DDA Parks 5 More Years with Republic

Gunn to lead DDA as planning continues around new parking garage

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (July 2, 2012): In its one action item, the DDA board approved a new contract with Republic Parking, which includes a roughly $1.5 million purchase of new automated payment equipment for several of the city’s parking structures. Of that amount, close to $1.3 million will be bought with a loan from Republic Parking to the DDA.

Parking Sign Underground Parking Garage

Parking sign at the new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The view is looking to the southwest. (Photos by the writer.)

The DDA manages the city’s public parking system under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor – which stipulates that the city receives 17% of gross revenues from the system. The DDA in turn sub-contracts out the day-to-day parking operations to Republic Parking. The relationship between the DDA and Republic goes back to 2001. The contract ratified on July 2 is for five years through 2017, with two one-year options to renew.

For the first year of the contract with Republic, the DDA board will be led by Leah Gunn. She was elected board chair at the DDA’s annual meeting, which took place after the regular monthly meeting concluded. Outgoing chair Bob Guenzel, who will continue to serve on the board, was thanked for his service. Sandi Smith was elected vice chair.

One of the major tasks on the DDA’s work plan in the coming year will be to continue the Connecting William Street (CWS) planning effort. It’s a project the city council directed the DDA to undertake in early 2011 – to explore alternative uses for city-owned surface parking lots in the rectangle bounded by Division, William, Ashley and Liberty streets.

At its July 2 meeting, the DDA board got an update on that planning effort, which has reached the point of three draft scenarios for the five parcels in question. When the three draft scenarios are settled and shared with the public through an outreach process, a preferred scenario will be developed – not by selecting one of the three scenarios in its entirety, but in a “Mr. Potato Head” fashion, choosing features from each scenario on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

The study area of the CWS effort includes the top of the new underground parking garage, now dubbed the Library Lane parking structure – named after the new mid-block cut-through that connects Division Street and Fifth Avenue. [Despite the name, the Ann Arbor District Library does not own the garage or the lane.] The grand opening of the garage is set for Thursday, July 12 at 5 p.m. A significant number of the new spaces in the structure will likely be occupied by monthly permit holders who work for Barracuda Networks, a company that’s moving into the former Borders corporate offices on Maynard Street.

Also located in the CWS study area is the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s Blake Transit Center (BTC), which is set for reconstruction starting this fall. Michael Ford, CEO of the AATA, gave DDA board members an update on that construction project, which will see the center relocated from the Fourth Avenue side of the block to the Fifth Avenue side. Ford told the DDA board he hoped for a positive outcome on the BTC site plan at the city planning commission meeting on July 17, and at the city council’s Aug. 20 meeting. He hopes to break ground on the new BTC in September or October, with completion before the 2013 art fairs, which are held annually in July.

At its July 2 meeting, the board was also updated on some grant requests – one for a bike-sharing program and another for a transportation alternatives analysis study for the corridor starting at US-23 and Plymouth, extending southward to State and continuing to I-94. During public commentary, the board was also pitched the idea of supporting an online “tech bounty board” to match small technical projects with people who can do the work.


The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority manages the city’s public parking system under contract with the city of Ann Arbor. So almost every DDA board meeting includes parking as a major theme. This report also includes information from a June 28 meeting of the DDA board’s operations committee.

Parking: Renewal of Republic Contract

The board considered a resolution to renew the DDA’s contract with Republic Parking for management of day-to-day operations of the city’s public parking system.

The DDA has contracted with Republic Parking since 2001. The contract covers Republic’s costs, plus a $200,000 annual management incentive, of which $50,000 is discretionary. Over the last few years, the DDA board has consistently awarded $45,000 of that amount.

It’s the DDA that contracts with Republic, because the city of Ann Arbor and the DDA have an agreement under which the DDA assumes responsibility for managing the city’s public parking system. As part of that agreement, which was renegotiated in 2011, the city of Ann Arbor receives 17% of gross revenues from the public parking system. That amounts to roughly $3 million a year.

Roger Hewitt introduced the board resolution amid some minor confusion about whether there were two resolutions or just one – but there was only one. The new contract between the DDA and Republic is for five years through 2017, with an option to renew twice for a year each time. The renewal of the contract includes the purchase of roughly $1.5 million of new automated payment equipment.

