Rail Study, Climbing Facility, And More Ticker Updates

By Ross Boissoneau | Dec. 18, 2017

You read lots of news here (first) throughout 2017, but much has developed since we first reported some stories. So today and tomorrow (Dec. 18 and 19), we revisit Ticker stories to update them with what’s new.

Rail study to announce results next year
In February we reported on an upcoming passenger rail study that would evaluate the feasibility of running regular train service between Traverse City and Ann Arbor. We’ve now learned that results from that study will be announced by June, according to James Bruckbauer of the Groundwork Center. “The number one (query) from the public was connecting to Traverse City” from the south, says Bruckbauer.

Bruckbauer says the fact the railroads still own the tracks makes it much more possible. “The consultants will help us determine the next steps,” he says, including whether the operating entity should be a for-profit or non-profit and where the train should stop. The tracks go as far north as Petoskey, and go through Kingsley, Cadillac, Clare, Mt. Pleasant, Alma, and Ann Arbor, where they connect with other lines to East Lansing, Port Huron, Detroit and Chicago.

Chorus shows off in Vegas
For the Grand Traverse Show Chorus, the opportunity to perform in Las Vegas was a reward for finishing first in the regionals, which we noted in our October story. “We definitely came home on a high from our experience on the international stage,” says Jill Watson, the group’s director. Though the group achieved the highest regional score among the five finalists, it placed fourth in the finals. The winning group hails from Sweden, according to longtime member Marsha Minervini. She also noted that the competition came just a week after the mass shooting, and the group was among those that sang at various Vegas locales to first responders and others. “We sang in three different places. There were lots of tears and lots of hugs,” she says.

Climbing enthusiasts ready crowdfunding for new facility
Our October story on the purchase of 2.9 acres on M-72 west of Traverse City by Nancy and Larry Bordine earmarked for a climbing facility precipitated great interest among the climbing community. “We have been getting lots of excellent contacts as we travel down this road,” says Nancy Bordine. The group has settled on a slogan, incorporating the newly chosen name for the facility: Myself, My Challenge, MI Summit. The next step, says Bordine, is raising funds and greater awareness of the group’s plans. “We’re collecting information and will soon establish a landing page for crowdfunding,” she says. They will try to raise $250,000 for the building and equipment. Currently there is a 13-member steering committee, which will determine how to move forward and who will be on the board. “The center will be run by the board, which will set its operating procedures.”

Seniors coasting for free on BATA
Kelly Dunham, executive director of BATA, is pleased with the response to its free ride program for seniors. The Ticker reported on the COAST (Commission on Aging Senior Transit) pilot program between BATA and the Commission on Aging last month. The program was unanimously approved for funding by county commissioners, and in the first two weeks provided over 50 rides. “It runs twice a week, and in four days we had a total of 54 rides with 20 unduplicated riders,” says Dunham.

She says the response is in line with what was expected, and she is hopeful the program will continue to see growth. “The first two weeks are a small snapshot,” she says. The program will be reviewed after 30 days by the COA and BATA, and in 90 days by the county commission. Dunham says the ridership has been about evenly split between medical and personal needs, such as shopping. “It’s improved the quality of life,” she says.

Independent Bank To Acquire Traverse City State Bank

By Beth Milligan | Dec. 5, 2017

Independent Bank Corporation (IBC) announced Monday it is acquiring Traverse City State Bank.

According to a press release announcing the news, Traverse City State Bank will be consolidated into the IBC family and operate under the Independent Bank name, along with four other branch locations. At least two senior leaders of Traverse City State Bank – CEO Connie Deneweth and President and CFO Ann Bollinger – will continue on under the reorganization.

In a statement, Deneweth said: “We are very excited to join the Independent Bank family. We share a commitment to community banking, valuing our employees and serving our customers. This combination significantly enhances our capabilities including, larger lending limits, an expanded loan and deposit product mix, and more automated services. We believe this partnership is in the best interests of our customers and shareholders.”

Brad Kessel, president and CEO of IBC, said the deal would strengthen his company’s current franchise and support its “growth in the attractive Traverse City market with full-service banking through five locations.”

“We are excited to welcome the Traverse City State Bank team and together create an even stronger bank for the Michigan communities that we serve,” Kessel said. “We are pleased that Connie Deneweth will continue to lead the northern Michigan market. She is a respected business leader in the Traverse City area who will make a positive contribution to our organization. In addition, Ann Bollinger will lead the development of our wealth management services in Northern Michigan. Connie and Ann have built an exceptional bank with a strong foundation.”

