Stories indexed with the term ‘getDowntown’

DDA: Transit, Housing, Parking

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.

City administrator Steve Powers was game enough to don as a hat the "meter moon" he was presented during the meeting by Shary Brown of Wonderfool Productions.

City administrator Steve Powers was game enough to don as a hat the “meter moon” he was presented during the April 2, 2014 DDA board meeting by Shary Brown of WonderFool Productions. (Photos by the writer.)

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. [Full Story]

DDA Budgets for Transit, Housing, Parking

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (March 5, 2014): Three main business items were approved by the board: submission of its FY 2015 budget to the city council, award of a $50,000 management incentive to its parking management contractor, and a resolution pledging to maintain or increase DDA funding of transportation programs, if the May 6, 2014 AAATA transit millage is approved by voters.

Roger Hewitt, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority

Roger Hewitt, DDA board treasurer. (Photos by the writer.)

The proposed budget shows $19.3 million in revenues from the public parking system and $4.8 million in tax increment finance capture. Overall, it shows $24,237,186 in revenues against $26,531,972 in expenses. The use of fund balance to cover the difference leaves the DDA with an estimated fund balance at the end of FY 2015 of about $3.3 million. FY 2015 runs from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. [FY 2015 DDA budget breakdown]

The expenses include $353,344 in salaries and $245,894 in fringe benefits for four staff members, $7,075,571 in payments to Republic Parking for management of the public parking system, and $2.1 million for parking facility maintenance. Accounting for $3.19 million of the expenses is a payment made to the city of Ann Arbor, equal to 17% of the gross revenues to the public parking system.

Included in the budget is a $200,000 grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission – as part of a $600,000 request from AAHAC to support improvements to Baker Commons and Miller Manor.

The budget also includes $676,000 for support of the getDowntown program. The board also approved a resolution that pledged to work toward maintaining or increasing the DDA’s support for transportation programs. That resolution came in the context of an approaching May 6, 2014 transit millage ballot question. The 0.7 mill tax was placed on a May 6 ballot by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board on Feb. 20, 2014. The tax would be levied by the AAATA only if it wins a majority of support among voters across its three member jurisdictions: the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. The DDA board resolution came in part as a response to the fact that the DDA will be capturing a portion of the new millage under its tax increment finance (TIF) funding mechanism.

The board also approved the award to Republic Parking of the full $50,000 annual discretionary management incentive. Republic Parking’s contract with the Ann Arbor DDA covers just actual costs, but also includes a $200,000 annual management fee. Of the $200,000 management fee, $50,000 is awarded to Republic on a discretionary basis. It was last year, at the board’s March 6, 2013 meeting, when the DDA board decided for the first time in five years to award the full $50,000 of the incentive. The year before, at its Feb. 1, 2012 meeting, the board determined to award $45,000 of the discretionary amount. That matched the same figure awarded in 2011, 2010 and 2009.

The board also heard the usual range of reports from committees as well as public commentary. A highlight of announcements included the upcoming closure of the surface parking facility at the old Y lot, as the city-owned property is sold to hotelier Dennis Dahlmann. The closing is expected sometime between March 13-15. The lot is located on William Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, across from the downtown library and south of the Blake Transit Center. [Full Story]

DDA Might Increase Support for Transit

In the context of an approaching May 6, 2014 transit millage ballot question, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has approved a resolution that pledges to work toward increasing the DDA’s support for transportation programs.

The 0.7 mill tax was placed on a May 6 ballot by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board on Feb. 20, 2014. The tax would be levied by the AAATA only if it wins a majority of support among voters across its three member jurisdictions: the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.

The DDA board resolution comes in part as a response to the fact that the DDA will be capturing a portion of the new millage … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor DDA: We’ve Been Good Stewards

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (March 6, 2013): In a main agenda item, the DDA board authorized a $300,000 grant to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission – for renovations to the 64-unit Baker Commons public housing facility. It added to the $280,000 grant made late last year for the replacement of the Baker Commons roof.

