The Ann Arbor Chronicle » city-owned land it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 415 W. Washington Land Sale Item: Withdrawn Tue, 22 Jul 2014 03:39:52 +0000 Chronicle Staff By the time of the Ann Arbor city council’s July 21, 2014 meeting, Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) had withdrawn a resolution he’d sponsored on the agenda – which would have listed the city-owned 415 W. Washington property for sale and allocated $250,000 toward developing a master plan for the Allen Creek Greenway.

Warpehoski had sponsored the item along with mayor John Hieftje, with the title “Resolution to List for Sale 415 W. Washington and Appropriate Funds for Allen Creek Greenway Master Plan.”

As of mid-day Friday, July 18, no text or memo was included in the resolution. Warpehoski responded to an emailed query from The Chronicle by saying that the resolution might be pulled, depending on the outcome of a meeting of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy on July 18. [The agenda item was later updated with text. The amount to be allocated for the master planning effort was $250,000.]

On July 19, however, Warpehoski announced that he’d be withdrawing the resolution. An excerpt from the comment he left on The Chronicle’s meeting preview article reads as follows:

At the request of the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy Board, I am withdrawing the resolution from the Council agenda.

The resolution to fund the creation of a greenway master plan and development of the greenway through the sale of the non-floodway portion of 415 W. Washington was developed in partnership with Bob Galardi, chair of the Greenway Conservancy, and Jonathan Bulkley, chair of the Greenway Roundtable.

Bob and Jonathan had discussed the potential resolution with the Conservancy board. They found some initial support from the board. At their meeting on July 18, the Conservancy Board reviewed the final resolution, but were not able to come to agreement to support the resolution at this time. As the conservancy does not have clarity in supporting the resolution, I am withdrawing it. From the beginning, the my approach to this was that if the Conservancy was supportive then we could bring it forward. If the conservancy was not in support then we would not move forward in this way.

The city-owed 415 W. Washington parcel is highlighted in yellow.

The city-owned 415 W. Washington parcel is highlighted in yellow.

Warpehoski indicated to The Chronicle that one reason a master plan for the greenway is important is that the lack of such a plan hurt the city’s application for funding from the state of Michigan to support renovations to the 721 N. Main property. The city did not receive the state grant after applying for it in early 2013.

In addition, Warpehoski wrote, there’s an opportunity to partner with the University of Michigan and a class taught by Larissa Larsen, a professor of urban and regional planning and natural resources. Such a partnership would reduce costs of the planning effort.

The idea of funding work on a master plan for the Allen Creek greenway was discussed most recently at the June 16, 2014 council meeting, in the context of a resolution that Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) had brought forward that would have jump-started an effort to redesign Liberty Plaza at the corner of Division and Liberty streets. Taylor’s resolution would have appropriated $23,577 for the work, which was to have included input from a variety of stakeholders, including adjacent property owners.

That resolution was ultimately referred by the council to the park advisory commission (PAC). At PAC’s July 15 meeting, two people spoke during public commentary to advocate for an integrated approach to the “library block,” which includes Liberty Plaza. But PAC postponed discussion related to Liberty Plaza and the council resolution, as only five of nine voting members were present. Taylor is an ex officio non-voting member of PAC, but had not discussed the resolution at previous PAC meetings. He attended PAC’s July 15 meeting.

The June 16 council meeting discussion featured the following exchange between Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Hieftje, recorded in The Chronicle’s live updates from the meeting:

10:15 p.m. Kunselman asks if this means that Liberty Plaza would jump ahead of developing a master plan for the Allen Creek Greenway. Hieftje says that if Kunselman can be a bit patient, there will be a master plan proposed soon.

10:18 p.m. Hieftje says that an Allen Creek Greenway master plan might be prepared before the end of the budget year. Kunselman asks if there’d been any council direction to start any of the activity that Hieftje has described. Yes, Hieftje says, there was a resolution involving 415 W. Washington. Kunselman reiterates the fact that staff has not been directed specifically to develop a greenway master plan. He’s reiterating the lack of resources for park planning. There are 157 parks in the city and he wonders why Liberty Plaza has become the most important one. Kunselman will support the referral to PAC.

