Stories indexed with the term ‘parking’

Ann Arbor Parking Rate Increases OK’d

At its Jan. 4, 2012 meeting, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority voted unanimously to increase parking rates – some effective starting Jan. 21 and Feb. 1, 2012, with others starting Sept. 1. Among the increases to take effect eight months from now are an increase in on-street metered parking from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour and an increase in the hourly rate for parking structures from $1.10/hour to $1.20/hour.

The mid-January and early February rate changes are estimated to generate a total of $133,000 in additional revenue annually. Increases and anticipated revenues are: raise meter bag rates by $5/day ($68,800); increase the premium parking rate by $5/month ($3,300); increase Ann & Ashley and Liberty Square structure evening/Saturday rates by … [Full Story]

Shouts, Songs Occupy UM Regents Meeting

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Dec. 15, 2011): The December regents meeting reflected campus activism and the arts – nearly in equal measure.

Occupy UM protesters

Occupy UM protesters walking toward the Fleming administration building prior to the Dec. 15 regents meeting, where they protested against the high cost of public education. Flyers taped to The Cube repeated the same theme. (Photos by the writer.)

As UM president Mary Sue Coleman began her opening remarks to start Thursday’s meeting, about two dozen “Occupy UM” protesters, who’d been sitting in the boardroom, stood up and shouted, “Mic check!” For the next five minutes, in a call-and-response delivery, protesters outlined their grievances against the university’s leadership – primarily, that once-affordable public education has been turned into an expensive commodity. [A video of the protest is posted on YouTube.]

When the group finished, they left the boardroom chanting “Instruction, not construction!” Neither the regents nor Coleman responded to them or alluded to the protest during the rest of the meeting.

Another group of students gave a decidedly different performance just minutes later. The a cappella group Amazin’ Blue sang five holiday songs, prompting board chair Denise Ilitch to don a blue Santa’s hat – embroidered with “Michigan” – and sing along.

The meeting included two issues related to the Ann Arbor community and parking. During public commentary, Chip Smith of the Near Westside Neighborhood Association highlighted problems with a UM parking lot that’s surrounded by homes on the Old West Side. And in a staff memo accompanying a resolution to issue bonds for capital projects, Fuller Road Station was on the list in the category of projects that would require final approval by regents prior to being funded with bond proceeds. The regents had approved the controversial project – a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor parking structure, bus depot and possible train station – in January 2010, but a formal agreement between the city and university has not yet been finalized.

Other items on the Dec. 15 agenda included: (1) presentations by three UM faculty who were named MacArthur Fellows this year; (2) approval of the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) initiative; and (3) approval of several renovation projects, including work on the Law School’s historic Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers’ Club and the John P. Cook Building. [Full Story]

Public Hearing Set for Traver Village

A public hearing has been set for the Dec. 20, 2011 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting, to get input on changes to the Traver Village site plan on Plymouth Road.

The proposal calls for building a new 25-space parking lot in front of the retail building at the southwest corner of the site at 2601 Plymouth Road. Other changes include removing 14,021 square feet of parking and driveway at the northwest corner of the site, near Huron Parkway, and restoring lawn area there, and adding covered bicycle parking throughout the center. The proposal includes a request for a landscape ordinance modification to retain crushed brick mulch in landscape islands on the 16.98-acre site.

This brief was filed from the planning commission’s Dec. 6, … [Full Story]

City Apartments Elevation Revisions OK’d

At its Oct. 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council approved modifications to Village Green’s already-approved City Apartments planned unit development (PUD) at First and Washington. [This should not be confused with the similarly named City Place matter-of-right proposal by a different developer on South Fifth Avenue].

The changes include increasing the height of the structure from 94 to 104 feet, adding an entrance on First Street, modifying the window type and size on the residential portion of the building, and adding ventilation screens on the east side (alley) of the building.

The City Apartments project was given PUD zoning and site plan approval by the council on Nov. 6, 2008. The nine-story building will include 156 dwelling units and 244 parking spaces on the first two floors. The site is currently a city-owned property functioning as a surface parking lot with 64 spaces, after the parking structure there had to be demolished due to its poor structural condition. The new parking deck, which will offer spaces to the general public as well as to residents, is being financed by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

The sale of the property, for a little over $3 million, is part of the city of Ann Arbor’s financing plan for construction of the new municipal center, which houses the police department and the 15th District Court. The council has extended the purchase option on the First and Washington property several times, most recently on Aug. 4, 2011.

At one of the DDA board’s late August committee meetings, news of a pending deal and imminent construction was relayed to committee members. The council is expected to authorize the closing on the deal at its Nov. 10, 2011 meeting. Signs at the First and Washington parking lot warn patrons of the lot’s imminent closure.

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] [Full Story]

DDA Updated: Parking, Panhandling, Parcels

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Oct. 5, 2011): At its regular monthly meeting, the DDA board had no voting items on its agenda, but received the usual set of reports from its committees and the public.

