Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (April 2, 2014): On a day when most of the routine work of local government was overshadowed by a visit from U.S. President Barack Obama, the Ann Arbor DDA board approved over $1.2 million in grants.
A $674,264 grant to support the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s getDowntown program will allow employees of participating downtown Ann Arbor businesses to use their go!passes to ride the bus for another year, without themselves paying a fare for any of their bus boardings. That’s a program the DDA has funded out of public parking system revenues for over a decade
In other transportation-related business, the board approved a resolution that expresses notional support, but not does not commit any funding, for the third phase of a study for a high-capacity transportation system – stretching from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street, then further south to I-94. The third phase of this connector study will be an environmental review. The resolution of support will be used as part of an application, due April 28, for a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER 2014 (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant.
A $600,000 grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission will be invested in capital improvements to two properties in or near the DDA tax capture district: Baker Commons and Miller Manor. Baker Commons is a 64-unit building located at the southeast corner of Packard and Main, within the DDA district. Miller Manor is a 103-unit building on Miller Avenue outside the DDA district, but within a quarter-mile of the district boundary. That conforms with the DDA’s policy on use of its tax increment finance (TIF) funds for housing. The $600,000 is to be paid in three $200,000 annual installments starting this year.
The board also approved a policy that provides guidelines for defining a “community benefit” – when it comes to evaluating the elimination of on-street parking spaces in downtown Ann Arbor. That policy comes in the context of a related city council-approved policy setting the fee for permanent removal of an on-street metered parking space. If a new development requires the elimination of an on-street parking space, the developer is required to pay $45,000, plus some of the projected future revenue the space would have generated. But an exception can be granted by the DDA – which operates the city’s public parking system under contract with the city – if it’s determined that the parking space removal is a “community benefit.” Exceptions could include new developments that meet or exceed goals laid out in various existing plans or public health and safety codes.
In other business, the DDA board denied the appeal of a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, affirming a decision to redact a portion of a public document that had been available for several years in un-redacted form on the city of Ann Arbor’s website.
The board also held a closed session lasting about a half hour, citing a desire to review the written opinion of legal counsel.
During public commentary, the board heard a pitch from Alan Haber for the DDA to be a partner in creating an Earth Day (April 22) celebration on the surface of the Library Lane underground parking structure. Also during public commentary, the board heard from Shary Brown, thanking the DDA for its past support of FoolMoon and FestiFools. This year’s events, held in downtown Ann Arbor, take place on the first weekend in April.
Among a range of various updates, the board received a presentation from public art commissioners on the status of the East Stadium bridges public art project. It’s a presentation that the art commission is providing to several boards and commissions, including the planning commission at its April 1, 2014 meeting.
Funding for go!pass
The DDA board considered a resolution funding the getDowntown’s go!pass and other programs with a grant of $674,264.
A go!pass allows employees of downtown organizations to ride the bus, without themselves paying a fare for any of their bus boardings. The DDA has funded the program – out of parking system revenues – for over a decade.
Fares for go!passes are paid by the Ann Arbor DDA out of a grant from the DDA board to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s getDowntown program.
That amount includes operational and administrative overhead as well as reimbursements for fares.
Under the rules of the program, a business or organization located within the DDA’s tax capture district can purchase bus passes for its employees for a nominal $10 apiece.
However, an “all-in” rule of the program requires that passes must be purchased for all employees, whether the passes will be used by every employee or not.
The DDA reimburses the AAATA based on the actual use of go!passes, which has shown steady increases over the last 10 years:
As a fraction of total rides taken on the AAATA, go!pass rides account for about 10%. The amount reimbursed by the DDA per go!pass use is $0.90. A “use” is a boarding of a bus, not a “connected trip.”
If a go!pass holder has a commute that involves a transfer from one bus route to another, then commuting both ways to work – which would count as just two connected trips – would generate a total of four boardings. The $0.90 go!pass cost per boarding is based on the number of boardings an average holder of the AAATA’s 30-day pass makes – divided into the cost for such a pass. A 30-day pass, with unlimited boardings, is available to anyone and costs $58. A holder of a 30-day pass who commutes both ways to work five days a week, using routes that require a transfer, would effectively be paying $0.64 per boarding [58/(22.667*4)]. Transfers don’t cost any extra on the AAATA system – so compared to the $1.50 full fare, such a rider would be paying $1.30 per trip.