If the council had directed the 415 W. Washington property to be listed for sale, it would have been be the third downtown city-owned property to be listed for sale in the last year and a half. The council directed the city administrator to move toward hiring a broker for the old Y lot at Fifth and William at its March 4, 2013 meeting. And on Nov. 18, 2013, the council authorized the sale of the lot to Dennis Dahlmann for $5.25 million.

And the council voted at its April 7, 2014 meeting to confirm its earlier decision to direct the city administrator to list the development rights for the top of the Library Lane parking structure for sale. On July 1, city administrator Steve Powers notified the council that he’d selected CBRE to market and broker the sale of the development rights.

The 415 W. Washington parcel is currently used as a surface parking lot in the city’s public parking system, which has averaged about $18,000 in revenue per month, or about $216,000 a year over the last two years. The parcel also includes several buildings that previously served as the road commission facility and the city maintenance yard. A study commissioned by the city of the property concluded that the cost of stabilizing and renovating all of the buildings could be as high as $6 million. [.pdf of Aug. 29, 2013 report] That study came after the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios had stepped forward with an interest in the possible renovation and reuse of the building as artist studio space. For additional background on that, see “City Council Parcels Out Tasks: Open Space.”

Ultimately the city moved toward demolishing the buildings. The city administrator’s proposed FY 2015 budget included $300,000 for the demolition of the buildings, but the council amended out that allocation during its deliberations on May 19, 2014:

1:40 a.m. Budget amendment: 415 W. Washington demolition. This proposal will simply eliminate general fund support for demolition of the city-owned buildings at 415 W. Washington. [Kailasapathy, Lumm, Eaton, Anglin]

1:54 a.m. Outcome: The council approved this amendment over the dissent of Kunselman, Taylor and Warpehoski.

Two pieces of land immediately adjacent to 415 W. Washington have been in the news recently. At their July 1, 2014 meeting, city planning commissioners approved The Mark condo project for the parcel on Liberty Street where a car wash is currently located. The proposal from developer Alex de Parry is to demolish an existing car wash at 318 W. Liberty and build an 11,910-square-foot structure with seven residential condominiums – five two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units.

And at the July 2, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, it was announced that the final site recommendation for a downtown stop for the WALLY rail line is for the east side of the railroad tracks between Liberty and Washington streets – opposite of where the former city maintenance yard was located at 415 W. Washington. It was reported at that meeting that it would not be a full station. Rather, it would be a platform with canopies and a ramp to Washington Street to the north and a sidewalk connection to the south onto Liberty. The stop would be built entirely within the railroad right-of-way – and there would be no taking of public or private property. The site would be contingent on the WALLY project moving forward.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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CBRE Selected for Library Lot Brokering Wed, 02 Jul 2014 21:08:42 +0000 Chronicle Staff Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers has indicated that he’s selected CBRE to assist the city with the marketing and sale of the Library Lane parcel. That announcement came in an email sent to councilmembers on July 1, 2014. The site is located north of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, between South Fifth Avenue and Division.

The surface of the Library Lane parking structure is highlighted in yellow.

The surface of the Library Lane parking structure is highlighted in yellow.

Direction from the city council to Powers – to engage a broker for the development rights on top of the Library Lane underground parking parking garage – initially came at the council’s March 17, 2014 meeting. That was an 8-1 vote, with dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1). Absent was Sally Petersen (Ward 2). Margie Teall (Ward 4) departed late in the meeting but before the vote.

However, the resolution was reconsidered at the council’s April 7, 2014 meeting – with the same outcome, but a different vote tally. The vote on April 7 was 7-4, with dissent from Kailasapathy, Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Jack Eaton (Ward 4), and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), who’d sponsored the resolution, nonetheless asked the council to reconsider it. He made it clear that he was bringing back the resolution for reconsideration to highlight why he had wanted the property listed for sale: He wanted definitive answers on the question of how many of the Library Lane structure parking spaces could be dedicated for private use – while still meeting the restrictions of the Build America Bonds used to finance the structure.