Bob Guenzel chair of DDA board

Bob Guenzel chaired his first meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board on Wednesday. (Photos by the writer.)

Those included the monthly parking report, which showed use of the city’s public parking trending upward compared to last year, as well as an annual report on the structure-by-structure breakdown of the parking system.

The reports presented to the DDA board at their meeting – together with a recent report delivered to the city’s environmental commission about parking trends dating back to the mid-2000s – provide reason for some cautious optimism. The number of people getting access to downtown Ann Arbor by driving there and parking suggests an overall slight upward trend, despite a reduced number of number of hourly patrons earlier this year.

Also related to parking, the board received a presentation on a communications plan that the DDA is developing, targeted at downtown evening employees. That communications plan is meant to make sure those employees are aware of low cost alternatives to using on-street parking spaces. The communications strategy would be part of a possible plan to extend enforcement hours for on-street parking meetings past 6 p.m. The DDA will present its tentative proposal for revisions to parking policies to the city council at a joint working session of the board and the council to be held on Nov. 14.

In response to some of the individual success stories that were presented in connection with parking alternatives, DDA board member Russ Collins said, “I wonder how this positive message will play in the media.”

Collins’ remark could have applied to much of the rest of the meeting as well. The board took the report on the basic current financial health of the parking system as an occasion to talk about the overall economic strength of the downtown. Despite the recent closing of some smaller stores, board members gave reports of strong performances by other businesses.

That positive report contrasted with public commentary about ongoing problems with aggressive panhandling and drug dealing and other fringe behavior exhibited downtown. Mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board, described how some response is being developed by the Ann Arbor police department.

The construction updates on the Fifth and Division streetscape improvement project and the underground parking garage on Fifth Avenue converged on the Ann Arbor District Library. The projects will result in modifying the downtown library building’s front porch, to facilitate access from the new east-west mid-block street – Library Lane – into the library.

As the underground parking garage nears expected completion in the spring of 2012, brief discussion unfolded among DDA board members on the near-term use of the top of that garage. Also related to potential development in the “midtown area” was a report from the partnerships committee. A steering committee comprising DDA board members and community members will be leading the effort to explore alternative uses of specific city-owned parcels downtown, including the top of the underground parking structure (aka the Library Lot).

It was the first board meeting chaired by Bob Guenzel, who was elected to that position at the DDA’s last meeting, which he was unable to attend. [Full Story]

University Bank Site Modifications OK’d

Following postponement at its Sept. 8, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission recommended approval of changes to a University Bank site plan for property at 2015 Washtenaw Ave., known as the Hoover Mansion. The proposal will now be forwarded to city council for approval.

The proposal would increase the number of allowable employees from 50 to 59 at the bank’s headquarters and add a new parking lot on the site, with a setback of 24 feet from the eastern property line. A continuous six-foot-high wall is proposed along the eastern and southeastern property lines, to screen the parking lot from 2021 Washtenaw Ave. and 2107-2109 Tuomy. The changes require amending the supplemental regulations of the site’s planned unit development (PUD) … [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]

“No” to Sausage, “Not Yet” to Bank

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (Sept. 8, 2011): At its Thursday meeting – held later in the week than usual because of the Labor Day holiday – commissioners had two main business items on the agenda, and did not recommend in favor of the petitioner for either of them. In one case the commission put off a decision, and in the other commissioners took a vote on the issue.

Biercamp Ann Arbor planning commission

Walt Hansen, co-owner of Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky, retrieves a copy of the agenda before the start of the Sept. 8 planning commission meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The commission put off a decision on a proposal from University Bank to increase the number of allowable employees from 50 to 59 at its headquarters on Washtenaw Avenue and to add 14 parking spaces to a new lot on the site. The headquarters is located in what’s known as the Hoover Mansion.

In October 2010, the commission had put off a decision on University Bank’s proposal as well, faced with a recommendation against approval from city planning staff and opposition from some neighbors. This time around, a consensus appeared to have been reached – among planning staff, neighbors and bank officials – to accommodate neighbors’ concerns. However, the commission was reluctant to make a recommendation, because the final site plan had not yet been submitted. The consensus had been achieved only a week ago, on Sept. 1. The vote to postpone, likely until the commission’s next meeting on Sept. 20, was unanimous.

The commission did make a recommendation on a proposal from Walt Hansen and Hannah Cheadle – the owners of Biercamp Artisan Sausage and Jerky – to rezone the property at 1643 and 1645 S. State St., south of Stimson and next to the Produce Station. The parcels currently house the couple’s sausage business as well as an auto repair shop and furniture manufacturer. The commission found the proposed rezoning inconsistent with the city’s master plan and recommended against it.

In connection with the property’s annexation into the city from Ann Arbor Township, the Biercamp owners had wanted to rezone the property to C3 (fringe commercial district). That zoning designation would allow their business to sell a wider variety of merchandise, in addition to the sausage and jerky products they make on site. The recommendation against approval will be forwarded to the city council.

