Meeting Watch: DDA (1 Oct 2008)

Underground parking garage plans to be unveiled

The DDA board met at its regularly scheduled time on the first Wednesday of the month. Topics of discussion ranged from new developments to the DDA on TV.

Ann Arbor City Apartments

In the audience participation segment, Ray Detter reported on the previous evening’s meeting of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, at which Jon Frank of Village Green was a guest. Frank gave the DACAC an update on the Village Green’s Ann Arbor City Apartments project, which is a PUD proposal for the First and Washington site to be brought before planning commission at its Oct. 7 meeting. Detter reported some changes to the mixed-use, mixed income housing project.

  • number of total units: increased from 146 to 156
  • number of affordable units: increased from 15 to 16
  • facade: changed from brick to corrugated metal
  • parking spaces: public spaces increased by 2 spaces
  • roof: addition of a roof deck that does not affect FAR (floor area ratio)

Later, reporting for the partnerships committee, Sandi Smith noted that a request from Village Green for $380,000 for 20 motorcycle parking spaces for the Ann Arbor City Apartments project had been turned down.

Underground Parking Garage

John Splitt, reporting for the capital improvements committee, announced that the revised site plans for the underground parking garage proposed at the library lot had been submitted on Sept. 25, and that the project would be presented at the city council work session on Oct. 13 starting at 7 p.m. The following day, Oct. 14, from 7-8:30 p.m. there will be a public open house in council chambers at the DDA office, 150 S. Fifth Ave. 3rd floor to introduce the public to the proposal.


Model of underground parking garage. View is from the west, Fifth Avenue running left to right in the foreground. Library Lane splits the block east to west. The model of the library (to the right) is not meant to depict the design of the new library. There is one nod to one possible design element for the new library: an entrance at the northwest corner.

Hotel Taxes Could Increase

Sandi Smith, reporting for the partnerships committee, brought a resolution to increase the county accommodations tax from 2% to the maximum rate allowed by the state, which is 5%. Smith said that most localities already collect at the maximum rate allowed. Dave DeVarti weighed in for a wording change to make the math clear: “an increase of 3%” was changed to “an increase to 5%”. Revenue from the tax is distributed between the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau based on the geographic location of hotels. This works out to be a roughly 75% (Ann Arbor) to 25% (Ypsilanti) split. In total dollars Ann Arbor’s share is about $1.2 million.

The final decision to increase the tax rate or not rests with the county board of commissioners. DeVarti asked if there was any discretion about what agencies received the money. Leah Gunn, who serves on the county board of commissioners, said that there was not that kind of discretion available under the state enabling legislation.

Parking: Demand Management and Rate Increases

Roger Hewitt, reporting for the operations committee, gave an update on the selection process for the new parking kiosks that serve multiple on-street spots, which will eventually replace conventional coin-fed meters at every parking space. The selection committee is visiting Milwaukee and Seattle where some of the models have been installed, to meet with staff responsible for service and maintenance.

The initial purchase of kiosks will be for 25 units, to be deployed in the State Street and Liberty Street area. Eventually, some 150-175 units are envisioned. The kiosks will be connected via a wireless system to be managed by 20/20 Communications and the city of Ann Arbor IT department.

The wirelessly communicating kiosks factor into future recommendations for parking rate increases, because they make possible the assignment of different rates to different areas of the street. Hewitt also spoke of the possibility of different areas of the same parking structure being charged at different rates. The upshot is that the 3-year proposal for rate increases, which is expected to be made at the November DDA board meeting, will be grounded in averages, not absolute rates.

University of Michigan Bus Station

As part of her report for the partnerships committee, Sandi Smith mentioned briefly a request from the University of Michigan for $50,000 to enhance the bus stop facility near North University Avenue and Washtenaw Avenue at Church Street, which had been punted by the committee for the time being as not within their particular purview, and in light of committee restructuring in November.

The item piqued the interest of John Hieftje, who wondered if the request had come directly from the university or had been conveyed directly to the DDA via the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Answer: it came directly from the university. In response to a question about the scope of the project from Hieftje, Smith gave a total project budget of $1.9 million broken down as follows: $1 million, grant; $250,000, AATA; $470,000, split evenly between the city of Ann Arbor and the university to cover re-paving costs; $180,000, from miscellaneous community resources of which the university was kicking in another $130,000. It was the remaining $50,000 out of this $180,000 that the university had requested from the DDA.