A breakdown of the specific costs the DDA board was asked to fund at its April 2 meeting includes the following, which amounts to $674,264 for FY 2015, compared to $610,662 in FY 2014. The amounts allocated last year for each item are indicated in square brackets. Descriptions are summarized from getDowntown descriptions.
- getDowntown: [$40,488] $40,000. Support for programs, services, outreach and marketing to encourage downtown employers/employees to use transportation alternatives. 2015 Survey of Decision Makers and Employers.
- go!pass: [$479,000] $529,000. Transit incentive for employees. Cost increase due to estimated 5% increase in ridership over FY 2014. Reimbursement is $.90 per ride.
- NightRide improvements and go!pass discount: [$18,233] $20,500. For evening employees who depend on transit to get to work. Increase in amount reflects an increased demand for service and increase in ridership.
- Route #4 Washtenaw enhanced service: [$56,363] $57,772. Bus route with highest downtown employee ridership. The increase reflects a 2.5% cost of living increase due to increase in diesel fuel cost and operator wages.
- Route #5 Packard enhanced service: [$16,578] $16,992. Route used by significant numbers of downtown employees. The increase reflects a 2.5% cost of living increase due to increase in diesel fuel cost and operator wages.
- ExpressRide go!pass discount: [$0] $10,000. Service from Canton and Chelsea to Ann Arbor.
Funding for go!pass: Board Deliberations
Keith Orr introduced the resolution on go!pass funding. He noted that the resolution being considered by the board continues funding that goes back about 12 years. Orr described the getDowntown program as a partnership between several organizations – the DDA, the city of Ann Arbor, and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. The DDA has always been supportive of getDowntown, because the whole point of the program is to get more people downtown, Orr said.
Orr described the go!pass program as a huge success in alleviating the parking strain on downtown. Orr then ticked through the individual categories of funding making up the $674,264 grant, which he said had been provided by getDowntown on request from the operations committee. He described the overall increase as about a 10% increase.
Director of getDowntown, Nancy Shore, was in the audience to answer any questions. Board members didn’t have any.
Al McWilliams abstained from the vote, noting that getDowntown is a client of his marketing firm, Quack!Media.
Outcome: The board voted to approve the getDowntown funding, with McWilliams abstaining.
Support for Continuing Connector Study
The board considered a resolution, added during the meeting, expressing notional support, without committing any funding, for the third phase of a study for a high-capacity transportation system. The system might be built along a corridor stretching from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street, then further south to I-94. The third phase of this connector study will be an environmental review.
The resolution of support will be used as part of an application, due April 28, for a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER 2014 (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant.
The lead agency for the study, which is now in its second phase, is the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. This second phase is an alternatives analysis. The alternatives analysis phase will result in a preferred choice of transit mode (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops. The study first winnowed down options to six different route alignments. Those six routes had been further reduced to two possibilities. Additional modeling work is being done on those two alternatives.
The first phase of the project – a feasibility study completed in 2011 – concluded that there was sufficient travel demand in the corridor to warrant some kind of high-capacity transit system.
Support for Continuing Connector Study: Board Deliberations
Roger Hewitt introduced the resolution and gave the background on the study. He described the mathematical modeling as using very complex software and data. The modeling generated ridership projections for various route choices, he explained. In the southern part of the route, there were discernible differences in ridership projections for different route choices, he said. In the northern part of the route, different routes did not display as marked a difference.
Out of the six, the technical committee had settled on two preferred routes that come from the north down through the middle of town. Those two routes are now being re-modeled after some revisions were made to those routes. One is a longer route that has more stops, while the other is a shorter route with fewer stops.
Hewitt allowed that the process had drawn out longer than anticipated. He did not think a final report would be ready before the end of the summer. He described the process as under on budget, but over on time. The environmental study phase of the project, Hewitt explained, would start after the completion of the current phase, which will determine a locally-preferred alternative.
There’s the potential for receiving federal funding for the environmental study, he continued. That would come through the TIGER program. The current round of funding applications are due by 28 April, Hewitt said. The advice of representatives on the technical advisory committee – which include representatives from WATS and MDOT – is that it’s probably too early to think that the project would receive a federal award.
