Updated: Dec 19, 2019
A downtown housing project was approved in Boyne City after a process of community engagement, a sharing of opinions and concerns, and education about the project.
A downtown housing project was approved in Boyne City after a process of community engagement, a sharing of opinions and concerns, and education about the project. Ultimately the Lofts on Lake Street was unanimously approved by the Boyne City Planning Commission and City Commission.
The Lofts on State Street is a project of the nonprofit organization Michigan Community Capital. The three-story, 40-foot building will include both residential and commercial space in downtown Boyne City, in the DDA district. The first floor will house about 9,000 square feet of retail space, and will include 6 studio apartments, 28 one-bedroom apartments, and 8 two-bedroom units on the second and third floors. Rental units will include a mix of workforce and market rate housing, with income restrictions.
Plans for the project met with community concerns and opposition when they were originally presented in 2018. During pre-application meetings, members of the public expressed concern over issues such as building height, building style, and parking. The original development proposal was for a four-story building. While the building height was consistent with local zoning requirements, the proposal featured what local residents considered a more urban design, not in keeping with the character of Boyne City. The developer and residents met after the initial meeting to address the concerns, and an alternative plan was developed. The building was changed to three stories, the design and facade were changed to be more in keeping with the community’s vision, and parking concerns were addressed. The developer, business owners, and residents worked thoughtfully through the process and came to a plan that worked for both the developer and the community.
When the revised plans were presented in May 2019, nearly all of the public comment provided was in support of the project.
Public support for the project was important not just for zoning, but for decisions about local tax incentives. In order for rents to remain affordable to the community’s workforce, the approximately $9 million project required some subsidy, in addition to equity provided by Michigan Community Capital and a Community Revitalization Program (CRP) grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A ten-year tax abatement was approved by the Boyne City Main Street DDA and by the City Commission.
What’s more, public support was instrumental even before the process began: Michigan Community Capital said that Boyne City was brought to their attention for development because of progressive work being done by Boyne Housing Solutions, a task force of community activists working to provide attainable housing in the community. The project’s introduction and approval demonstrate the power of local networks in bringing partners together to address housing needs and solutions.