Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Jan 4, 2012): The DDA board dispatched with its January meeting in just under a half hour. The discussion by the board and the public about its main agenda item – parking rate increases – had already taken place at previous meetings.
The parking rate increases that will affect many downtown visitors will not take effect until Sept. 1. Among the increases to take effect eight months from now are an increase in on-street metered parking from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour and an increase in the hourly rate for parking structures from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour.
Other increases are set to take effect on Feb. 1: an increase in the premium permit parking rate by $5/month (from $175 to $180); an increase in the Ann & Ashley and Liberty Square structure evening/Saturday rates by $1/entry (from $2 to $3); a $1 increase in the 415 W. Washington lot entry (from $3 to $4) and a $5 increase in monthly permit rates (from $80 to $90/month) there; and an increase in First & William lot permits by $10/month (from $105 to $115).
A change of the effective start date – from Feb. 1 to Jan. 21 – will apply only to the meter bag rates. They’re set to increase by $5/day (from $15 to $20).
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved its 2012 calendar. Board meetings are set for the first Wednesday of the month, when they’ve typically been held, except for July 4. That meeting date was shifted to Monday, July 2.
The board also heard the usual set of reports from various subcommittees covering a range of topics, from the future of the midtown area – which includes the AATA’s Blake Transit Center and the Ann Arbor District Library building – to electric charging stations.
During his regular report from the downtown area citizens advisory council, Ray Detter remembered Ray Fullerton, a former member of that body, who passed away on Dec. 18.
DDA Meeting Calendar
The board considered a resolution establishing its annual meeting schedule. The usual meeting time is the first Wednesday of the month. Board chair Bob Guenzel noted that in July, the first Wednesday of the month is July 4. He suggested moving the meeting to Monday, July 2, and board members were amenable to that.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to adopt its 2012 meeting schedule.
The DDA board considered a set of parking rate increases – some effective starting Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, 2012, with others starting Sept. 1. The new contract under which the DDA operates the public parking system for the city of Ann Arbor gives the DDA the sole authority to set rates, but also requires the DDA to hold an annual joint working session with the city council on the subject of its parking plan. The working session took place on Nov. 14.
Another key feature of the contract is that 17% of gross parking revenues are paid directly to the city of Ann Arbor.
The mid-January and early February rate changes are estimated to generate a total of $133,000 in additional revenue annually. Increases and anticipated revenues are: raise meter bag rates by $5/day ($68,800); increase the premium permit parking rate by $5/month ($3,300); increase Ann & Ashley and Liberty Square structure evening/Saturday rates by $1/entry ($41,500); increase 415 W. Washington lot entry by $1 and increase permit rates by $5/month ($14,400); and increase First & William lot permits by $10/month ($5,000).
The change of the effective start date for the early-year rate changes (to Jan. 21 instead of Feb. 1) will apply only to the meter bag rates. The other set of early-year changes will be implemented starting Feb. 1.
Highlights of the more significant changes – to be enacted in September 2012 – include predominantly $.10/hour increases: hourly parking structure rates would increase from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour; hourly parking lot rates would increase from $1.30 ($1.50 after 3 hours) to $1.40 ($1.60 after 3 hours); hourly parking meter rates would increase from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour; and monthly parking permit rates would increase from $140/month to $145/month.
Of the categories of parking, monthly permits will increase percentage-wise the least (3.57%), while hourly structure rates will increase the most (8.33%).
At the Jan. 4 board meeting, it was Roger Hewitt who introduced the resolution to increase parking rates. He noted that the specific increases were laid out in the resolution. The increases had been previously discussed in committee and by the board, and had also been presented to the city council. A public hearing had been held on the subject that spanned two board meetings. He noted all four merchant associations in the downtown support the increases, and he described the rate increases as having been “thoroughly examined” by the public.
Prompted by a question from board member Nader Nassif, the clarification was provided that “hourly” parking does not refer to meters, but rather to the hourly rate charged at lots and structures.
Outcome: The DDA board unanimously approved the parking rate increases.
Parking: Monthly Report
Roger Hewitt gave the monthly parking report for November 2011 – the report is a standard part of every DDA board meeting. He noted that the revenues for the First & Washington lot were down to almost zero – it’s been closed because the land has been sold to Village Green to develop the City Apartments project. Overall revenues compared to November 2010 were up almost 11%, he reported. There had been a rate increase in the range of 6%, so revenues were up significantly above the rate increase.