Commissioners offered a glimmer of possibility that commercial zoning for the Biercamp parcel could result from a study of the entire State Street corridor and a revision to the city’s master plan.

At the meeting, commissioners also got an update on future planning-connected events, including a Grand Rapids planning conference that commissioners might want to attend, and visitors from Indonesia that the city is hosting through an International City/County Management Association (ICMA) sustainability fellows program.

The commission also received a heads up that on their Sept. 20 agenda would be a proposal for The Varsity at Ann Arbor, a proposed 13-story, 173-unit, 178,380-square-foot apartment building for approximately 418 students. It would include 77 parking spaces, and would replace the two-story office building and parking lot currently on the site. [Full Story]

University Bank Project Tabled Again

At its Sept. 8, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission voted to postpone approval of a University Bank proposal to increase the number of allowable employees from 50 to 59 at its headquarters on Washtenaw Avenue and to add 14 parking spaces to a new lot on the site. The headquarters is located in what’s known as the Hoover Mansion.

Although a consensus appeared to have been reached – among planning staff, neighbors and bank officials – the commission was reluctant to make a recommendation, because the final site plan had not yet been submitted. The consensus had been achieved only a week ago, last Thursday, Sept. 1. The vote to postpone, likely until the commission’s next meeting on Sept. … [Full Story]

DDA: Parking, Excess Taxes Still Not Done

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority special board meeting (May 20, 2011): A special meeting held by the board of the DDA on Friday was meant to give some final resolution to the DDA’s side of a new contract under which it would continue to operate the city’s public parking system.

Bob Guenzel, John Mouat, Sandi Smith, Russ Collins, DDA special board meeting

Left to right: DDA board members Bob Guenzel, John Mouat, Sandi Smith, and Russ Collins at the May 20 DDA special board meeting. Obscured from view between Guenzel and Mouat is John Hieftje. They were distributing the paper handouts with calculations of excess TIF revenues. (Photos by the writer.)

It was also intended to settle the matter of excess capture of TIF (tax increment finance) revenue in the DDA district – an issue raised by the city of Ann Arbor just before the DDA board had originally planned to vote on the new parking contract on May 2.

The board did vote on Friday to affirm a calculation by DDA staff that roughly $473,000 of excess TIF capture since 2004 would be divided among the following taxing authorities, which have a portion of their tax revenues captured in the DDA TIF district: Washtenaw County; Washtenaw Community College; and the Ann Arbor District Library.

Based on a representation at the special meeting by mayor John Hieftje – who has a statutory seat on the DDA board – the city of Ann Arbor is likely to agree to “forgive” the $711,767 in excess TIF capture that would be due to the city. More than that amount has effectively already been returned to the city, in the form of a roughly $0.5 million annual grant to the city to help make bond payments on its new municipal center, and a $1 million expenditure to demolish the old YMCA building, as well as other grants. In total, around $7.5 million has gone to the city, according to the DDA.

At Friday’s special meeting, the DDA board also voted to ratify its side of a new contract under which it would continue to operate the city’s public parking system. Among other features, the new contract would obligate the city of Ann Arbor to report regularly on how it is using public parking system revenues for street repair in the downtown, and how it is enforcing parking regulations downtown.

More controversially, the new contract would allow the DDA to set parking rates. Currently, the DDA forwards proposed rate changes to the city council, which can then veto the DDA’s proposal if it acts within 60 days. If the council does not act to block the rate change, the change is enacted. Although Hieftje said at the DDA board meeting he felt there was adequate support on the council to approve such a contract, there are currently at least five likely no votes on the 11-member council.

Also controversial is the exact percentage of gross revenues the city would receive from the public parking system. Before the issue of the excess TIF capture arose, the DDA board was poised to ratify a parking contract that would transfer 17% of gross parking revenues to the city of Ann Arbor’s general fund. At Friday’s special meeting, the resolution before the board dropped that number to 16%. Hieftje proposed an amendment to raise the figure to 17%. That amendment was attached to a contingency that the city council would provide a plan amendable to the DDA in which the city would “underwrite” the DDA’s fund balances. It was the 17% with a contingency that the DDA board passed.

So the special DDA board meeting did not settle with finality either the issue of the excess TIF capture or the DDA’s side of the parking contract. For the TIF capture issue, the relevant taxing authorities – especially the city of Ann Arbor – will need to affirm the solution that the DDA board approved.

For the parking contract issue, the DDA’s contingency means that the city council’s Monday, May 23 meeting – which is a continuation of its May 16 meeting, when it was supposed to approve the FY 2012 budget – will likely be recessed and continued again on May 31.

