Located along busy South Airport Road, with scenic vistas overlooking the Boardman River, Logan's Landing in Garfield Township seemingly has the right mix of ingredients to be a successful retail park.
But unusual challenges have caused the property – once Traverse City's hottest shopping and dining destination, before the Cherryland Mall opened in 1978 and the Grand Traverse Mall followed in 1992 – to languish on the commercial real estate market. The mall, last purchased by TM Logan's Landing LP in 1985 for $2.5 million, has seen a steady decline in visitors and has struggled to retain its tenants over the last decade as growth and competition around it has surged.
Complicating matters for potential Logan's Landing investors: Garfield Township's zoning ordinance, which has morphed significantly since the mall first opened several decades ago. Modernized regulations have turned one of Logan's Landing's primary assets – its proximity to the river – into a formidable development barrier.
According to Garfield Township Planning Director Rob Larrea, zoning regulations stipulate that commercial structures must be set back 75 or more feet from rivers, streams and lakes. Logan's Landing – which is closer than 75 feet to the Boardman – does not meet this code, and so has been grandfathered in as a “nonconforming” structure. This means that while the property may continue to exist in its current condition, its buildings can never be extended, expanded or enlarged upon – nor undergo any kind of change of use.
“Logan's Landing is essentially a collection of old buildings that haven't been built to modern specs,” explains Garfield Township supervisor Chuck Korn. “For zoning purposes, it's mostly a functionally obsolete area.”
The zoning code is ominously clear on the long-term goal for nonconforming structures within the township: “It is the intent of this ordinance to permit legal nonconforming lots, structures or uses to continue until they are removed...but not to encourage their survival.” Owners looking to make repairs to buildings at Logan's Landing for maintenance purposes are allowed to do so, but can never spend more than “30 percent of the assessed value of said structure” on improvements.
That improvement cut-off – coupled with the restrictions on expansion and the ban on any change of use – makes meaningful development or modernization of the property prohibitive, if not outright impossible.
Some tenants remain hopeful that the right developer could still bring new life to the property. Melinda Pokorzynski of KinderMusik and Penny Morris of Crystal Bindi Studios, neighbors at Logan's Landing, say the complex's affordable rental rates made it possible for them to get their companies off the ground and that the area has “great potential.”
“For a business like mine – basically a hobby of the heart which grew exponentially but doesn't yet make a ton of money, Logan's Landing is the perfect place (to operate),” says Morris.
Given the site's proximity to the Boardman, some township residents have suggested Logan's Landing would be better served as a public park than a commercial development, with canoe and kayak launches on the river and possible docks or boat slips, according to Korn. But tenants contend that a number of businesses – including Panda North and Ebb Tide Resale Shop – have called the property home for years, and that ousting all the renters, however small in scale, would be an economic blow to the community.
Logan's Landing may yet see some development light. Vincent Amroian, owner of Vince's Fine Jewelers in the mall, recently purchased the east parcel of the property (a 14,000-square foot building) on December 29 for $645,000. He has not yet announced his intentions, but sources familiar with the deal say he is likely to make his plans public in the coming weeks.