But there was some value in putting the project on the federal funding radar so that in the next round of funding, it might increase the chances that the project would receive a grant award, Hewitt indicated. One of the criteria used to evaluate the merits of the federal grant is the number of partners who are involved in the project, he said. Hewitt noted that the project is a partnership between the AAATA, the city of Ann Arbor, the DDA and the University of Michigan.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the resolution urging the continuation of the connector study to a third phase, which will include an environmental study.
Housing Commission $600K Grant
The board considered approval of a grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission for $600,000 for capital improvements to two properties in or near the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority tax capture district: Baker Commons and Miller Manor.
Baker Commons is a 64-unit building located at the southeast corner of Packard and Main, within the DDA district. Miller Manor is a 103-unit building on Miller Avenue outside the DDA district, but within a quarter-mile of the district boundary. That conforms with the DDA’s policy on use of its tax increment finance (TIF) funds for housing.
The $600,000 is to be paid in three $200,000 annual installments starting this year. The grant will support planned capital improvements at the two public housing facilities. [.pdf of Baker Commons plan] [.pdf of Miller Manor plan]
The $600,000 amount pushes the total contribution by the DDA to AAHC – from 2012 through 2016 – to at least $1.16 million. The requested April 2 DDA board action came in addition to a $300,000 grant made by the DDA board to AAHC for Baker Commons a year ago at its March 6, 2013 meeting. That grant was for driveway and sidewalk replacement and repair; installation of energy-efficient lighting; insulation and air sealing; window replacement; adding a second entrance; door replacement; upgrade of fixtures appliances, flooring and cabinetry; replacement of heating and cooling units; generator replacement, elevator replacement, upgrade of common area furniture, and installation of additional security cameras. The DDA board’s April 2 resolution extended the term of the $300,000 grant, as the AAHC has not yet used the funds.
Prior to that, at its Oct. 3, 2012 meeting, the DDA board had granted $260,000 to the AAHC for the replacement of the roof on Baker Commons.
For many DDA board members, the $600,000 grant to AAHC this year was contingent on action by the city council to grant a similar $600,000 request made by AAHC of the city of Ann Arbor. At its March 3, 2014 meeting, the council directed the city administrator to develop a budget amendment that would allocate $600,000 from the city’s affordable housing trust fund to help the AAHC pay for capital improvements.
Approval of that amendment by the city council would be contingent on the closing of the sale of city-owned property at Fifth & William in downtown Ann Arbor – the former Y lot. Net proceeds of the sale, at around $1.4 million, are to be deposited in the affordable housing trust fund. The closing on the property took place on April 2.
Housing Commission $600K Grant: Board Deliberations
Joan Lowenstein introduced the resolution on the grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. The partnerships committee of the DDA had received additional details from AAHC executive director Jennifer Hall, Lowenstein reported. The timing of the allocation would fit in with the DDA budget allocations, she noted, saying that the grant was paid out in three separate years.
Lowenstein also pointed out that the resolution incorporates a clause that extends the term of an existing $300,000 grant from the DDA to the AAHC that was made in 2013. The money had been awarded but has not yet been used by the AAHC, she said. If the grant were not extended, then it would sunset under DDA board policy.
Hall was present at the meeting in the event that board members had any questions, Lowenstein said. They did not.
John Mouat said he wanted to remind people that the Ann Arbor Housing Commission is a long-time client of his architectural firm, Mitchell & Mouat Architects – so he would be abstaining.
Outcome: The $600,000 grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission was approved, with Mouat abstaining.
Definition of Community Benefit for On-Street Parking Removal
The DDA board considered a resolution to define “community benefit,” for the purposes of evaluating the elimination of on-street parking spaces in downtown Ann Arbor. The action was taken in response to a city council directive passed earlier this year.
The resolution would set a policy that defines “community benefit” as including new developments that meet or exceed goals laid out in various existing plans or public health and safety codes. The only specific planning documents mentioned in the community-benefit policy are the DDA’s development plan and the city’s non-motorized plan. [.pdf of policy considered at April 2, 2014 DDA board meeting]
If the removal of an on-street parking space does not provide a community benefit, then a developer is required to pay $45,000 per space, as well as the amount of projected revenue the space would generate over the next 10 years. That was the policy adopted by the Ann Arbor city council at its Jan. 6, 2014 meeting. The council left some flexibility in the fee policy, which allowed for some discretion to apply the fee or not, if a community benefit were provided by the removal of a space. The definition of “community benefit” was left for the DDA to determine. It’s in that context that the DDA board’s April 2 action was taken.