One possibility for how events would unfold is this: (1) May 23 – the city council ratifies the city’s side of the parking contract and provides the plan for underwriting DDA fund balances; city council also deliberates and amends FY 2012 budget but does not take a final vote on it; (2) May 24-27 – DDA schedules a special meeting to accept the parking contract contingency; and (3) May 31 – city council resumes the meeting started May 16 and previously continued on May 23, and approves FY 2012 budget. [.pdf of draft parking contract] [Full Story]

Idea for Night Farmers Market Floated

Ann Arbor public market advisory commission meeting (March 10, 2011): A nighttime farmers market in Ann Arbor is in the works as a pilot program to start on Wednesdays in July.

The Ann Arbor farmers market in Kerrytown

The Ann Arbor public market in Kerrytown is empty and used for parking except for Saturdays, when the farmers market is open, and on Sundays for the artisan market. An additional farmers market is held on Wednesdays from May through December. At left, two women use the e-Park kiosk to pay for their parking on Monday. (Photos by the writer.)

Market manager Molly Notarianni is proposing a producers-only market from 4:30-8:30 p.m., operating as a separate entity from the existing Saturday and Wednesday daytime markets. The significance of having a separate application process is that it would eliminate the seniority system that exists at the other markets. The seniority system makes it difficult for new vendors to get spots in those markets.

Members of the city’s public market advisory commission seemed generally supportive of the idea – they’ll likely weigh in officially at their meeting in May.

The group also discussed revisions to the market vendor application form – including a proposed requirement for lease verification.

The commission is still short two members, a situation that has presented some challenges in the last few months. All three current members need to attend in order to achieve a quorum, and scheduling difficulties have led to cancellation of several of their monthly meetings. The March meeting was rescheduled from Tuesday to Thursday of last week – because of that change, the meeting was not broadcast by Community Television Network (CTN).

Openings remain on the commission for the category of: (1) a market shopper; and (2) someone who lives or works in the Kerrytown district, where the market is located. Applications are available on the market’s website. They must be sent to the mayor, who makes nominations that are then voted on by the city council. [Full Story]

University Bank Project Postponed

Ann Arbor planning commissioner meeting (Oct. 19, 2010): Three projects were considered at the Oct. 19 planning commission meeting, and commissioners voted to postpone two of them.

Hoover Mansion

The headquarters of University Bank, in the building known as the Hoover Mansion on Washtenaw Avenue. A request to increase parking on the site was postponed by the Ann Arbor planning commission at its Oct. 19 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

One of those projects – related to an expansion of Arbor Dog Daycare – has already appeared before the commission multiple times. Most recently, the proposal was rejected by commissioners in September, primarily due to concerns about noise generated by dogs using the outdoor dog run. Owners Jon and Margaret Svoboda had asked that their request be reconsidered, and commissioners agreed to the reconsideration. But after an hour of discussion on Tuesday evening, commissioners voted to postpone again, asking staff to explore possible conditions – such as an annual review or written policy requirement – that could be added to the special exception use to address the problem of continuously barking dogs.

Also postponed was a request to add more parking to the site of the University Bank headquarters in the building known as the Hoover Mansion on Washtenaw Avenue, and to allow up to 10 additional employees to work at that location. The planning staff had recommended denial of the request, stating that the project impacts natural features and doesn’t offer an overall benefit to the city. However, commissioners asked planning staff to work with bank officials to come up with an alternative proposal for locating new parking.

During a public hearing on the project, bank president Stephen Ranzini told commissioners that if the bank can’t get the additional parking, it could trigger a decision to leave that location and expand elsewhere. He noted that the building, which he said sat vacant for nearly three years before being acquired by the bank, is extremely expensive to maintain, and described himself as a good steward for the property.

A third proposal considered by the planning commission on Oct. 19 – adding parking spots to the Briar Cove Apartments complex on the city’s southwest side – was approved unanimously. [Full Story]

Payments, Permits in Lieu of Parking

Ann Arbor Planning Commission meeting (July 20, 2010): Parking is a frequent topic for planning commissioners, though often tangentially, as it relates to specific developments. The issue was brought up more directly at their July 20 meeting, when Susan Pollay – executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – made a guest appearance.

Entrance to Liberty Square parking structure on East Washington

The entrance to Liberty Square parking structure on East Washington Street, between Division and State. Parking contracts between the DDA and developers include permits for spaces in this structure. (Photo by the writer.)

Pollay was on hand to describe and answer questions about a DDA proposal for a payment-in-lieu-of-parking program, known as a PILOP. The planning commission won’t be acting on the proposal, which sets out options for developers to meet the city’s parking requirements for new buildings. But Pollay was asking for feedback, before crafting a resolution that council will likely consider later this year. The proposal that Pollay presented would have developers pay for parking permits, plus a monthly surcharge. Some commissioners voiced preference for taking payments from developers to support the parking system, but not including parking permits as part of the deal.

Commissioners also approved a site plan for a drive-thru pharmacy at the Kroger on South Maple, and as well as rezoning for the Ann Arbor Guest House, a proposed residence on Dhu Varren Road for people with relatives in the hospital.