The number of hourly patrons was also up, he said. Meter bag revenue was down because of construction being complete, he said. [Meter bags can be purchased to place over meters when spaces are needed for construction projects, for example.] Demand for parking remains strong, even in an economy that is not booming, Hewitt said. In the last 5 years, the number of hourly parkers increased by a total of around 500,000 people. So despite the sluggish economy, Hewitt said, a lot more people are coming to downtown Ann Arbor, and there’s a lot more activity downtown. Hewitt concluded that the new underground parking garage would be needed when it comes on line later this year.
Communications, Committee Reports
The DDA board’s meeting included the usual range of reports from its standing committees and the downtown area citizens advisory council.
Comm/Comm: New Members of Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council
Ray Detter gave the report from the DACAC, which typically meets the evening before DDA board meetings. Detter described how the DACAC is looking for additional members. By way of background, the enabling statute for downtown development authorities provides for the establishment of such a group:
125.1672 Development area citizens council; advisory body.
Sec. 22. A development area citizens council established pursuant to this act shall act an advisory body to the authority and the governing body in the adoption of the development or tax increment financing plans.
A city council resolution passed on Feb. 22, 2005 gave the DACAC its current definition, which includes a maximum of 15 members, all of whom need to be residents of the downtown area. Detter reviewed the membership requirement and said that the body had developed a list of 10 possible new members. At this point, Detter said, the DACAC needs three new members. Detter invited board members to convey any suggestions to city councilmembers, the mayor or to him.
Comm/Comm: Future of Midtown, Underground Garage
Reporting out from the downtown area citizens advisory council, Ray Detter noted that three students from Skyline High School and three from Huron High School had attended DACAC’s meeting. They’d gotten a lesson in downtown streets and geography, he said. Detter noted that the high school students were aware of the significance of the AATA’s Blake Transit Center and the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, and said they agreed that those two locations were central to downtown vitality.
Detter questioned the idea of putting 38 parking spaces on top of the new South Fifth Avenue underground structure as the process of determining the future of the structure’s top moves forward. Detter said he felt there should be some kind of “bow” to the desire that had been expressed in the community to have some kind of patio on top of the space.
During his report on the construction update for the underground parking garage, DDA board member John Splitt noted that the tower crane had been taken down. Street lights were being installed in front of the library. Work on the mechanical systems is proceeding inside the garage – a permanent electrical line will be installed sometime this month. Concrete will continue to be poured in the walls, but surface work will not continue until the spring.
Board member Sandi Smith reported out from the Midtown Discovery project – that’s the name given to the process the DDA is facilitating to find alternative uses for city-owned surface parking lots, including the top of the underground parking garage. Smith reported that the DDA’s leadership and outreach committee had done the groundwork of assembling all the different previous plans for downtown, including the Calthorpe report and the A2D2 rezoning project. The committee has reviewed those, and the next step is to think about how to engage the public.
Smith reported a presentation from the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to the DDA partnerships committee about the reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center and the connection across Fifth Avenue to Library Lane, a new east/west street that will be located between Fifth and Division, just north of the library building. She noted that the newly configured Blake Transit Center was planned to include a mid-block pedestrian connection of Fifth and Fourth avenues, running between the AATA parcel and the federal building to the north. Smith reported that the AATA is keeping its eye on potential for a new building on the former YMCA lot – north of William and south of the Blake Transit Center site – and is building the new transit center to anticipate future development there.
The partnerships committee had also heard from AATA board chair Jesse Bernstein about the AATA’s countywide plan, Smith reported. Bernstein told the partnerships committee that the Blake Transit Center would remain a center of activity for the AATA. [For Chronicle coverage of the new Blake Transit Center design, see "AATA Preps Stage for Future Transit Choice"]
Smith also noted that the committee had heard from Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker, who noted that AADL continues to have a tremendous amount of visitors for lectures and entertainment – not just checking out books. Smith also told her board colleagues that the AADL board had voted to begin looking again at the question of the downtown building. When the economic situation had changed a few years back, the board had paused the plan to replace the building. [For Chronicle coverage see: "Library to Restart Downtown Facility Review"]
Comm/Comm: Huron River
Reporting out from the downtown area citizens advisory council, Ray Detter said the DACAC had discussed the idea of connecting the consciousness of the downtown to the Huron River. A mechanism for achieving that would be to use the wayfinding signs already in place in the downtown. Detter mentioned the idea of pointing people to the new bypass around the Argo Dam. Detter said the bypass would be a “dramatic addition.”