A partial answer to some of Kunselman’s questions came when the council voted on March 17, 2014 to waive attorney-client privilege on a memo written by outside bond counsel. [.pdf of Aug. 9, 2012 Dykema memo]

Other recent council action on Library Lane includes a resolution to allocate 50% of the proceeds of the sale of the development rights to the city’s affordable housing trust fund. That resolution was approved at the council’s April 7, 2014 meeting. Also on April 7, the council re-settled a previously decided issue, and passed a resolution that would reserve a 12,000-square-foot portion of the Library Lane surface for an urban plaza/park.

The message from the city administrator announcing the selection of CBRE cites the broker’s extensive experience in community engagement and clients that include cities, counties, universities and states. CBRE’s international, national, and regional experience is also cited in the administrator’s message. Next steps will include city staff working with CBRE  on development of  the community engagement plan, competitive disposition process, and marketing of the property, Powers wrote.

This is the second time in the past year that the city has hired a broker to explore the sale of city-owned property. A year ago, Powers selected Colliers International and local broker Jim Chaconas to handle the possible sale of the former YMCA lot, located at the corner of Fifth and William in downtown Ann Arbor – near the Library Lane site. On Nov. 18, 2013, the city council approved the sale of that site – a parcel north of William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues – to Dennis Dahlmann for $5.25 million. Of that sale, the city council voted to deposit $1.4 million into the city of Ann Arbor’s affordable housing trust fund.

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Council Takes Steps on Library Lane Future Tue, 18 Mar 2014 07:01:42 +0000 Chronicle Staff The question of how the top of the Library Lane underground parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor will eventually be used has taken some steps toward getting answered. The city council acted on two key related resolutions at its March 17, 2014 meeting.

Library Lane parking deck

The Library Lane parking deck is highlighted in yellow. The name “Library Lane” is based only on the proximity of the structure to the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The library does not own the structure or the mid-block cut-through. (Base image from Washtenaw County and City of Ann Arbor GIS services.)

The council’s meeting actually featured three items related to the future of the Library Lane deck surface: (1) a resolution reserving part of the surface for a publicly owned urban park; (2) a resolution that moved toward hiring a brokerage service for selling development rights to the surface; and (3) a resolution that waived attorney-client privilege on a memo from the city’s outside bond counsel.

On the third item, the council voted to approve the waiver of an attorney-client privileged memo on the use of Build America Bonds that financed the parking deck.

The council vote on the urban park resolution was ultimately 7-3 with mayor John Hieftje, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) dissenting. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) was absent. That came after a significant amendment to the resolution that gave flexibility to the square footage to be reserved instead of fixing it at 12,000 square feet. The key resolved clause, as adopted by the council, read:

Resolved, That City Council approve the reservation of the site for an urban public park of between approximately 6,500 and 12,000 square feet on the surface of the Library Lane Structure bounded by the Fifth Avenue sidewalk on the west, the Library Lane Street curb to the south, the western entry to the central elevator to the east, with the northern boundary to be determined at a future date;

The council’s vote came after public commentary from several speakers in support of the resolution. In addition, Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker was asked to the podium to comment and she read aloud a resolution that the library board had passed earlier that evening, opposing the council’s resolution.

A report on council deliberations, which lasted over 2.5 hours, is included in The Chronicle’s live updates from city hall during the March 17 meeting.

The resolution on reserving a portion of the surface of the Library Lane parking structure for a publicly-owned urban park had been postponed from the council’s March 3, 2014 meeting.

Library Lane, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Library Lane park proposal as presented to the city’s park advisory commission on Feb. 25.

The proposal had been presented to the city’s park advisory commission, the week before the March 3 council meeting. For a detailed report of the PAC meeting of Feb. 25, 2014, see Chronicle coverage: “Concerns Voiced over Urban Park Proposal.”