The deal is expected to close in the first part of 2018. Subject to the merger terms, which were unanimously approved by both companies’ boards, Traverse City State Bank shareholders will receive 1.1166 shares of IBC common stock for each outstanding share of TCSB common stock, or 2.71 million shares of IBCP common stock in the aggregate. The transaction is valued at approximately $63.24 million, or 206.4 percent of Traverse City State Bank’s tangible book value as of September 30.


Sell Your Home With the Right Music



A little music may be just what your listing needs. Some real estate professionals believe that soft music playing in the background can be just the subtle, emotional pull that welcomes buyers inside your open house or house tour.

Tom Hignite, owner of Miracle HomeBuilders in Milwaukee, plays music during his open houses and tours, but he’s careful that his song choices fit the home’s vibe.

“It’s trying to create a sense that goes with the home,” Hignite told realtor.com®. “With a contemporary home, a lot of times it’s New Age … [it] sounds almost Zen-like. If it’s an older home, mansion-like, we’ll want to have classical music, maybe piano and violin music.” A property in an urban neighborhood may benefit from some jazz, he adds.

Researchers from Australia investigated whether music can truly turn a shopper into a buyer in studies conducted in 2015. Researchers found that study participants made meal choices that corresponded with the background music they heard. In a second part of the study, music also was found to make people want to spend more money than if no music was being played. Therefore, researchers concluded that music can add more perceived value to a product.

“Having some soft, soothing music playing at an open house does help with the sale,” Michelle Galli, a listing agent with Century 21 M&M in Los Banos, Calif., told realtor.com®. “It gives the prospect a calm, relaxing feeling … so they can picture themselves in the home in serenity.”

But the music choice is key, real estate pros say. You don’t want anything too loud and distracting, but you also don’t want anything too soft like “elevator” music, Hignite says. Instrumental jazz tends to be a good choice, agents say. For more insights on music choices, visit realtor.com®.

30-Year Mortgage Rate Hits New 2017 Low

30-Year Mortgage Rate Hits New 2017 Low



Borrowers applying for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage this week locked in the lowest rate of the year, as it dropped to its lowest average since November 2016, Freddie Mac reports. Additionally, “the 10-year Treasury yield fell 6 basis points this week amid concerns over lagging inflation,” says Freddie Mac chief economist Sean Becketti.

Freddie Mac reported the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Aug. 24:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.86 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.89 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.43 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.16 percent, with an average 0.5 point, the same average as last week. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.74 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.17 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.16 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.75 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Rent vs. Own? The Best Option in Each State

Rent vs. Own? The Best Option in Each State



Home prices may be on the rise across the country, but you’re still better off buying a home in most states in the U.S. than renting one. Consumers in only 11 states will find renting more affordable than buying a home, according to a new study by GOBankingRates, a personal finance website.

GOBankingRates analyzed the cost of renting versus owning a home in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Researchers looked at estimated rent prices for all homes listed on a real estate website. It then calculated the estimated monthly mortgage to own a home in each state, based on the median list price of homes, a 20 percent down payment, and a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Source: “The 2017 Cost of Renting vs. Owning a Home in Every State,” GoBankingRates.com (July 24, 2017)


Open House

Note that this information is outdated.

Totally remodeled 3 BR 2 Bath 2100+ sq. ft. year round home or weekend cottage! 75 ft. of private all sports lake frontage w/ dock included. Home boasts a bright open floor plan-tons of windows to capture the lake views from almost every room (sunrise/moonrise views), tile, maple hardwood & cork flooring, cathedral ceilings, huge living and family rooms w/ gas fireplaces, wrap around deck, mostly finished walk out basement (potential to make this into guest/in law apt. if desired), furniture negotiable, natural gas, municipal sewer, hi speed cable internet, and 32×48 drive through garage for cars + all the toys. All set on .40 acre wooded lot on very quiet street and walking distance into village & elementary school. Snow mobile trails just down street, 1000’s of acres of state land approx. 1/2 mile away. Easy drive to Traverse City, Cadillac, Kalkaska & more!

When/Where: 516 Howard Street Alley Fife Lake Mi 49633

City Commission To Consider New Housing Development, Second Solar Offer

By Beth Milligan | July 17, 2017

Traverse City commissioners will consider approving a rezoning request for a new housing development on State Street and putting a proposed solar energy deal on hold to consider a second proposal at their 7pm meeting tonight (Monday) at the Governmental Center.