DDA board member Keith Orr delivered extended remarks in response to a proposal currently being weighed by the Ann Arbor city council that would make amendments to the city ordinance governing the downtown development authority.

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board member Keith Orr delivered extended remarks in response to a proposal currently being weighed by the Ann Arbor city council that would amend the city’s ordinance governing the DDA. (Photos by the writer.)

The grant award had come at the request of AAHC executive director Jennifer L. Hall, who’s proposing a major change to the way the 360 units of public housing are administered. The approach involves privatization and project-based vouchers.

The DDA’s support for public housing also surfaced at the meeting as a talking point for board members in the context of a proposal being considered by the Ann Arbor city council – which would amend the city ordinance regulating how the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) capture works. The amendments would clarify existing language in the city ordinance in a way that would favor the other taxing authorities, whose taxes are captured as a part of the DDA’s TIF. The council postponed action on that proposal at its March 4, 2013 meeting. In that context, at the DDA’s March 6 meeting, board member Sandi Smith raised the specter that the DDA would in the future not be able to support affordable housing in the same way it has done in the past.

In addition to clarifying the question of how TIF is calculated, the amendments would prevent elected officials from serving on the board and would impose term limits for board service. Board members took turns at the start of the meeting arguing that the DDA had been a good steward of public dollars and that the amendments to the ordinance are not warranted. Board members indicated that they didn’t think their service as volunteer members of a board was being afforded adequate respect by the city council.

The board comments followed a turn at public commentary at the start of the meeting from Brendan Cavendar of Colliers International, a commercial real estate services firm. His commentary departed from the typical pattern of someone signing up to address the board for up to four minutes. Instead, Cavendar had been invited to appear, and responded to prompts from board members to deliver a range of positive responses, including: future tenancy of the former Borders location; rising rents in the downtown area; and affirmation of the importance of the downtown public parking system.

The city’s public parking system is managed by the Ann Arbor DDA under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor. The monthly parking usage report is featured at every board meeting. But the March 6 meeting featured the parking system in an additional way. The board decided to award the full $50,000 of a discretionary management incentive to the DDA’s subcontractor – Republic Parking – for operation of the public parking system. It’s an annual decision, but it’s the first time in the last five years that the full amount has been awarded. The decision was based on good performance on metrics tracked by the DDA, according to the board.

In a third voting item, the board authorized $610,662 in support of getDowntown’s go!pass program, which provides a subsidy to cover the cost of rides taken on Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses by employees of participating downtown businesses. To participate, a business must purchase a go!pass for all employees, at an annual cost of $10 per employee. Roughly 6,500 downtown employees are provided with go!passes through the program. [Full Story]

Column: Pass Go, Collect Bus Pass – And More?

In my wallet I have a transit pass. By sliding this pass through the farebox card reader aboard any Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus, I get access to a public transportation system that served our community with 6.3 million rides this past fiscal year.


This go!pass, subsidized by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, lets its holder ride AATA buses an unlimited number of times.

If I rode the AATA buses to and from work every day and paid the full $1.50 fare each way, the cash value of that card would be about $750 per year. Of course if I were actually riding the bus that frequently, I’d be somewhat better off purchasing a 30-day pass for $58 a month, which would come out to just a bit under $700 annually.

What I actually paid for that card this year was $10 – just a bit over 1% of its potential cash value.

So what sort of dark magic subsidizes my potential rides on AATA buses? And why do I have access to this magical go!pass card, when you, dear Chronicle reader, likely do not?

Along the road to answering these questions, I’d also like to make a proposal. It’s a vision for broadening the program, getting more transit passes into the hands of Ann Arbor residents, and expanding the possible uses for the go!pass – including (shudder) the ability to use a transit pass to pay for parking. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor DDA OKs $30K for Bike Parking Cage

A 50-bike storage facility that would have the footprint of two automobile parking spaces has been given approval by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board. [.jpg of footprint] The “cage” will be located in the downtown Ann Arbor Maynard Street parking structure.