And while they initially seemed poised to approve revisions to their bylaws, commissioners ultimately postponed that vote, hoping to bring someone from the city attorney’s staff to an upcoming meeting to answer questions about some of the proposed changes. [Full Story]

PAC Softens Stance on Fuller Road Station

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission working session (June 1, 2010): Members of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission took another crack at drafting a resolution regarding the proposed Fuller Road Station, softening some of the language that had previously called for city council to abandon the project. The station includes a large parking structure, bus depot and possible train station for commuter rail, to be built in partnership with the University of Michigan near the UM medical complex.

The changes are in response to a plea for unity by mayor John Hieftje, who had attended PAC’s May 18 meeting where he spoke with commissioners for an hour about their concerns. He told commissioners that the city has a better chance of getting federal funding for the project if they show a united front.

PAC members have been concerned that if the project moves forward, the city would receive less revenue from UM for parking than it currently gets from the surface lots it leases to the university on Fuller Road. Those revenues support the city’s park operations. Among other issues, some commissioners are also troubled that the structure is to be built on land that’s designated as parkland, and that there’s been limited opportunity for public input.

Immediately following a June 1 meeting of PAC’s land acquisition committee, which includes all members of the commission, PAC members stayed for a working session on the Fuller Road Station. Chair Julie Grand brought a revised resolution to consider, and the group thrashed through issues and language to come up with a draft that will be discussed at PAC’s June 15 regular meeting.

In addition, commissioner Tim Berla plans to propose an alternative resolution, which he emailed to other PAC members on Monday. His resolution focuses on process – asking that the city council and staff be fully transparent in providing details about the agreement to the public. [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]

Parking Report Portends DDA-City Tension

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (April 7, 2010): At its regular Wednesday meeting, the full board of the DDA endorsed a draft of the parking report it has been asked to submit to the city council by April 19, when the council next meets. Before it’s sent to the city council, the report will possibly undergo some minor tweaking at the DDA’s partnerships committee meeting next Wednesday, April 14.

Granger Construction Company

David Olson, vice president of Granger Construction Co., delivered a letter to the DDA board during public commentary, which questioned the way concrete bids were handled for the DDA's underground parking garage. The garage is currently under construction along Fifth Avenue. (Photos by the writer.)

Though not addressed by the board as business items, two areas of controversy emerged during public commentary.

One involves the award of a bid as part of the DDA’s construction of the underground parking garage along Fifth Avenue. The contract for construction management for the entire project was awarded to The Christman Co. However, under the terms of the contract, Christman must bid out various components of the project, like the concrete work – even though Christman has the capability of doing that work itself.

The low bid for the concrete work was submitted by Granger Construction Co., at $21.5 million. But Christman awarded the contract to Christman Constructors Inc., which had submitted a bid of $22 million. Christman’s selection as construction manager of the project had been finalized at the DDA board’s Nov. 4, 2009 meeting with a guaranteed maximum price of $44,381,573. Representatives of Christman and Granger aired their differing points of view on the concrete bid at Wednesday’s meeting, with DDA board chair John Splitt concluding that he was satisfied the process had been fair.

The other point of controversy arising during public commentary is the probable $2 million payment this year by the DDA to the city of Ann Arbor – which it has no obligation to make under its current parking agreement with the city. The city’s budget book for FY 2011, released on Monday, does not factor in a payment from the DDA. Instead, it shows a $1.5 million shortfall for the year. The DDA’s parking report to the city council hints at the possibility that the DDA would take responsibility for the ticketing of parking violations. That change in enforcement could be included in the renegotiation of the parking agreement.

Other business transacted by the board on Wednesday included a resolution calling on the city council to revise its sign ordinance so that downtown merchants could use sandwich board signs legally. A recent attempt to revise the ordinance by the council was voted down at its Feb. 16, 2010 meeting. [Full Story]

DDA Ponies Up: Parking, Pipes, Planning

Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Jan. 6, 2010): The DDA authorized money for a range of different projects at its regular monthly board meeting on Wednesday.

Peter Allen

During public commentary, local developer Peter Allen addressed the DDA board on the topic of the Library Lot consultancy. Visible in the background is mayor John Hieftje. (Photos by the writer.)

Biggest on the list of one-time expenditures was $2.28 million spread over three years for 150 additional multi-space pay stations to replace on-street parking meters. Twenty-five such pay stations were already installed over the summer.

Next-largest was $600,000 for water main replacement, timed to coincide with the Fifth and Division street improvements. That was followed by as much as $500,000 for the Near North affordable housing project. Near North has won site plan approval from the city council and now faces the challenge of obtaining tax-credit financing.

Smallest on the list of authorized one-time money was up to $50,000 for consultant support for the Library Lot RFP review process.

Also in the mix was the authorization to redirect revenue from the 350 S. Fifth Ave. (former YMCA) surface parking lot to the city of Ann Arbor. On Dec. 21, 2009 the city council voted to request the DDA take that action. What the DDA board actually authorized is a payment to the city per year of whichever amount is greater: (i) $100,000 or (ii) the net revenue from the lot, after installation and operational costs are recovered by the DDA.