The council’s determination of the fee amount came four years after the DDA had made a recommendation on the fee policy:
Thus it is recommended that when developments lead to the removal of on-street parking meter spaces, a cost of $45,000/parking meter space (with annual CPI increases) be assessed and provided to the DDA to set aside in a special fund that will be used to construct future parking spaces or other means to meet the goals above. [.pdf of meeting minutes with complete text of March 4, 2009 DDA resolution]
To press the council to act on the issue, a clause was incorporated into the 2011 extension of the contract under which the DDA manages the city of Ann Arbor’s parking system:
The City shall work collaboratively with the DDA to develop and present for adoption by City Council a City policy regarding the permanent removal of on-street metered parking spaces. The purpose of this policy will be to identify whether a community benefit to the elimination of one or more metered parking spaces specific area(s) of the City exists, and the basis for such a determination. If no community benefit can be identified, it is understood and agreed by the parties that a replacement cost allocation methodology will need to be adopted concurrent with the approval of the City policy; which shall be used to make improvements to the public parking or transportation system.
Under the terms of the 2011 contract, the DDA pays the city of Ann Arbor 17% of gross parking revenues.
Definition of Community Benefit for On-Street Parking Removal: Board Deliberations
Roger Hewitt introduced the resolution on defining public benefit for the removal of on-street metered parking spaces.
He gave a brief history of the topic. When the A2D2 zoning proposal was discussed initially, one of the elements that had been discussed, but not enacted, was a charge to remove metered parking spaces from streets, he said. After several years, the city council had passed an ordinance to put the zoning in place, and adopted a policy of charging $45,000 for every meter removed for private purposes. But there’s an exception when it is done for community benefit, Hewitt said.
The DDA staff and the city staff have worked together to come up with a policy that defines what that community benefit is, Hewitt said. He summarized the policy as saying that the committee benefit has to be a benefit that extends to more than just the specific location or the specific developer.
The resolution would allow the DDA to use the guidelines that had been developed in making a determination on community benefit. There’s also an appeals process that a developer can use if they feel that it has been applied inappropriately.
Sandi Smith quipped, “I like the pace at which this has moved,” venturing that it had taken five years to develop the policy. Hewitt noted that the A2D2 process had started in 2004.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the policy defining community benefit in connection with removal of on-street meter parking spaces.
Appeal of FOIA Denial
By way of background, The Chronicle had filed a request with the DDA under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the RFP (request for proposals) issued by the city of Ann Arbor in 2009 for development of the Library Lane site, as well as an email dating from 2012, addressed to DDA board member John Splitt, among others. Splitt’s email address, along with those of board member Roger Hewitt and former board member Leah Gunn, were redacted – on the grounds that to disclose those email addresses would amount to an unwarranted invasion of their privacy.
The RFP in question had been available on the city’s website for several years in unredacted form. The RFP invites readers to contact Splitt, who was in 2009 chair of the DDA board, under the email address email@example.com – the same email address Splitt generally makes available for public use. The DDA’s handling of this issue was similar to the way the city of Ann Arbor handles the redaction of personal email addresses. [For more background on this issue, see "When Lawyers Fool With FOIA."]
At the April 2 meeting, DDA executive director Susan Pollay told the board that as the DDA’s FOIA coordinator, she had handled a request that had come in for two documents. As is her standard practice, she had redacted the “personal” email addresses for three board members, who were included in an email message. Pollay contended that the appeal expressed a disagreement about the practice of redacting “personal” email addresses.
She told the board that two of the email addresses she thought were personal, and one of them was a business address. It had been her practice to do that kind of redaction, she said. The question before the board, Pollay said, was whether to grant the appeal, which would be to provide unredacted copies of the documents. The board could also provide direction to deny the appeal, or the board could also approve some of the appeal redaction.
Bob Guenzel then moved that the action that Pollay had taken to redact the “personal” email addresses be affirmed.