The authorization of $30,000 from the DDA’s parking fund – for design, fabrication and installation of the bicycle storage facility – was given at the board’s Oct. 3, 2012 meeting. Similar “cages” in other cities use a chain-link fencing material. However, the DDA hopes that a more aesthetically pleasing option can be identified.

The facility is designed for commuters who would pay a rental amount for use of the “cage.” Bicyclists would still be responsible for securing their … [Full Story]

Committee Briefed on Downtown Sidewalks

As the Nov. 8, 2011 general election approaches, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is considering the implications that a ballot question might have on the DDA’s tax increment finance (TIF) district. The ballot question asks voters to approve a sidewalk repair millage that would levy a new tax of 0.125 mills. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.


Part of the discussion at the DDA transportation, operations and construction committee meeting included the “two-inch” rule on vertical sidewalk displacement. A law working its way through the state legislature would establish that a city is presumed to have maintained a sidewalk properly, but that can be rebutted by evidence showing that the proximate cause of an injury was a “vertical discontinuity” defect of 2 inches or more in the sidewalk. (Photo by the writer.)

Members of the DDA’s transportation, operations and construction committee were briefed on that and a number of other issues at its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28. (The committee has a combined function for what were at different times in the past three separate committees.)

The committee was also briefed on: (1) the status of the getDowntown program; (2) a parking communications plan aimed at evening employees; (3) the financial picture for the city’s public parking system; and (4) the results of a parking customer satisfaction survey.

Committee members were somewhat surprised and disappointed to learn that the city council’s policy on the use of proceeds from the proposed sidewalk millage would place restrictions on using millage money inside the boundaries of the DDA’s TIF district.

The city council’s Aug. 4 resolution authorizing ballot language for the proposed 0.125 mill tax places a limitation on the use of funds inside the TIF district, though the wording on the ballot does not include the limitation. The resolution states that inside the DDA district, only those sidewalks adjacent to single- and two-family houses (but not other commercial properties) would be included in a millage-supported sidewalk repair program.

A resolution of intent on the use of the sidewalk millage, which includes the restriction inside the DDA TIF district, was postponed from the council’s Sept. 19 meeting, and will be taken up by the council again on Oct. 3.

At their Wednesday meeting, DDA committee members were also apprised that the getDowntown program, which draws the majority of its funding from the DDA, will not be folded into the DDA as had previously been planned. Instead, the program’s two staff members will remain employees of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The getDowntown program’s status has been a question since the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce (now the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber) two years ago pulled out of the four-way partnership that supported getDowntown. The remaining three partners are the city of Ann Arbor, the DDA and the AATA.

The committee was also briefed on elements of the DDA’s communications plan that’s aimed at downtown evening employees, in connection with possibly extending parking meter enforcement hours past 6 p.m. Other parking-related issues on the committee’s agenda included a structure-by-structure breakdown of the financial performance of the city’s parking garages, as well as an overview of the results of a regular parking system survey used to evaluate Republic Parking, the DDA’s parking contractor.

This report focuses on sidewalks and getDowntown. [Full Story]

AATA Reduces Charge for go!pass Rides

At its Aug. 24, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board authorized a change to the price it charges for rides taken under the go!pass program. The go!pass can be purchased by downtown Ann Arbor employers for their employees at a cost of $5 per pass annually.

The change authorized by the board might go unnoticed for holders of the passes, who do not pay fares to board the bus, but will include an increase from $5 to $10 for the annual fee paid by employers. That’s an increase that will be implemented by the getDowntown program, which administers the go!pass program. However, in the action taken on Aug. 24, the AATA is actually lowering the price per go!pass ride.

Here’s why. Holders of the go!pass card can board the bus without paying a fare, and there are no limits on the number of rides that can be taken with the card. The cost of such rides is funded in small part by the $5/card fee paid by employers, but in largest part by revenues from the city’s public parking system provided through the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. At its June 2, 2010 meeting, the DDA authorized three years worth of funding for the go!pass program. For the second two fiscal years of that funding, approval amounted to $438,565 (FY 2012) and  $475,571 (FY 2013).