The meeting also included the precursors of some eventual conversation about the role of the DDA’s executive committee and its ability to act on behalf of the whole board. That recalled a related issue still left over from last summer: Can the mayoral line of succession be invoked to fill the mayor’s spot at a DDA board meeting?  [Full Story]

Council: Art Key to Ann Arbor’s Identity

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Dec. 21, 2009) Part I: Ann Arbor’s city council meeting lasted past midnight, as the council concluded the evening with a closed session on labor negotiations. The apparent focus of that closed session was the possibility that an agreement could yet be struck with the firefighter’s union that would prevent the layoff of firefighters who’ve already received letters of termination that would end their service to the city on Jan. 4, 2010.

public art line up for public hearings

Members of the public line up for the public hearing on the Percent for Art program. (Photos by the writer)

What pushed the council meeting into the wee hours, however, were the topics of art and parking.

Several members of council backed off their previous support for a reduction in public art funding. The Percent for Art program was left at its full funding level. The council also approved a contract for management services for the Dreiseitl art project to be installed as a part of the new municipal center – amid legal concerns raised by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3).

Also, the council ultimately approved a heavily amended version of a resolution on parking that Sandi Smith (Ward 1) had added to the agenda on the previous Friday, which left the intent of two key “Resolved” clauses largely intact: (i) the city will get revenues from a surface parking lot, and (ii) the city’s plan to install its own meters has been braked indefinitely. A third clause that would have extended downtown meter enforcement to 10 p.m. was swapped out in favor of one that is less specific.

The council attended to a variety of other matters, including its new committee organization, authorization of purchases connected to single stream recycling, and acceptance of an energy grant. Councilmembers and the city administrator also made robust use of the communications section of the agenda to provide status updates on their recent work.

In Part I of our council report, we focus on art and parking. [Full Story]

Parking in the Parks, Art on the River

Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission meeting (Dec. 15, 2009): If projects discussed by the city’s park advisory commission move ahead, next year will bring a series of art installations to the Huron River, and turn two city parks into parking lots for University of Michigan home football games.

This image shows how wire sculptures on the Huron River might appear, if a project proposed by a University of Michigan visiting professor gets approval from the state and city. (Image courtesy of William Dennisuk.)

This image shows how wire sculptures on the Huron River might appear, if a public art project proposed by a University of Michigan visiting professor gets approval from the state and city. (Image courtesy of William Dennisuk.)

At its Dec. 15 meeting, park commissioners raised concerns but ultimately signed off on a city staff proposal to use parts of Allmendinger and Frisinger parks for football parking during the 2010 season. The plan could raise an estimated $34,000 in net revenues for the city.

In a separate move, the commission gave the go ahead for UM to apply for a state permit that’s needed to install a series of wire sculptures at four locations along the Huron River, from Argo to Gallup. It’s an ambitious project by UM visiting artist William Dennisuk, designed to bridge the town/gown communities – assuming that the project itself gets approval from the city and state.

Commissioners also got a budget update from Jayne Miller, the city’s community services director, who told them to anticipate additional cuts over the next two years, and described how that might affect parks and recreation. [Full Story]

Caucus Creatures Stir: Parking, Library Lot

Ann Arbor City Council Caucus (Dec. 20, 2009): On the night before council’s Monday meeting, it was a quiet caucus, attended by a perfect balance of three councilmembers and three residents. The meeting had more the flavor of a chat in someone’s living room.

But residents still stirred the pot – on the issue of extended hours of parking enforcement as well as development proposals for the Library Lot.

The parking issue is part of a more complex resolution that the council will consider on Monday night, but possibly postpone, based on comments at caucus made by Mayor John Hieftje. A separate, but related item on the agenda calls for the purchase of parking equipment for installation on Wall Street at a cost of $87,000.

Receiving no discussion at the caucus was the second reading of the resolution that would reduce the Percent For Art program to a Half-Percent for Art program for the next three years. The resolution passed on its first reading at the council’s previous meeting.

Also receiving no discussion was the first project to be funded through the city’s public art program – a sculpture by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl proposed for for installation outside the new municipal center currently under construction. Council had been expected to have the approval of the Dreiseitl project on its agenda in November, but that expectation then shifted to the Dec. 7 council meeting. It was further shifted to the meeting on Monday, Dec. 21. And now it appears that the Dreiseitl vote will not be taken until sometime in 2010. [Update: The Dreiseitl project was added to the agenda at just after 11 a.m. Dec. 21, 2009.] [Full Story]

City-DDA Parking Deal Possible

At the Dec. 16 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s operations committee, DDA board member Sandi Smith previewed a city council resolution on parking she said she expected would be on the Dec. 21 city council agenda. Smith also serves on the city council.

Ann Arbor parking meter

Ann Arbor parking meters are currently enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday. (Photo by the writer.)

