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Making Smart Growth Happen
The village of Suttons Bay, located along the eastern
shoreline of Michigan’s scenic Grand Traverse Bay, created
a unique welcome mat for the picturesque community’s
many visitors. Thanks to an NAR Placemaking Grant to
the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR),
a once scruffy intersection has been transformed into a
cheery welcome and rest area for users of the Leelanau
Trail. The NAR Placemaking grants are designed to
assist local REALTOR® Associations around the country in funding lighter, quicker, cheaper placemaking
projects. In Suttons Bay, the grant helped turn an eyesore into an oasis.
Slightly more than 600 residents call Suttons Bay home,
but each year thousands of tourists from everywhere
visit the coastal community. It boasts a popular beach
and park and a large marina. The community doesn’t
have a stoplight, but what the walkable village does fea-
ture is a variety of retail shops, restaurants and charming
family-run accommodations. Many people arrive in Sut-
tons Bay via a network of trails, bikeways and pedestrian
ways called the Traverse Area Recreation and Transpor-
tation Trails Inc. or TART.
TART has transformed railroad corridors and other easements into popular recreation spaces. The 60-mile network
of trails attracts bikers and walkers for much of the year
and is groomed for cross country skiing in the winter.
Suttons Bay sits at the trailhead of one of TART’s most
popular trails. The 17-mile Leelanau Trail connects Traverse City to the south with Suttons Bay via a paved,
off-road trail winding through farmland and vineyards
and around lakes and ponds. Visitors don’t have to bike
both ways, but can take advantage of a bike and ride bus
that returns them to Traverse City.
For years, when TART trail users arrived in Suttons Bay
their first view of the community was an overgrown
intersection at the edge of town. Suttons Bay’s village
manager and Chamber of Commerce officials were looking for ways to provide visitors with some much needed
wayfinding signage and restore the community’s deteriorating red British-style telephone booths. It was just the
type of project for an NAR Placemaking grant.
“When I first learned about a grant that might be available, I immediately started looking for a suitable project.
It needed to be small scale, but permanent and not temporary,” explains Kimberly Pontius, executive vice president
TAAR secured a $2,500 grant and also added $500
of its own funds to the pot. That started the ball