State Street Developer
A development group hopes to fill a niche by building housing affordable to Traverse City’s “median household income” at a new townhouse site at 415 East State Street (pictured).

Old Silver Maple LLC – consisting of partners Chris Bzdok, Scott Howard, Ross Hammersley, and Colleen Mulligan – is proposing to convert the single home on the property into a six-unit, multi-family building. Each townhouse unit will offer two stories of living space and exterior windows on at least two sides. All units will have 1.5 baths, and four of the six units will have two bedrooms. Units will have sheltered parking for one car, include either a covered porch or balcony, and share a common basement with separate storage areas. None of the units will be stacked, according to developers.

Old Silver Maple is seeking city approval to rezone the site from R-15 to R-29, which would allow the developer to build up to seven units instead of the four allowed by right on the site. The rezoning would not change the height or setback requirements on the property. In discussions with city planning commissioners, developers agreed to limit construction to six units and to use architectural design standards that reflect the city’s master plan and surrounding Boardman Neighborhood aesthetic. Based on those conditions, planning commissioners forwarded the request to city commissioners with a recommendation to approve the rezoning. City staff are also supporting the request.

In a memo to city officials, developers noted that while Traverse City “is experiencing robust development of new condominium projects in town…the majority of new units are being offered at prices ranging from $350,000 to upwards of $1 million.” The group also pointed out that multiple apartment complexes are coming online in the region, helping to address a rental shortage. “In the space between high-end condominiums and new apartments, there appears to be little new housing under development in town that can be purchased with typical household incomes generated by the local economy,” the group wrote.

Old Silver Maple intends to sell at least five of its State Street units, with the sixth potentially used as a long-term rental. While developers didn’t specify an intended price range for the units, they indicated their goal was to cater to full-time residents in Traverse City’s median income range of $50,586.

Howard, one of the development partners, is the husband of City Commissioner Michele Howard. She told The Ticker she plans to recuse herself from tonight’s vote and discussion on the rezoning request.

Second Solar Deal
City commissioners were set to vote on a proposed solar energy deal with Heritage Sustainable Energy tonight – but may end up tabling the proposal to buy time to consider a second proposal.

Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) has already approved the initial deal with developer Marty Lagina of Heritage Sustainable Energy, who is offering to build a one-megawatt solar array on property next to his company’s wind turbine at the corner of M-72 and Gray Road. TCL&P’s approval is contingent on city commissioners also agreeing to the proposal, which they were set to vote on tonight. If approved, the deal would see Lagina sell solar energy to Traverse City to help the city meet its goal of powering all city operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The project would get the city nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal, but would require the city to pay a “green rate,” or subsidy, buying the energy at 11.25 cents per kilowatt-hour. That price is an increase from the average market rate of 8.9 cents. The deal is expected to cost Traverse City $25,000 annually for the next 20 years.

In a memo to commissioners Thursday, City Manager Marty Colburn said another company has come forward and offered to “supply the city with Michigan-based wind and solar energy at the capacities needed to sustain the city.” The company guaranteed “this supply by September 2017,” Colburn wrote. He also said the deal would “eliminate the proposed green rate surcharge” required under Heritage’s offer. Colburn asked commissioners for more time to research the second offer. City commissioners have until September 15 to make a decision on the Heritage deal under terms approved by TCL&P.

While Colburn didn’t identify the company behind the competing offer, TCL&P Exeuctive Director Tim Arends tells The Ticker the proposal was made by Spartan Renewable Energy, an affiliate of Wolverine Power Cooperative. He says TCL&P boad members were aware of the company’s interest in an energy deal but that Spartan Renewable Energy hadn’t submitted any formal type of proposal to the utility, prompting the board to move ahead with the concrete offer from Lagina on the table.

Spartan Renewable Energy is “interested in making an offer…and have claimed it would not require a green rate or subsidy,” Arends says. “Those are the fine details that need to be worked out. Their calculations may not be the same as ours.” Arends says the company would likely provide the city with power from both existing infrastructure and new infrastructure to be developed locally. Because TCL&P has already approved a contract with Lagina, Arends says his board will wait until city commissioners make a decision on one or both offers before revisiting the issue.

Housing Coming To Thirteenth Street?

Housing Coming To Thirteenth Street?