Supportive Housing Services

Sandi Smith, reporting as the DDA representative to the County Taskforce on Sustainable Revenue for Supportive Housing Services, announced that a package of recommendations would be presented to the county board of commissioners at their work session on Oct. 16. Of the eight specific recommendations, the main goal to be brought forward was to fund 500 units at a cost of $5,000 per unit per year. One of the recommendations includes a Phase II task force to help implement the other recommendations. The package also includes a recommendation to explore endowment funding as well as a millage funding strategy.

Trees and Accounting

In the context of the discussion of the audited financial reports, which showed that the TIF maintenance fund had only been tapped for around half the amount it had been budgeted for, Dave DeVarti advised that he would like to address the perception among many in the community that trees lost to the emerald ash borer were not being replaced, because the money for tree replacement was being squirreled away for various and sundry pet projects. That perception could be addressed in part, DeVarti said, if the DDA could make sure that tree replacement in the district proceeded apace. John Hieftje said that city-wide the lost trees were being replaced at a rate of 5% per year. Susan Pollay said that the fact of successful replacement needed to be brought out more clearly.

Various suggestions were made to mitigate against the situation where invoices to be received could be tracked more efficiently, so that mis-matches between funds budgeted and funds spent would be less dramatic. These suggestions ranged from the idea of keeping a record of invoices expected even if they were not entered into the accounting system (Gary Boren) to the idea of building into vendor contracts a requirement that invoices be submitted by specific deadlines (John Hieftje). Susan Pollay expressed her commitment to better communication with Adrian Iraola, who manages many of the DDA projects.


Russ Collins, reporting for the research and opportunity committee, floated the idea of webcasting or televising DDA board meetings, an idea that board chair Jennifer Hall is urging forward. John Hieftje noted that all of the major boards and commissions of the city are now televised and quipped that there was a clamor to have the taxicab board televised.

Until arrangements are made to bring more technology to bear on the challenge of making the content of meetings by the DDA board more accessible (a body that is responsible for millions of taxpayer dollars), Chronicle readers can rely on our notebook.

Present: Gary Boren, Russ Collins, Dave DeVarti, Leah Gunn, Jennifer Hall, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, Joan Lowenstein, John Mouat, Sandi Smith, John Splitt. Absent: Rene Greff.

Next board meeting: noon on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301.


  1. October 2, 2008 at 8:39 am | permalink

    You forgot an essential element – what did they serve for lunch?

  2. By Dave Askins
    October 2, 2008 at 8:44 am | permalink

    “You forgot an essential element – what did they serve for lunch?”

    It was Chinese food of some kind. I can’t provide details, as I did not partake – I had eaten before the meeting. But it was quite odd that a few hours after returning to the office I found myself suddenly in the mood again to hear more about invoice management systems as they relate to the DDA budget.

  3. October 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm | permalink

    Broadcasting the A2 DDA meetings is quite simple. All they need to do is have the meetings at City Hall. The technology is already there.

  4. By Dave Askins
    October 2, 2008 at 4:12 pm | permalink

    “All they need to do is have the meetings at City Hall. The technology is already there.”

    The write-up (in particular the phrasing “to bring more technology to bear”) left opaque the fact that among of the range of options discussed was simply changing the meeting location to the council chamber at city hall.

    Also worth mentioning, but not noted in the original report, is that Dave DeVarti was very clear about his support for the idea of broadcasting the meetings in some form or other.

  5. By Steve Bean
    October 3, 2008 at 12:17 am | permalink

    Ironic that committee members will be physically traveling across the country to obtain more information about this high-tech equipment. I encourage others to join me in asking the DDA to reconsider that (presumably unnecessary) climate-disrupting practice.

  6. October 9, 2008 at 1:08 pm | permalink

    Hi. An important correction – the 10/14 parking structure open house will be held 7-8:30pm at the DDA office, 150 S. Fifth Avenue 3rd floor and not in City Council chambers. All are welcome to join us.