Comm/Comm: Recharging Stations
DDA board member John Mouat inquired about the status of the plan to install recharging stations for electric cars in some of the city’s parking structures. Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, said that technology is evolving very quickly. Dave Konkle, retired energy coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor (who works as a consultant to the DDA for its energy saving grant program), had held an interview session with four different companies that could supply charging hardware, Pollay reported. Some charge faster, but use more energy. Some charge slower, and are designed for overnight use. She and Konkle are working with Republic Parking, the DDA’s parking manager, and will have a recommendation on charging equipment next week.
Pollay said the University of Michigan is working on the same issue and the DDA would like to use the same technology so that people have a uniform experience if they visit downtown. She said the new underground garage is designed so that as many as 300 cars could plug in. However, the DDA is not going to purchase the hardware to service nearly that many cars initially, she said.
Comm/Comm: Ray Fullerton
In his summary from the DACAC, Detter reported the death of Ray Fullerton, one of the DACAC’s former members. Fullerton passed away a few weeks ago [on Dec. 18], Detter reported.
Services will be held on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church, 517 E. Washington St. in downtown Ann Arbor.
Detter described Fullerton as an advocate for open space, bicycling and walking. Fullerton would be very hard to replace, said Detter.
The Chronicle archive has recorded Fullerton’s remarks during public meetings – delivered to the DDA board, the Ann Arbor city council, the park advisory commission, and the city planning commission.
Fullerton was a board member of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy. His remarks in support of a city council resolution on the Allen Creek greenway, made on Aug. 4, 2011, were summarized in that meeting report this way:
The greenway concept has been around for 30 years, [Fullerton] said. The conservancy was not asking for money, he noted, just a statement of support. Fullerton said that he and Jennifer S. Hall, another conservancy board member, had started in January to put all the bits of the resolution together. [Hall is a former Downtown Development Authority board member as well as former member of the city's planning commission and greenbelt advisory commission.]
In March, the resolution had been presented to their board. Fullerton stated he hoped that in the council’s wisdom it would see fit to go forward. He asked the council to trust the conservancy. A big question is which side of the railroad to put the greenway on. Fullerton said he looked forward to the good times that families can have walking and biking along the greenway.
Comm/Comm: Warming Center
Orian Zakai addressed the board on behalf of a group that’s been discussing an all-day winter community center. She described how the idea evolved from conversations in the Occupy Ann Arbor camp at Liberty Plaza at Division and Liberty streets. That conversation took place between people who have a warm space to go to and people who spend their time on the streets, she said. A space is needed where people can support and empower each other and where they can teach and learn from each other, she said. The energy and enthusiasm for the idea comes from conversations that have taken place at Liberty Plaza, at the breakfast at St. Andrews, and at the downtown district library, Zakai said.
However, Zakai reported that officials they’ve approached have been discouraging. She noted that the Delonis Center –a homeless shelter on West Huron Street – is not a day-time warming center. Second, she said, the overall attitude of some of the people that the Delonis Center might serve could be summarized by someone who explained why they did not want use the Delonis Center. That person asked and answered a question: Do you want to live in an institution? Neither do I.
Zakai reported that another person described the shelter as similar to a prison or a hospital. Zakai described speaking with officials of the Delonis Center who said they don’t want a community of homeless people – they want people to be placed in housing, with jobs. But Zakai contended that when people wind up in places where they are clearly unwanted, it erodes their self-esteem and leaves them with little self-confidence and little energy for finding jobs or housing.
Zakai said that organizers of the all-day warming shelter have a plan and have volunteers to implement it. She said their biggest concern is locating a site. She described prejudice and fear of change as the greatest obstacles. She asked the board for help in locating a space that could be donated or leased for the project.
Present: Nader Nassif, Newcombe Clark, Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Leah Gunn, Russ Collins, Keith Orr, Joan Lowenstein, John Mouat
Next board meeting: Noon on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. [confirm date]
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