Outcome: The board voted to deny the appeal that would have resulted in the public disclosure of the unredacted RFP regarding the Library Lane site.
Communications, Committee Reports
The board’s meeting included the usual range of reports from its standing committees and the downtown citizens advisory council.
At the April 2 meeting, two board members abstained from votes taken at the meeting. John Mouat abstained from the vote on the Ann Arbor Housing Commission grant, citing the fact that the AAHC was a client of his architectural firm, Mitchell & Mouat Architects. And Al McWilliams abstained from the vote on the getDowntown funding, noting that getDowntown is a client of his marketing firm, Quack!Media.
But during the routine approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, McWilliams asked that the minutes from the board’s March 5, 2014 meeting be amended. Those minutes showed the vote on the DDA’s resolution on increased transportation funding. His vote was recorded as an “aye.” He contended that he abstained from the vote. He indicated that he had just stayed quiet. “I will be more vocal about that in the future,” he said.
Board chair Sandi Smith told McWilliams that saying nothing counted as abstention, but it would be helpful for the record keeper to say something. The board agreed to amend the minutes as requested by McWilliams.
During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Shary Brown addressed the board on the topic of FoolMoon.
She told the board that this weekend, WonderFool Productions would present FoolMoon on Friday evening and FestiFools on Sunday afternoon, April 6. She told board members that the “meter moons” that had been placed on the board table were meant for them, the board members. They have been through their “full orbit cycle of three years,” she told them. They are being retired and donated to the DDA, she said, explaining that the DDA was receiving the meter moons because the DDA had believed in the “foolishness” by providing support to the event.
Brown said there would come a year when the DDA was no longer entertaining fee waivers for bagged meters for special events. [There's a $15 a day charge per meter to reserve parking meters by placing bags over them.] For her very tiny organization, when it was in its second year of presenting the FoolMoon event, it was a “make or break deal,” she said. The DDA had recognized the value of cultural events downtown, Brown added. “We were the new kid, but we thought we were special,” she told the board. She felt that the DDA also recognized that specialness and had commissioned the “meter moons.” The moons have been placed atop parking meters for which the DDA had waived the meter bag fee. It was small for the DDA but big for FestiFools, she said.
Brown thanked the DDA board for recognizing the cultural value of the events that get put on in downtown Ann Arbor. Brown then presented city administrator Steve Powers with a “meter moon,” saying she wanted to make sure that the city of Ann Arbor also had such a moon. Powers donned the “meter moon” as a hat. Brown told the board that FoolMoon started at 6 p.m. in front of Grizzly Peak restaurant. Brown told the board that Grizzly Peak had been a big supporter of the event and brewed a beer in honor of FoolMoon called “Fool Brew.”
Brown told the board that there would also be live music at the FoolMoon event. She described the event as including hundreds of luminaries that members of the community have built over the last several months. People with luminaries would be starting at Slauson Middle School, Kerrytown and the University of Michigan Museum of Art and would begin meandering their way through town and come down to Washington and Ashley streets. City Apartments would serve as a backdrop for the event, she continued, and there would be a special laser show.
Comm/Comm: Earth Day
During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Alan Haber introduced himself as a long-time champion of the Library Lane site becoming an Ann Arbor civic center, developed for public use. Based on recent action of the city council, Haber said, some of that land would ultimately become a city park. In the meantime, Haber said, the surface of the lot should be made available for public events and activities.
The next opportunity for that, he said, would be on Earth Day on April 22. There were a lot of people who would like to see a festival for Earth Day on that weekend, Haber said, which starts on April 19. So he was putting together a permit application for special events. He reminded the board of a proposal to set up a temporary skating rink on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure, but that project never came to fruition. The city attorney had never managed to get back to his group on the questions they had about that proposal, Haber said.
Haber said it would be very nice if the DDA would, as it had on July 14, 2012, be encouraging of an Earth Day event on the Library Lane site. He hoped that the whole surface parking area on top of the structure would be made available for the Earth Day event. He hoped that the DDA would be a partner in putting on the event. Such an event could become an annual Ann Arbor spring party, he ventured. He wanted the DDA board to participate and to make it as easy as possible.
