completely. Whatever uses end up at the site, it will be important to scale and phase the project properly so that it fits in with the surrounding buildings and does not flood the market with too much surplus inventory. That would hurt the project and the local market. It is a highly visible location and if you are coming from the south it is definitely a gateway site to the downtown area. For that reason it is a very architecturally sensitive site, so it should be a timeless design with longevity in mind.

PETER FITZSIMONS, Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau executive director

Sometimes we forget how special of a place this is we get to live in and don’t really realize the high regard that so many people have of our natural beauty, our hospitality and all of our offerings; the sense of place that has created lasting memories and a passion to return. And with these millions of treasured memories comes the corresponding implied responsibility of ‘Don’t screw it up!’ So should it have a boutique hotel, ethnic restaurants, condos, high-end retailers? As long as they are somewhere within the character, the scale, the walkability, and the architecture of the downtown I’ll be happy, because I never want to go on the road and get accosted by people asking, ‘What have you done?!’ This will be the gateway, like it or not, to the Gaslight Shopping District. It needs to mirror and accentuate the existing qualities in design and scale and needs to provide goods and services that will generate their own business, rather than dilute what is already here.

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