Key elements of the draft resolution that Smith shared with fellow DDA board members included: (i) net revenues from the Fifth and William (old YMCA) lot would go into city rather than DDA coffers, (ii) downtown parking meters would operate and be enforced until 10 p.m., which is later than their current cutoff of 6 p.m., and (iii) the city would discontinue its plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near the downtown.

The city’s plan to install its own parking meters in neighborhoods near downtown was formulated as part of the city’s FY 2010 budget (the current fiscal year), but implementation was not immediate. Reference to the city’s installation of “its own meters” alludes to the fact that the DDA manages the public parking system via an agreement with the city – the new meters would not fall under that agreement.

Although the specific wording of the draft differed in parts from the resolution that was added to council’s agenda on Friday, the key points remained.

Within hours of its appearance on the agenda, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce had sent a memo to city councilmembers asking for postponement of the resolution.

Smith’s resolution puts one question that’s been simmering for nearly a year closer to the front burner: Will the parking agreement between the city and the DDA be renegotiated as part of the FY 2011 budget? [Full Story]

Council OKs Recycling, Transit, Shelter

people standing in a semi-circle

Left to right: Brian Nord and Caleb Poirier (back to camera), who are both advocates for Camp Take Notice, a self-governed encampment of homeless people. Also Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Mayor John Hieftje. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Nov. 5, 2009): Meeting on Thursday due to the elections, instead of in its usual Monday slot, Ann Arbor’s city council moved ahead on two major initiatives that will eventually have a significant impact on Ann Arbor residents.

The council approved a memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan to move forward on joint development of the Fuller Road Station, which offers the university an alternative to construction of a parking deck on Wall Street. The first phase of the project is anticipated to be completed in mid-June 2012.

Also given a green light was a conversion to single-stream recycling – a single cart will be distributed to residents to replace the twin totes currently used for curbside pickup. The new carts will be rolled out in June 2010.

A more immediate impact will be made by a council decision to allocate a combined $159,500 to the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and the Interfaith Hospitality Network – the funds will increase the sheltering capacity by 50 spots for individuals through the winter, starting Dec. 1, and provide housing vouchers for eight families for a year. [Full Story]

City Seeks Feedback on Transit Center

At Tuesdays meeting of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission, Eli Cooper shows a conceptual design for a proposed transit center on Fuller Road

At Tuesday's meeting of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission, Eli Cooper shows the original conceptual design for a proposed transit center on Fuller Road. A newer version (see below) includes two buildings and a possible roundabout at Fuller and Maiden Lane. (Photo by the writer.)

Tim Berla of the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission has a suggestion to liven up the proposed Fuller Road transit center: Add a pub. You can bet that people who use the nearby city athletic fields would grab a post-game beer there, he told Eli Cooper at Tuesday’s PAC meeting.

Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, was soliciting feedback from PAC members and giving them an update on the project known as FITS – the Fuller Intermodal Transportation Station. FITS is  a joint venture by the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor that would include 900 parking spaces in a multi-level structure.

Cooper made clear that the two partners are hoping to get more input from the general public, too. To that end, on Thursday, Sept. 17, the city will host two public forums at city hall, from 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. After incorporating feedback from a variety of stakeholders, Cooper said the city hoped to present the facility’s conceptual design for approval at the city council’s Oct. 19 meeting.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s meeting several PAC commissioners had questions about the project, including a query about the designation of the city-owned land being used: In the city’s master plan, it’s designated as parkland – which didn’t originally mean a place to park cars. For zoning purposes, however, parkland is under the broader designation of “public land” – which can include transportation uses. [Full Story]

UM Regents Get Transportation Update

University of Michigan Board of Regents (July 16, 2009): At their monthly meeting on Thursday, regents approved a major renovation project for one of UM’s oldest residence halls, and got an update on the university’s parking and transportation strategy. The topic of parking and transportation came up again during time set aside for public comment, which included a pitch for a development at the possible Fuller Road intermodal transit center.

University executives also praised the recent inclusion of UM Hospitals and Health Centers in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of best American hospitals – they ranked 14th in the nation. [Full Story]

First & William to Become Greenway?

Coverage of Ann Arbor city council’s Sunday night caucus is The Chronicle’s mechanism for previewing council meetings for the following Monday. In light of another cancellation of council’s Sunday caucus this week, we’re previewing a “Chronicle’s Choice” item from Monday night’s agenda.

Parking lot at First and William streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The parking lot at First and William streets in Ann Arbor – behind the split-rail fence and in front of the tree line. This shot is taken from Liberty, looking southeast with First Street in the foreground. (Photo by the writer.)

This week we focus on a resolution that’s being proposed by Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Mayor John Hieftje, calling for the preservation of a city-owned parcel on the northeast corner of First & William – the parcel would become “open space” and be rezoned as public land. The site currently serves as a surface parking lot with 108 spaces, administered by the Downtown Development Authority.