June 9, 2017
Housing Coming To Thirteenth Street?

A $700,000 purchase offer for a vacant Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) lot on Thirteenth Street could bring new housing to the corridor – though TCAPS board members will have to decide Monday whether to pursue the deal or open the property to other bidders.

Traverse City-based Socks Construction submitted an unsolicited purchase offer to TCAPS for nearly 1.8 acres of property across from Thirlby Field at the corner of Thirteenth and Wadsworth streets (pictured). TCAPS acquired the empty tract of land in 2001 in anticipation of future district growth, but has yet to identify an educational or capital use for the lot. The property is primarily utilized today for overflow parking at Thirlby Field. District officials indicated in December they were willing to consider other uses for the property, including selling it for housing.

In a letter of intent to TCAPS, Dave Socks of Socks Construction proposed dividing the property into 13 lots, with the company purchasing each lot separately for $53,846.15. Socks offered to purchase the first two lots immediately pending an agreement with TCAPS, then purchase the remaining 11 lots over the next three years, paying TCAPS for each lot as it closed.

While TCAPS Finance and Operations Committee members expressed interest in the offer Wednesday, the group rejected the concept of spreading out payment for the property over a multi-year period. “Our recommendation to the board would not be to handle it that way,” says Associate Superintendent of Finance and Operations Christine Thomas-Hill. “I indicated to (Socks Construction) that, after discussion with our attorney, we wouldn’t support laying it out that way.” Thomas-Hill says she asked Socks Construction representatives whether “they would still support moving forward to negotiate a purchase agreement (with different terms), and they said yes.”

Dave and John Socks did not return requests for comment Thursday on the offer or the company’s plans for Thirteenth Street. The property is zoned to allow for up to 14 single-family residential homes, which could be built by right on the site. At their Monday night meeting, TCAPS board members will review the offer and discuss whether to move directly to negotiating an agreement with Socks Construction or open the property to other bidders. A request-for-proposal (RFP) process could allow TCAPS to gather more details from Socks or other potential buyers on intended uses for the site, according to TCAPS board member Scott Hardy.

“We can define a process that not only asks them what they’ll pay for it, but what they’ll do with it,” says Hardy. “As a taxpayer-supported institution, we have to be conscious of how (the sale) impacts the neighborhood.” TCAPS could choose to use an expedited RFP process to avoid dragging the process out unnecessarily, as well as set a minimum bid level to eliminate low-ball bids, he says.

Hardy – who has a background in real estate – believes the $700,000 offer “is fair from a market standpoint.” A 2009 property evaluation listed a potential value of $350,000 to $420,000 for the lot, but Thomas-Hill notes that estimate wasn’t an official appraisal and is now nearly a decade old. TCAPS rejected a bid of $400,000 for the property in 2012 for being too low. Traverse City officials have pointed out the Thirteenth Street lot is one of the last remaining large, vacant tracts of land in the city, raising its market value and making it attractive for redevelopment.

The value of the land has made a potential scenario of affordable or workforce housing on Thirteenth Street increasingly unlikely, according to Hardy. “We’ve talked about if it could be a parcel for workforce housing, and as we crunched the numbers and talked to developers, people have said no,” says Hardy. “The numbers just don’t work in town. The costs are too high.”

Though TCAPS could potentially sell the property for far less than its market value in order to subsidize workforce or affordable housing, Hardy notes the district has a fiduciary responsibility to maximize its return on the property. “If we’re eliminating world language for $300,000, as a board member I have to consider, at what point am I adversely impacting our curriculum in order to solve a greater community goal?” says Hardy. “It’s the constant pull of government agencies: You have the fiduciary responsibility to get the most money you can from the property, and on the other hand, you have a duty to consider the impact on the community.”

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers – who lives less than two blocks from the Thirteenth Street lot – says he’s disappointed about the possibility of taking affordable housing off the table, but acknowledges the realities of the local market. “Affordable housing is difficult in an area like Traverse City, where the land values are very high,” he says. Carruthers says while workforce housing remains his first choice for the Thirteenth Street lot, single-family homes could also be a beneficial addition to the neighborhood.

“I just want to see housing there,” says Carruthers. “As long as it’s housing that has some character or style to it. Single-family homes, attached duplexes. I don’t really want to see it sold for high-end housing.” Referencing nearby Thirlby Field, Carruthers adds: “I can tell you, whatever housing is built there, they’re going to have to like football.”

