Costco is the first domino in a series of potential developments on South Airport Road that could eventually include a hotel, retail center, restaurant, and senior housing development, according to project documents.
Costco commissioned a traffic study from engineering firm GRAEF to determine potential impacts of opening a 156,170 square-foot retail store on the northeast corner of South Airport Road and Fly Don’t Drive on Cherry Capital Airport property in 2017. In addition to evaluating Costco’s impact, the study references several other projects planned for the corridor.
“Based on discussions with the Cherry Capital Airport Authority, the remaining three parcels surrounding the proposed Costco development are anticipated to be a hotel (125 rooms) and approximately 28,000 square feet of warehousing,” GRAEF wrote. A future retail development is also “anticipated to be located in the southeast quadrant of the South Airport Road intersection with Townline Road.” That development shows 30,000 square feet of retail space and a 7,000 square-foot “high turnover sit-down restaurant.”
Further up the corridor, an off-site senior living development “is proposed to be located south of South Airport Road along the west side of Three Mile Road,” East Bay Township officials told GRAEF. The traffic study mentions a 360-unit congregate care facility, 100-bed nursing home, and 123,000 square feet of retail space at the site.
Those developments will likely require significant traffic improvements in the corridor in the future, according to GRAEF. In the interim, however, Traverse City planning commissioners will first focus on Costco and its impact. The national retailer faces one of its last major hurdles tonight (Tuesday) to opening a new store in Traverse City: site plan approval from the city planning commission.
Costco’s site plan offers a new detailed look at specs and renderings for the proposed development. The project will include a Costco’s retail store, an attached tire center, and an eight-pump gas station. The development will be serviced by 753 parking spaces, as well as bike access/storage and a pedestrian path stretching from South Airport Road to the store’s front entrance.
In a memo to planning commissioners, Cherry Capital Airport Director Kevin Klein said the architectural features and landscaping of the new Costco building will complement those of the airport, including “stone work, columns and earth-tone colors.” Costco will be buffered by the existing tree line on South Airport Road to extend the “up north feel” of the airport entrance, and will incorporate “downward facing lighting to protect the night sky and avoid interference with flyers utilizing the airport.”
Klein also outlined the partnership potential offered by having Costco next to Cherry Capital Airport, which will earn close to $170,000 annually from the store’s lease. In addition to interconnected pedestrian and bike networks, Fly Don’t Drive (the airport’s entrance road) will serve as one of three access points to Costco. “Costco’s site plan addresses a valuable need by providing a fueling station conveniently located directly off Fly Don’t Drive,” Klein wrote. “This will greatly assist those airport customers that rent vehicles and need to return them with a full tank of gas.”
In a memo to planning commissioners, city planning staff recommended approving Costco’s site plan tonight – albeit with several key conditions. Those include updating the store’s stormwater control measures, finetuning bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and either downgrading Costco’s planned signage or requiring the store to obtain a zoning variance. But the most significant condition will likely hinge on Costco making traffic improvements to the South Airport Road corridor prior to the store’s opening.
According to GRAEF, the store is expected to generate 7,340 weekday and 9,530 weekend trip ends (counting vehicles both entering and departing). In addition to access from Fly Don’t Drive/Townline Road, customers will be able to enter Costco from two other points on South Airport: a new right-in, right-out driveway east of the airport entrance, and a new road into the development (accessible from all directions) closer to Three Mile Road.
Traffic Services Supervisor Garth Greenan of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission says the turn lanes required for the store entrances will “essentially make (South Airport) a three-lane road between Townline Road and the new Costco road.” The Road Commission is working with Costco on turn lane placement/length and “stacking space” for cars waiting to turn into the store to ensure those don’t “interfere with traffic flow” in the corridor, Greenan says.
Turn lane improvements and safety upgrades – including longer red light clearance intervals, new signal heads for each traffic lane, and optimized signal timings – are also recommended for the intersection of South Airport and Garfield roads. Should planning commissioners make the traffic improvements a condition of site plan approval, Costco would be responsible for funding and implementing the upgrades before opening, with final road permit approvals coming from the Road Commission.