Garfield Projects Result in Removed Trees, Changes Look for Corridor

TRAVERSE CITY -The start of construction on a new housing development and a simultaneous Consumers Energy project to upgrade power lines and poles has resulted in the removal of dozens of trees along Garfield Avenue, temporarily transforming the look of the corridor.

A collaborative partnership between Midwest Property Development, Westwind Construction, TraverseCONNECT and Chemical Bank, the new Trailside45 apartment complex is under construction on 1.7 vacant acres at the corner of Garfield and Boyd avenues. The 74-unit development, targeted for a spring 2018 opening, is being marketed as a “welcoming community environment for young professionals and others in the community in need of affordable housing.”

According to engineering plans submitted to the city’s zoning office, construction of the Trailside45 complex required the removal of approximately 48 trees on the site: 43 on privately owned property, and another five on public property. While Zoning Administrator Dave Weston says the city has landscaping ordinances regulating trees and tree lawns, the screening of parking lots, and internal landscaping on properties, there are not specific policies in place on tree removal.

“We do not have a tree removal ordinance in the city, nor do we say if you take down a tree, you have to replace a tree,” says Weston.
But while the sudden removal of four-dozen trees on one lot has created a noticeable visual gap in the corridor, developers hope by its completion to transform the site into an attractive placemaking project, complete with TART Trail-adjacent apartments and new landscaping. Engineering plans call for the planting of 43 new trees on the site, including maples, oaks, spruces and Bradford pears. Ten of those plantings will be street trees along Garfield, while another four will be street trees along Boyd.

“The development of Trailside45 will bring a new standard for multi-family housing development to Traverse City, with forward-thinking amenities that will be second to none,” says Vice President/General Counsel Scott Knowlton of Midwest Property Development and Westwind Construction. Planned Trailside45 amenities include indoor bike storage areas, movable kitchen islands, open floor plans, wood plank flooring, contemporary cabinets and interior finishes, in-unit laundry, and a dog park.

Project partners have stated their goal is to offer “budget-conscious” units – which are not being subsidized through public funding or tax breaks – at a rate somewhere between “approximately $750-$1,000 per month,” a range described as “considerably below market rate in Traverse City.”

Meanwhile, construction of the new apartment complex prompted Consumers Energy to upgrade a 46,000-volt power line along Garfield Avenue, resulting in the removal of more trees on both public and private property, according to company spokesman Roger Morgenstern. “(46,000 volts) is considered high-voltage,” he says. “That’s the backbone of our electrical distribution system in the Traverse City area.”

A portion of the line is being rerouted behind Trailside45, while other sections are being upgraded with “new poles and wires to improve reliability,” says Morgenstern. In the case of high-voltage lines such as that along Garfield, Consumers Energy will remove any “trees that at their mature height come within 40 feet on either side of the pole line,” Morgenstern says. “We encourage residents to plant trees that won’t interfere with the lines.”

While Morgenstern couldn’t provide the number of trees that have been removed from private property in the corridor – removals facilitated through easement agreements with property owners – the spokesman says Consumers Energy has removed six trees within the city’s right of way. Three trees that were marked for a separate city trimming project were accidentally removed as part of the line upgrades, Morgenstern says. “There was some miscommunication, but we’re working with the city on (addressing) that,” he says.
City Manager Marty Colburn confirms the city is “negotiating with Consumers Energy in terms of remuneration” for the mistakenly removed trees.