One of the central points of friction over how to proceed is the question of who will own the area on which the publicly accessible space – a park or plaza – is placed.

The original resolution contemplated a publicly-owned facility that is designated as a park in the city’s park planning documents. That would have made it subject to a charter requirement on its sale – which would require a public referendum. The resolution as amended did not include that stipulation in its “resolved” clauses.

Councilmembers who are open to the possibility that the publicly accessible facility could be privately owned are concerned about the cost of maintenance of a publicly-owned facility. The city’s costs for maintaining Liberty Plaza – an urban park located northeast of the proposed Library Lane public park – are about $13,000 a year. That doesn’t include the amount that First Martin Corp. expends for trash removal and other upkeep of Liberty Plaza. [urban park cost estimates]

Revisions to the resolution were undertaken between the council’s March 3 and March 17 meetings. The version considered on March 17 indicated that the area designated as a park would be 12,000 square feet, compared to 10,000 square feet in the original resolution. That square footage reflects the actual dimensions of the proposed boundaries, according to a staff memo. That square footage was then revised at the meeting to “between approximately 6,500 and 12,000 square feet.” The revised resolution also eliminated an October 2014 deadline for making design recommendations to the council, and deleted any reference to PAC. [.pdf of revised resolution considered March 17 council meeting]

An additional point of friction involves how much of the site would be left for development if the northwest corner of the site were devoted to a public plaza/park. Related to that issue is whether the existing northern border of the site – which currently features the sides and backs of buildings – can adequately support a public plaza/park. The fact that the site does not currently enjoy other surrounding buildings that turn toward it is part of the reason advocates for a park are now asking that the Ann Arbor District Library, located to the south of the site, relocate its entrance from Fifth Avenue to the north side of its building. However, at the library board’s March 17 meeting, trustees on the board’s facilities committee reiterated reasons why they were not recommending to relocate the entrance.

In terms of the color-shaded map produced by city staff, the focus of controversy is the light orange area, which was designed to support “medium density building.” Based on staff responses to councilmember questions, the density imagined for that orange rectangle could be transferred to the planned high-density (red) portion of the site. The maximum height in the D1 zoning area is 180 feet, and the parking structure was designed to accommodate the structural load of an 18-story building.

City staff diagram illustrating the building program for the top of the underground Library Lane parking structure.

City staff diagram illustrating the building possibilities for the top of the underground Library Lane parking structure.

Related to the urban park item was a  resolution also approved at the March 17 meeting – to obtain brokerage services and to list the surface of the Library Lane deck for sale. It was brought forward by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

The approach being taken would be similar to the path that the city council took to sell the former Y lot. For that parcel, the council directed the city administrator to move toward hiring a real estate broker to test the market for development rights. The council took the initial step with that property, located on William between Fourth and Fifth avenues in downtown Ann Arbor, close to a year ago at its March 4, 2013 meeting.

A rider agreement – to ensure against non-development and to sketch out the amount of open space and density – was part of the approach the city took to the former Y lot deal with hotelier Dennis Dahlmann.

The issue of open space figures prominently in Kunselman’s resolution. At the March 17 meeting, the council amended out the phrase “highest and best use” from the resolution. A key “whereas” clause and two of the “resolved” clauses read as follows:

Whereas, Developing the public space at the same time the site is developed will provide for increased activity, safety, and security; limit nuisance behavior at this public space; provide potential funding for public space features and programming; and have a responsible private entity for ongoing maintenance and

Resolved, That the City will seek, as conditions for development rights at a minimum, public open space, private maintenance of the public space, and pedestrian access to the public space as features of any private development;

Resolved, That implementation of the conditions for development rights will be determined by City Council through selection of the purchase offer that best responds to mixed-use, density, integration with surrounding uses, and public space and through the City’s established site plan procedures and policies;

The phrase “public space” sometimes is meant to include publicly-accessible, but privately-owned space. Kunselman responded to an emailed query about his intended interpretation of “public space” by writing: “It’s meant to give the broadest interpretation so as to solicit the widest range of interest by prospective purchasers.”