The idea of establishing the parcel as a green area is not at all new, but the specific timing of the move warrants analysis. Why now? [Full Story]

Split DDA Board Agrees on Splitt

Downtown Development Authority board meeting (July 1, 2009): The Ann Arbor DDA wound up its current fiscal year with a frank and transparent disagreement about its future governance as a body, both in terms of its officers and its appointments. The disagreement was also reflected in connection with the specific substantive issue of raising parking fees at the 415 W. Washington lot.

An expected controversy over variable parking fees elsewhere was avoided when a scheduled resolution to introduce new variable-rate on-street parking fees – which would have increased parking rates and generated around $250,000 in extra revenue – was postponed until September, the board’s next scheduled meeting.

September is also when the question of who will be the board’s treasurer will be decided, with the board unable to choose between Sandi Smith and Roger Hewitt for that position during board elections. The board did arrive at selections for its new chair (John Splitt), vice-chair (Joan Lowenstein) and secretary (Keith Orr).

In other business, the board granted nearly $400,000 to the getDowntown program for the go!pass, extended a $50,000 arts grant re-directing the money towards performing arts organizations, authorized $25,000 for additional recycling containers to be placed downtown, approved $16,000 in grants to merchant associations to encourage attractive window displays, and authorized sponsorship for travel to the International Downtown Association Conference.

In the course of the meeting, city councilmember Leigh Greden’s attendance and vote in place of Mayor John Hieftje, who is a member of the DDA board, generated discussion of interest to specialists in civics. [Full Story]

UM’s Wall Street Parking Project on “Pause”

Wall Street

A Wall Street sign at the intersection of Canal.

Amid a slew of multimillion-dollar projects that Tim Slottow presented to the University of Michigan regents on Thursday, one was notable for not moving forward – a controversial parking structure and office building previously proposed for Wall Street.

Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, told regents at their monthly meeting that the university’s purchase of the former Pfizer property – a deal that closed on Tuesday – resulted in enough additional parking spaces to meet their current demands for the medical campus. Regents had given initial approval for the $48.6 million parking project at their September 2008 meeting, despite vocal protests from residents in the Wall Street neighborhood. It would have been a structure with 500 parking spaces and offices for UM’s Business Engagement Center, which now leases space at 1214 S. University Ave. Slottow characterized the project as being on a “pause” indefinitely. [Full Story]

Senior Center Could Be Cut as Population Ages

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (May 17, 2009): At its Sunday night caucus, city council heard from several residents, many of them opposed to the closing of the senior center in FY 2011. They also heard from the chair of the city’s market advisory commission, expressing that body’s opposition to proposed fee increases for farmers market stall rental. Opposition to the plan to introduce parking meters in residential areas close to the downtown was also well represented.

Also related to parking, the author of a recent letter from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, which raised the possibility of an environmental lawsuit based on the planned underground parking structure, came to caucus to respond to any questions councilmembers might have. And the developer for City Apartments, a residential and parking project approved for the First and Washington site, attended caucus to ask for an extension to the option agreement.

In the course of the evening’s conversation, council heard again the criticism from a resident that the focus on smaller budget items costing as little as $7,000 distracted from the focus on the bigger picture.

Councilmembers had no issues among themselves they wanted to discuss publicly at caucus. [Full Story]

Is DDA District a Disproportionate Burden?

Six-million-dollar oval.

The bottom line according to a 2005 city of Ann arbor analysis of DDA costs versus payments. (The circle means "negative") The DDA sees it differently.

On Monday evening, March 23, several Ann Arbor residents took advantage of an entire city council session devoted to public comment on the recent A2D2 zoning revisions. The  zoning revisions apply to an area that  coincides almost exactly with the Downtown Development Authority district. We thus take the opportunity to focus on this district, and how taxes are collected in this geographic area, in light of recent community discussion on the topic.

The Chronicle has previously reported a remark by made by Mayor John Hieftje at a recent Sunday night caucus, in which he stated that the parking agreement between the DDA and the city was renegotiated in 2005 due in part to the fact that the DDA area represented a disproportionately greater burden on city services. Also previously reported, Kyle Mazurek, vice president of government affairs for the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, posed several questions to the DDA board at its meeting on March 4, including one about the possibility of disproportionate use of city services in the DDA district: [Full Story]

Where People Park Their Stickers

This is actually one of the tamer stickers

This sticker will soon be removed from a metal coin collection bin that's due for a paint job.

A couple of weeks ago, The Chronicle ran into Cheryl Clifton and Jim Musser walking along Liberty Street near Ashley. They work for Republic Parking as meter collectors – you’ve probably  seen them making the rounds as they transfer coins from the city’s 1,900 or so parking meters into portable metal collection bins.

What they also transfer, it turns out, are stickers. Namely, stickers that people affix to parking meters. Rather than throwing them away, Clifton and Musser (and others who’ve done this job previously) have slapped them onto the 21 collection bins. The day we chatted, the bin they were using had stencil-style stickers of a smiling Ronald Reagan. Apparently, it’s one of the tamer ones they’ve come across. [Full Story]