Grocery Shopping Without The Store: My Shipt Experience

Grocery Shopping Without The Store: My Shipt Experience

May 30, 2017
Grocery Shopping Without The Store: My Shipt Experience

Shipt, the Internet-based grocery delivery service, which arrived at Traverse City Meijer stores via much fanfare a week ago, appears to be a gift from the grocery-getting gods: For $99 a year, or $14 per month, someone else will shop and stand in line for your groceries, then deliver them (free if your order totals $35+; $7 if less) to any address within its delivery radius, at a time you designate — often within an hour.

Shipt operates on the presumption that the busy, homebound or, like me, lazy will be powerless to resist its small per-item upcharge, which adds about $5 for every $35 spent.

It’s a smart presumption. Within 24 hours of the service’s TC launch, I signed up.

I had my reservations. We’re a family of four, with two tots in daycare and diapers. A monthly fee and average 20 percent “tax” on every item we buy is tough to take, no matter how convenient. And grocery shopping is, at its heart, an intensely personal pursuit. The chasm between green and ripe bananas is deep. Could I trust my shopper to pull the freshest milk from the back of the cooler? To squeeze my avocados?

There was only one way to find out. At 10am, I downloaded the mobile app and began selecting my stuff. Shipt doesn’t allow you to buy everything on Meijer’s shelves, but it lets you loose on about 55,000 items that include home, health, beauty and pantry products, as well as fresh produce, refrigerated and frozen items.

Given the bounty of selections — each showcased by a zoom-able package image, small description, and super handy tags identifying if it’s on sale or already in your cart — Shipt’s mobile app and web browser are surprising quick to load and navigate. You can search by product, brand, category, or what’s on sale.

One drawback to the hyper-abundance: Searching for one item, say, spinach, can yield 106 items, from one fresh bunch to the dozens of bagged, frozen, and spinach-incorporated baby food, pizza, dip, and dog-treat versions between. I spent significantly more time swiping and sorting to find my 10-ounce bag of NewStar Fresh Flat Leaf on screen than I would in-store.

Another con: Wine, beer, and liquor aren’t yet part of Traverse City Shipt services.

Still, you can’t underestimate the pros: I got a half-pound of Dietz and Watson Buffalo chicken breast on sale and without having to endure the sighs of the cantankerous deli-counter service staff. I shopped from our pediatrician’s waiting room. I shopped while I ate a cheeseburger. I ordered embarrassing and exceedingly specific personal items. I amended my list about 16 times throughout the day.

When I finally finished, at 5:30pm, my personal Shipt shopper immediately got to work. While my husband and I took a baby, a dog, and a toddler down the Leelanau Trail, I had only to respond to three texts: In each, my shopper suggested an alternative to an item I had selected that wasn’t in stock (you can opt to forgo those texts by directing your shopper to either pick or pass on all alternatives).

I requested delivery between 7pm and 8pm. At 7:22, I received a text that my order was on its way. At 7:50, my shopper appeared at our door. A sizable pro: Every item — produce, packaged, or personal — was the correct brand, quantity, and/or size requested. Eggs, unbroken. Chips, uncrushed. Nectarines, firm yet juicy.

The cons? Two: One, neither my asparagus nor kale was in a produce bag. Petty and not earth friendly, I know. But the thought of peel-less produce riding a checkout belt that also ushers along leaky packages of meat grosses me out. Two, my Shipt shopper was a heavy smoker, so our groceries smelled a little eau de ashtray. Not so bad for a box of stuffing; a big bummer for naked kale.

Truth be told, I’m undeterred. Our groceries could have arrived smelling like a dead possum, and I’d have gratefully received them. Because the fact is, our groceries arrived. I didn’t wait in a single line, navigate a single overcrowded aisle, or schlep a single bag. I swiped, selected, and then sat on my couch. $100 a year never tasted so good.


Kids Creek Restoration, Slowly But Surely

Kids Creek Restoration, Slowly But Surely

A $200,000 project to increase the floodplain of Kids Creek near Grand Traverse Pavilions is set to get underway in June – one of multiple projects planned to proceed in 2017 as part of a multi-year restoration effort to improve the health of the waterway and remove it from the state’s Impaired Waters List.