The number of rides taken using the go!pass has increased each year for the last decade, but has jumped significantly during the last year. [.jpg graph of go!pass ridership] In the past, the AATA has priced go!pass rides in a way that matches the revenue per go!pass ride to the amount that bus riders would pay if they paid the full fare under a regular 30-day pass – the cheapest full-fare option. So, as go!pass ridership has increased, the total amount charged by the AATA for the rides has also increased.

In the past, the DDA has increased its level of support to match what the AATA has charged. As the DDA is under increasing financial pressure due to the new public parking system management contract recently signed with the city of Ann Arbor, as well as a possible need to return excess tax increment finance (TIF) that was collected, it’s not anticipated that the DDA will be able to increase the amount it contributes to the go!pass program.

Given the levels of funding now pledged by the DDA, the price that employers would need to be charged per go!pass per year would be $26 – if the same policy is maintained of charging for go!pass rides so that their cost matches what the cheapest full-fare option would be.

In recent presentations to the DDA, Nancy Shore, the director of the getDowntown program, has recommended an increase from $5 to $10, not to $26. The advisory board of getDowntown has approved the increase to $10.

The action taken by the AATA board on Aug. 24 essentially sets the charge for go!pass rides at a flat rate – equal to the DDA’s current level of pledged support, plus an estimate that the total employer contribution (at $10/pass/year) would be $71,000 per year, based on the roughly 7,100 go!passes sold to employers so far this year. That is, the price charged for go!pass rides for the next two fiscal years will be $509,565 and $546,571, respectively – independently of the number of rides taken by go!pass holders.

The board’s action translates to a decision to accept a $16/pass/year shortfall in revenues from go!pass rides, compared to what the previous pricing policy has been, or roughly $113,600 (16*7,100).

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

DDA Elects Officers, Gets More Parking Data

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting and annual meeting (July 6, 2011): Other than the ritual cancellation of its monthly meeting for August, the DDA board did not have any items on its agenda for July that required a board vote.

Bag of Rocks

To honor her past year of service as chair of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Joan Lowenstein was presented with a plastic bag full of gravel. (That was only part of the token of appreciation.) To Lowenstein's left is Gary Boren, who was elected chair for the next year. (Photos by the writer.)

But during the meeting, parking issues were a focus, as they usually are.

First, board member Roger Hewitt reported to the board that additional data on usage of the city’s public parking system will now be available from Republic Parking. The DDA manages the city’s public parking system under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor – the DDA subcontracts out the day-to-day operations to Republic Parking. The new kind of data measures the number of total parking hours used by parkers against the total number of parking hours that are available in the system. Based on that measure, the parking system has seen a 1.72% increase in usage over the first five months of 2011, compared with the same five months of 2010.

Second, one of the major allocations of public parking revenue the DDA makes is to the getDowntown program, a partnership among the DDA, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and the city of Ann Arbor. As part of a three-year funding plan for the getDowntown program approved in June 2010 for fiscal years 2011-13, the program will receive roughly $500,000 from the DDA for FY 2012 and FY 2013, the bulk of which is to subsidize the cost of rides for holders of a go!pass. The go!pass is a card that allows employees of downtown businesses to board AATA buses on an unlimited basis without paying a fare.

The getDowntown program employs two people, including director Nancy Shore. At Wednesday’s meeting, Shore gave the full board the same presentation she’d given the board’s transportation committee earlier in the month. Part of the board discussion involved which of the three funding partners – the DDA, the city of Ann Arbor or the AATA – would employ the two getDowntown staffers in the future. One possibility, which based on Wednesday’s meeting seemed likely, would be for the DDA to add the two getDowntown staffers to its administrative payroll.

At its annual meeting, convened just after the monthly board meeting, the board elected new officers for the coming year, all with unanimous consent: Gary Boren, chair; Bob Guenzel, vice chair; Keith Orr, secretary; and Roger Hewitt, treasurer.