During public commentary, Changmin Fan told the board that he was excited and nervous, quipping that FoolMoon was another competitor to his TiniLite company. He reminded the board that in 2005, Ann Arbor had installed LED streetlights. He described his company’s technology as connecting the community digitally. He wanted to help small businesses and retailers downtown as well as the general public. He described how there could be a new democratic movement and the public could have a new voice using his company’s technology, referring to the technology as smart social signs. He hoped that sometime this year a light could be installed that was 100 feet high that would display information.
Comm/Comm: Former Y Lot
Reporting out from the operations committee, Roger Hewitt noted that the committee had received a presentation from Ben Dahlmann to lease the former Y back to the DDA, after the purchase of the property by Dahlmann from the city. [That purchase was completed the same day as the April 2 board meeting.] The proposal was for the DDA to continue to operate the parcel as a surface parking lot. Hewitt reported that the DDA had removed all of its equipment from the parking lot – as requested by the city of Ann Arbor, which had owned the property.
Hewitt noted that the operations committee members had several concerns about Dahlmann’s proposal. Some of the concerns involved the current condition of the lot, which was in need of some repair. Another concern was the financial consideration related to revenues that the DDA might be unnecessarily foregoing. He noted that there was a significant amount of additional public parking available adjacent to the former Y parking lot. The committee had asked deputy director of the DDA, Joe Morehouse, and Republic Parking manager Art Low to do a financial analysis and come back to the next operations committee meeting to see if there’s a proposal that could make any financial sense to the DDA.
Board chair Sandi Smith inquired about the condition of the surface lot, noting that it had been installed as permeable asphalt. She asked if the current poor condition was a consequence of the permeable asphalt or damage from the Blake Transit Center construction.
Hewitt said both issues were a factor. He said that the permeable asphalt did not have a very long life span, because it gets filled up with grime. There was also some excessive wear and tear on the surface where the AAATA had done construction staging for the Blake Transit Center, he said. If the DDA was going to operate the lot as a surface parking lot for the long-term, the surface would need to be replaced, he said.
Hewitt said that the city of Ann Arbor had requested that the DDA operate a surface parking lot there after the old YMCA building had been demolished. [For additional background see "Old Y Lot: 2 More Years of Surface Parking?"]
Comm/Comm: Downtown Ambassadors
By way of background, for several years the Ann Arbor DDA has had an interest in maintaining some kind of additional patrol presence in the downtown. In the mid-2000s, the DDA entered into a contract with the city of Ann Arbor with the implicit hope that the city would maintain its dedicated downtown beat cops. That contract was structured at that time to pay the city $1 million a year for 10 years, with the city able to request up to $2 million a year for a maximum of $10 million.
That hope was not realized, and the DDA has since discussed the idea of providing additional funding for police or for ambassadors. The idea of “ambassadors” was explored in the context of subsequent 2011 renegotiations of the contract between the city and the DDA under which the DDA operates the parking system. The DDA wanted to be assigned responsibility for parking enforcement – a function performed by the city’s community standards officers. Board members imagined that this activity could be performed in an ambassador-like fashion.
At its June 3, 2013 meeting, the city council approved a resolution encouraging the DDA to provide funding for three police officers (a total of $270,000 annually) to be deployed in the DDA district. The DDA also continues to pursue the idea of ambassadors. Several DDA board members made a trip to visit Grand Rapids last year, a city that had recently launched an ambassador program.
On April 2, Roger Hewitt noted that the DDA has discussed a possible ambassador program. The operations committee has assembled quite a bit of information, he said, including a list of cities that have such ambassador programs. The cities range geographically from Akron, Ohio to Yakima, Washington, Hewitt said. In size, they range from New York City to Eaton, Pennsylvania, which has a population of 27,000.
Every ambassador program seems to be crafted to the city where it is located, Hewitt said. Some of the ambassadors do “clean and safe” programs. Others do customer relations, while other programs do outreach to people with substance abuse and mental health issues. There are a whole range of activities that ambassador programs can undertake, Hewitt said.
The problem with issuing a request for proposals is that you pretty much have to know what you are looking for when you start it, Hewitt said. On the other hand, a request for qualifications would give the DDA an opportunity to gather information and to ask questions without committing itself to a particular program, he noted. So issuing a request for qualifications was deemed to be a prudent way to gather more information from experts in the field to run such programs to help the DDA make its decision on whether to go forward – and if so, what it should look like and what it should cost.