Also related to the council’s brokerage service resolution, the Ann Arbor planning commission agenda for March 18, 2014 includes a resolution giving advice to the council about how to handle the sale the parking deck surface. The two resolved clauses are:

Resolved, that the City Planning Commission recommends to City Council that if the development rights over the “Library Lot” underground parking structure are sold, an RFQ/RFP process be utilized that conditions the sale of the property in order to obtain a long-term, ongoing and growing economic benefit for the residents of the city;

Resolved, that the City Planning Commission recommends to City Council that if the development rights over the “Library Lot” underground parking structure are sold, an RFP contain some or all of the following conditions:

  • A building that generates foot traffic, provides a human scale at the ground floor and creates visual appeal and contains active uses on all first floor street frontage and open space;
  • A requirement for an entry plaza or open space appropriately scaled and located to be properly activated by adjacent building uses and to be maintained by the developer;
  • A “mixed use” development with a density at around 700% FAR that takes advantage of the investment in footings and the mid-block location with active uses that have a high level of transparency fronting the plaza and at least 60% of Fifth Avenue and Library Lane frontages, while encouraging large floor plate office or lodging as a primary use, residential as a secondary use, and incorporating a cultural venue.
  • A requirement for the entry plaza or open space to incorporate generous landscaping;
  • A requirement that discourages surface parking, limits vehicular access for service areas to be located in alleys where available and prohibits service areas from being located on Fifth Avenue
  • To seek an iconic design for this site that is visible on all four sides and that creates an iconic addition to the skyline;
  • A requirement for high quality construction; and
  • A request for a third party environmental certification (e.g., LEED Gold or Platinum)

The planning commission resolution is being brought forward by commissioners Diane Giannola and Bonnie Bona. It’s similar in intent to the recommendation that the commission gave to council regarding the sale of the former Y lot.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.

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Council Votes: Y Lot Proceeds into Housing Trust Tue, 17 Dec 2013 06:26:48 +0000 Chronicle Staff Almost $1.4 million will be deposited into the city of Ann Arbor’s affordable housing trust fund as a result of city council action taken on Dec. 16, 2013. The council’s vote was unanimous, although Jane Lumm (Ward 2) offered an amendment to cut that amount in half, which failed on a 2-9 vote. Jack Eaton (Ward 4) joined Lumm in supporting that failed amendment.

Affordable Housing Fund Activity

Affordable housing fund activity. Recommendations on the use of the monies in the city of Ann Arbor’s affordable housing trust fund come from the city’s housing and human services advisory board.

The dollar figure of $1,384,300 million reflects the $1.75 million in gross proceeds, less brokerage fees and seller’s costs, from the sale of a downtown city-owned parcel known as the old Y lot. The city paid $3.5 million for the property in 2003.

The council approved the sale of the property to Dennis Dahlmann for $5.25 million at its Nov. 18, 2013 meeting. The city has made interest-only payments on a $3.5 million loan for the last 10 years.

The city purchased the property in 2003, exercising a right of first refusal, in part to prevent its acquisition by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

The Dec. 16 council decision reflects a departure from the council’s policy established on Oct. 15, 2012 – which would have first reimbursed the city and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority for various other costs, including interest payments, and relocation of the residents of the YMCA building that previously stood on the site. In October 2005, two years after the city purchased the property, the mechanical systems in the building failed, and the building eventually was demolished. It was converted to a surface lot in the public parking system.

The DDA has calculated $1,493,959 in reimbursements that it thinks it could claim – for interest payments and cost of demolition, among other items. But the DDA board voted at its Dec. 4, 2013 to waive that claim. And the city has calculated, for example, that $365,651 that the city itself paid in interest could be reimbursed, as well as $488,646 for the relocation of residents of the former Y building.