In recognition of her service, outgoing chair Joan Lowenstein was presented with a token of appreciation by the DDA staff: a plastic bag of gravel, and a necklace featuring a lump of gravel as its centerpiece.

The connection to gravel in Lowenstein’s gift was the underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue, which is currently under construction. The board got its regular update on the status of that project, as well as commentary from the owners of two immediately adjacent restaurants – Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar – which have seen their business drop by 30-50% during the construction.  [Full Story]

DDA Gives 3-Year Grant to getDowntown

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (June 2, 2010): At its regular monthly meeting, the DDA board voted to approve three years worth of funding for the getDowntown program and the go!pass bus passes, which getDowntown administers for downtown employees.


Before the meeting of the DDA board: Russ Collins and Keith Orr. Collins is not demonstrating to Orr how to snag a foul ball at a baseball game. (Photo by the writer.)

The program is currently in a transition year as the four-way partnership that supports it was reduced to three partners when the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce dropped out last year, citing financial pressures. That leaves the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, and the Ann Arbor DDA as getDowntown funding partners.

In other business, the board approved the application of LEED certification for its underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue, currently under construction.

The board began a discussion on a payment-in-lieu program for required onsite parking (PILOP) for downtown developments.

The board also heard a pitch from Tamara Real for additional support for a web portal currently under development by the Arts Alliance. [Full Story]

Approved: Earth Retention, Zipcars

ground breaking ceremony

Last week's groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fifth Avenue underground parking garage. Left to right: Susan Pollay, Leigh Greden, John Splitt, Newcombe Clark, Sandi Smith, Roger Hewitt. (Photo by the writer.)

Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Oct. 7, 2009): Last week’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new underground parking garage at the Library Lot included car-related songs from DJ Surfer Joe. And the theme of cars – and specifically the underground parking project, which the DDA is undertaking – echoed through the DDA board’s Wednesday meeting.

The board approved a $50,000 expenditure for an earth retention system design, as well as a commitment to support two additional Zipcars at $36,000 a year, for a total of six cars in the downtown area. The actual amount of the subsidy is expected to be zero, based on experience with the first four vehicles.

The board also heard a report from getDowntown director Nancy Shore about the results of a commuter survey. Board members also spent time discussing under what conditions they should call special meetings.

Mayor John Hieftje announced that Ann Arbor’s Main Street had earned a special designation from the American Planning Association. All that and who’s getting married, after the jump. [Full Story]

Singing in the Lane

Elizabeth Tidd

Elizabeth Tidd saddled up at the Fourth Avenue parking structure after attending the first organizational meeting for an Ann Arbor Bike Choir.

The idea crystallized for Susan Zielinski 16 years ago, when she was was riding her bike through traffic in Toronto, trying to keep Beethoven’s ninth symphony in her mind as the incessant traffic noises threatened to drive it out.

“What I need,” she thought, “is 20 people riding with me, singing in four-part harmony to drown out the sound of the traffic.”

To humor her, a handful of her friends planned what they thought would be a one-time bike chorale performance during Toronto’s bike week. They called themselves Song Cycles – the Choir on Bikes.

CBC radio called for an interview before they’d even had a rehearsal, and minor celebrity ensued.

Zielinski moved to Ann Arbor three years ago to work on a sustainable transportation project at the University of Michigan, and with the help of Michigan Peaceworks executive director Laura Russello, she’s once again at the hub of a burgeoning bike choir. [Full Story]

DDA Committee Gets getDowntown Update

Ann Arbor Observer article from Ann Arbor District Library clipping file.

A 1998 Ann Arbor Observer article about the park-and-ride program, found in the Ann Arbor District Library's clipping file.

DDA Transportation Committee (Dec. 18, 2008) The Downtown Development Authority‘s transportation committee addressed the north-south connector study and had a “big picture” discussion about transportation issues before hearing from getDowntown director Nancy Shore, who gave an overview of that program. The context of her presentation was $100,000 of funding for alternative transportation authorized by the DDA in September 2008, part or all of which could be allocated to getDowntown. [Full Story]