Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Dec. 5, 2012): The board had no voting items for its final meeting of the calendar year, but received several reports. Among the reports was a draft recommendation to be presented to the city council early next year about the use of five city-owned pieces of downtown land, which are currently used for parking – the Connecting William Street project. That presentation, discussion by the board, and public commentary on the topic will be covered in future Chronicle reporting.
The DDA manages the city’s public parking system, and a report presented to the board for October 2012 – the most recent month for which data is available – showed $1.675 million in revenue, which amounts to an increase in revenue compared to October 2011 of about 15.5%. The increase is at least partly a function of rate increases, changes to the billing method, and an increase in the parking system inventory. The recently completed Library Lane underground parking garage offers more than 700 spaces, which were not available a year ago. The use of the parking system as measured by hourly patrons showed only a 1.8% increase.
At the meeting, DDA board member Roger Hewitt announced that future monthly reports would begin including more detailed information on the length of time patrons park in the system. Currently the board uses revenue levels as a kind of imperfect proxy for system usage.
Also related to the parking system, the stats for November will include the fact that the parking system maxed out – with all spaces in the entire system filled – on the night of the Midnight Madness holiday shopping promotion. That’s an event sponsored by the Main Street Area Association (MSAA), which took place on Nov. 30. Maura Thomson, executive director of the MSAA, relayed her appreciation to the board during public commentary for the DDA’s financial support of the holiday lights strung on trees downtown.
Again related to parking were brief remarks made to the board by local attorney Scott Munzel, who spoke on behalf of the developer of the proposed new residential project at 624 Church St. The DDA board had given its support for around 40 parking spaces to be provided for that 14-story, 81-unit apartment building through the city’s contribution-in-lieu program. Munzel alerted the board that the project was anticipated to be on the city planning commission’s Jan. 15, 2013 agenda. Munzel was hoping the location of the parking spaces in the public parking system could be determined by then.
Ray Detter, speaking for the downtown citizens advisory council, updated the board on another major development – 413 E. Huron. The northeast corner of Huron and Division is the location of a planned residential and retail development with 213 apartments – which does not need any variances in the D1 zoning district. Detter reported the developer’s intention to proceed with the development even through it was strongly criticized by the city’s design review board.
Addressing the board on a non-parking topic was Jim Balmer, president of Dawn Farm, a nonprofit offering both residential and out-patient services supporting recovery for alcoholics and drug addicts. Dawn Farm’s Chapin Street facility has been supported in the past by the DDA, and Balmer addressed the board to thank them for that support and to highlight a future funding request – $150,000 to pay down debt. The grant is intended to help Dawn Farm achieve a target of 200 beds for its residential facilities, up from the current 159 beds.
The board received news that the preliminary draft audit report indicates that the fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, 2012, will be unqualified – that is, “clean.” The unrestricted net assets held by the DDA at the end of the fiscal year totaled about $8.65 million.