Sarah U’Ren, program director at The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, appeared before Grand Traverse County commissioners Wednesday to brief them on the latest project, set to take place on Kids Creek’s Tributary AA on the south end of the Pavilions campus near Grand Traverse Commons (pictured). “Our plan is to increase the floodplain, so we’re going to reduce the flooding problems that this area sees when we see heavy rains,” U’Ren told commissioners. “We’re going to add a 20-30 foot buffer along that section of creek, plant 65 new trees and replace two of the culverts.”

Because the project will take place on county land, The Watershed Center – working in partnership with the Pavilions and Team Elmer’s – required commission approval to proceed. But U’Ren noted to commissioners that the “biggest thing you guys need to know with this project is that it’s not going to cost you a dime.” Project funding will instead come entirely from a $728,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant through the Environmental Protection Agency, which was awarded to The Watershed Center for green infrastructure improvements and bank stabilization along Kids Creek.

Commissioners unanimously approved the Tributary AA project, which U’Ren says – pending issuance of a Department of Environmental Quality permit – should start in June and be completed by the end of July.

The Watershed Center has worked on Kids Creek-related projects since 2003, which is at least as long as the waterway has been on the state’s Impaired Waters List, according to U’Ren. A two-mile section of Kids Creek in Traverse City’s urban core was put on the list after stormwater runoff and sedimentation depleted the stream’s aquatic insect populations – one of the key indicators of stream health, and upon which fish populations depend to survive.

“Kids Creek is a great urban creek that provides a lot of habitat, and it’s a great a way to connect people to the natural environment. There’s good potential for fish habitat there, for birds and other wildlife,” says U’Ren. “It’s also our only impaired water (in this category) in our watershed here…in my mind, it’s also the only one impaired mainly due to stormwater-related causes.”

The Watershed Center has secured approximately $4.3 million to date for Kids Creek-related projects through state and federal funds, private grants, and donations from partners like the Pavilions, Grand Traverse Commons and Munson Medical Center. Completed projects to reduce stormwater impact on Kids Creek so far have included:

> “Daylighting” a 900-foot section of Kids Creek (redirecting the stream into an above-ground channel) running through the Munson campus, creating nearly a quarter-mile of new naturally meandering stream;
> Eliminating 72,000 square feet of impervious surface by converting parking lot to pervious pavers, as well as retrofitting a basin to a rain garden on Medical Campus Drive and installing downspout planter boxes;
> Retrofitting 3,100 square feet of Munson rooftop to a green roof;
> Installing green roof, underground filtration trenches and a rain garden at Munson’s Cowell Family Cancer Center.

Other projects underway or soon to be include enlarging the wetlands on the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Medical Campus Drive so more water can be captured during storms, preventing overflow into Kids Creek, and converting rock-filled detention centers off of Cottageview Drive into functioning rain gardens. The Watershed Center and Munson also plan to collaborate on stormwater reduction systems when the hospital builds its planned new parking garage in its existing parking lot. Additional rain gardens and bioswales are also planned throughout the project corridor, while other projects listed for 2017-18 include paving the dirt road between Spanglish and Left Foot Charley at the Commons to reduce erosion and runoff (directing stormwater into rain gardens), and installing bioretention basins and pervious pavement around Munson’s helipad parking lots.

U’Ren says The Watershed Center is nearing the completion of its first significant phase of work: reducing stormwater input to Kids Creek by installing green infrastructure throughout multiple sites around the stream. The organization will next switch gears the next several years to improving “stream function, installing better habitat and restoring sinuosity,” U’Ren says.

“We know it’s never going to return what it once was more than 100 years ago, when it was surrounded by forest,” she says. “We can’t make buildings go away. But it’s working within the confines of what we have…to restore health (back to the stream).”

U’Ren says she can’t estimate an exact dollar figure of how much investment is still needed to improve Kids Creek, as future projects have yet to be defined in scale and scope. Funding to complete the Kids Creek restoration remains a concern for The Watershed Center, with federal budget discussions this year including talks of either cutting or eliminating GLRI funding. The Watershed’s ability to obtain grant funding will determine if or when Kids Creek could be removed from the state’s Impaired Waters List, says U’Ren.

“It’s not going to be a quick fix, even if funding wasn’t an issue,” U’Ren. “Any project takes time. But if we were successful with funding, (Kid Creeks’ removal from the list) could be done in under 10 years.” The result, she says, would be a vibrant urban creek that “moves sediment at the rate it’s supposed to, has a healthy aquatic insect population, offers good habitat for fish, and has enough capacity to handle the stormwater it receives.”