It’s not clear if the DDA can waive all of its claim in light of the fact that the DDA used at least some TIF (tax increment finance) funds to pay for items like demolition and some of the interest payments on the loan. [.pdf of DDA records produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Chronicle] If that were analyzed as a distribution of TIF to the city of Ann Arbor, then under state statute the DDA would need to distribute a proportional amount to the other jurisdictions whose taxes are captured in the DDA district.

The history of the city’s policy on the proceeds of city-owned land and the connection to the city’s affordable housing trust fund goes back at least 20 years.

The specific connection between the affordable housing trust fund and the former Y lot is the 100 units of single-resident occupancy housing that previously were a part of the YMCA building on the site.

Various efforts have been made to replace those units over the years. [See, for example: "The 100 Units of Affordable Housing."] Recently, the Ann Arbor housing commission and its properties have started to receive more attention from the council as an integral part of the city’s approach to providing housing to the lowest income residents. The council approved a series of resolutions in the summer of 2013 that will allow the AAHC to convert many of its properties to project-based vouchers.

At the Dec. 16 meeting, several advocates of affordable housing spoke to the council during public commentary, urging councilmembers to allocate funds from the proceeds of the Y lot sale to support affordable housing.

For details about the council’s deliberations on this item, see The Chronicle’s live updates from the Dec. 16 meeting.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]

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Fifth & William Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:36:02 +0000 HD For sale sign for city-owned property. Old news that Colliers and Jim Chaconas were selected to provide brokerage services. But I haven’t noticed a sign until now. [photo]

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Ann Arbor Delays on Land Sale Policy Tue, 18 Sep 2012 01:25:39 +0000 Chronicle Staff A question about whether net proceeds from the future sale of city-owned land in Ann Arbor will be allocated to the city’s affordable housing trust fund has been postponed and referred to the city council’s budget committee. The action to postpone the issue until Oct. 15 was taken at the city council’s Sept. 17, 2012 meeting.

The policy has a long history dating back to 1996. A previous policy of directing proceeds of city-owned land sales to the affordable housing trust fund was rescinded by the council in 2007. More detailed background is provided in previous Chronicle coverage: “City Council to Focus on Land Sale Policy.”

Resolutions urging the city council to adopt such a policy were approved by the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority at its Sept. 5, 2012 and by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners later that same day.

The key resolved clause of the city council’s resolution reads: “Resolved, That proceeds from the sale of public land in the City of Ann Arbor be directed first to reimburse any funds expended relating to the disposition of the property. Of the remaining proceeds, if the property is in the Downtown Development Authority District 5% are to be directed for public plaza or open space creation, renovation or improvements within the DDA District; 10% are to be directed to any project designated in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, and 85% are to be directed to the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund, all regardless of budget year.”

Smith’s resolution appeared to have only mixed support on the council. Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) indicated he would only support the resolution if the proceeds from land sales were put toward the Ann Arbor Housing Commission specifically. Jane Lumm (Ward 2) said she could not support a percentage as high as 85%. Other councilmembers expressed skepticism at the value of a non-binding council resolution that future councils would not need to honor.

A somewhat related and in some ways competing resolution was added to the council’s agenda by Mike Anglin (Ward 5), via an email sent to the city clerk on the morning of the Sept. 17 meeting. It would have established a committee of 10 residents – two from each ward, to be selected by councilmembers from each ward – and other city officials to address the issue of city-owned parcels in downtown Ann Arbor.

Anglin’s resolution was not specific about how the committee was supposed to address the issue or in what time frame, and generated several clarificational questions from councilmembers. However, the council voted unanimously to postpone the resolution until Oct. 1 instead of voting it down.

Anglin’s resolution would have, in part, established a parallel process for one that the DDA has undertaken at the previous direction of the city council, under the moniker of Connecting William Street. That process focuses on five city-owned parcels in the area bounded by Ashley, Liberty, Division and William streets. For Chronicle coverage of a recent presentation on the project to the city’s planning commission, see “Planning Group Briefed on William Street Project.”

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]

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