There is no financial implication for the DDA at this point in the process, Hewitt explained. There would be a time commitment on the part of DDA staff and board members, however, to review the information provided by respondents to the RFQ.
Comm/Comm: Fourth & William
By way of background, at the its Jan. 8, 2014 meeting, the DDA authorized up to $40,000 for Carl Walker Inc. to develop architectural renderings for renovations to the southwest stair tower and elevators of the Fourth & William parking structure.
The Fourth & William structure, at 994 spaces, is one of the largest in Ann Arbor’s parking system – but has elevators that are more than 30 years old. [A recent trip from the ground floor to floor 7 was timed by The Chronicle at 45 seconds. The comparable trip at the newer Washington & Fourth parking structure took about 17 seconds.]
At the March 26 DDA operations committee meeting, Mike Ortlieb of Carl Walker Inc. presented two possible timelines, based on either a two-phase or three-phase approach to the construction. The basic cost was estimated at $2.45 million. Pursuing the three-phase approach would cost an additional $150,000.
The two-phase approach would last about a year – from August 2014 through July 2015. The three-phase approach would take five months longer – through about December 2015. In both scenarios, the goal is to keep the parking structure open for business.
Reporting out from the operations committee at the board’s April 2 meeting, John Splitt gave an update on the Fourth & William elevator project. Mike Ortlieb and Josh Rozeboom from Carl Walker Inc. had attended the operations committee meeting, he reported. Renderings will be shown to adjoining merchants in the Main Street area. And their input on possible construction timelines will be solicited, Splitt reported.
Comm/Comm: Housing Needs
Reporting out from the partnerships committee, Joan Lowenstein said they’d heard from Washtenaw County staff [Stephen Wade and Brett Lenart] about a needs assessment for affordable housing. There is no specific proposal made to the committee, but the committee was generally supportive of the notion, she reported. The DDA would be able to use a result of that study as it considers how to allocate its funds, Lowenstein said.
Comm/Comm: Partnerships Grants
Reporting out from the partnerships committee, Joan Lowenstein said the committee had a discussion about restarting a program of partnerships grants, which are different from grants to brownfield projects like Zingerman’s Deli or the 618 S. Main project. The committee is considering adapting the criteria for brownfield grants to develop a more general grant policy.
Comm/Comm: Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council
Reporting out from the downtown area citizens advisory council, Ray Detter told the board that the CAC had a potential new member, who is a resident of City Apartments. He told the board that if they knew of anyone who lived in the DDA district, they should let that person know that the downtown citizens advisory council welcomed their participation. The group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the city council workroom.
The group had reviewed at its meeting on the previous evening some of its positions on developments in the downtown, Detter said. The group unanimously supports the expansion of public transit services, Detter said – and the group supported passing the May 6 transit tax proposal. The tax would fund better service on nights and weekends, he noted, plus redesigned routes reaching more destinations and making more frequent trips. The CAC believes that the improvements would result in improved quality of life for everyone. It would relieve traffic congestion, protect the environment, and spark economic opportunity. It might also mean that no additional large parking structures would need to be built in the downtown, Detter said.
Detter also told the board that the CAC supports the council’s action to pursue revisions to the D1 zoning downtown to address past mistakes that had been made.
Detter told the DDA board that the downtown citizens advisory council had spent a lot of time discussing recent city council decisions that would reduce the ability of the Ann Arbor public art commission to carry out its mission. The public art program was undergoing change and reshaping, he allowed. The CAC appreciated the public art commission’s efforts over the years. [Marsha Chamberlin, a CAC member, also serves on the public art commission.]
Detter said the group continued to support the development of a significantly sized public plaza on the Fifth Avenue side of the Library Lane parking structure. The group also supported development of a public plaza that is sensitive to the needs of the adjacent Ann Arbor District Library. Any planning for the surface of the Library Lane parking structure, he continued, should include a tax-producing development on the major part of the property. Any future development should be encouraged to work cooperatively to integrate itself with and complement the adjoining public plaza, Detter said.
Present: Al McWilliams, Cyndi Clark, Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, Steve Powers, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Keith Orr, Joan Lowenstein, John Mouat. Powers did not return to the meeting after the closed session.
Absent: Rishi Narayan, Russ Collins.
Next board meeting: Noon on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date.]
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