Almost $1.3 million of the amount will be covered with a loan from Republic Parking to the DDA.

The new equipment will allow motorists to check themselves out and will allow the use of credit cards for payment. Structures where the equipment will be installed include the new underground “Library Lane” parking structure, which has a grand opening set for July 12. Fourth and Washington, Liberty Square, and possibly other structures will also have the automated payment equipment installed.

The period of the loan, Hewitt explained at the meeting, is a five-year period at 6% interest. There’s no penalty to the DDA for early repayment. The DDA is taking the approach of borrowing the money in order to conserve its fund balances in the context of completing construction on the new underground parking garage. [.pdf of equipment list and repayment schedule]

In response to a question from Newcombe Clark, Hewitt indicated that the equipment to be purchased is “the latest technology for now.” He indicated that in five years, there could be better technology available.

By way of background, some of the new equipment will allow for patrons to pay before exiting the parking structure – on the same level where their vehicles are parked – instead of waiting to pay until they reach the exit point. That’s expected to reduce wait time to get out of the structure.

In addition, Republic Parking is acquiring handheld credit card processing units, which will allow gate cashiers to accept credit cards. For events like the art fairs, where patrons pay one fixed price to enter the garage, that will eliminate the need to refuse entry to motorists who don’t have cash and who were expecting to pay with a credit card. In the past, Republic has staffed extra people, just to handle the logistics of backing people out of the queue when they’ve reached the gate cashier. So it’s expected that the experience for patrons will be more pleasant, and money will be saved on the extra staff.

Another technology effort that’s been discussed at recent operations committee meetings would select a vendor for processing online payments – made with smart phones – based on the identifying number of an on-street parking meter. Many of the on-street meters have already been replaced with e-park kiosks.

For those meters as well as for the traditional coin-operated meters that remain, the idea is to provide a way for patrons to pay for their space online. The move would require coordination with the city of Ann Arbor’s community standards enforcement program, because patrons who pay online for a traditionally-metered space will leave a meter that would, on visual inspection, appear to be expired. So the handheld units used by community standards would need to be able to tap the online payment information system, and enforcement would proceed on that basis.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the new contract with Republic Parking.

Parking: Monthly Report

Roger Hewitt gave the monthly parking report for the most recent month for which data was available – May 2012. He reminded his colleagues that for the previous month, April 2012, the number of hourly patrons was a bit down. However, for May 2012, the overall increasing trend had continued. Overall revenues were up 16%, he said. The rate increase accounted for only half that amount, he said. And hourly patrons are up 6%, despite the fact that two lots have closed, Hewitt said – at First & Washington, and the Fingerle lot.

The Forest structure was a particularly high performer, which he attributed to two University of Michigan construction projects – at East Quad and the Lawyers Club. Construction workers are probably using some of that parking, he said. It’s encouraging to see sustained growth in the system, Hewitt said.

Newcombe Clark asked for an estimate of reservations for monthly permits in the new Library Lane parking structure. Hewitt told Clark that permits are being issued only to people on the waiting list, or to people who have permits in either the Liberty Square or Maynard parking structures and who want to take advantage of a discounted rate the DDA is offering.

Clark inquired whether any spaces were being offered to Barracuda Networks – a computer network security company that recently announced it’s moving into the old corporate office space previously occupied by Borders. Hewitt noted that Barracuda will be a new business, and will likely need around 125-150 spaces – in the new Library Lane parking structure, not the Maynard structure. [The Maynard Street structure is actually closer to the new Barracuda location, at 317 Maynard St. But the DDA's program to incentivize use of the new underground structure applies to "new businesses that were not located in downtown before May 1, 2012."]

Hewitt noted that 150 spaces equals about 20% of the roughly 700 underground spaces in the Library Lane structure. [It's 30% of the spaces actually added to the parking system inventory – because the surface lot that was there previously offered roughly 200 spaces.]

Ann Arbor public parking revenue through May 2012

Ann Arbor public parking revenue through May 2012.

Ann Arbor public parking system hourly patrons through May 2012

Ann Arbor public parking system hourly patrons through May 2012.

Parking: Peak Usage Data

At its meeting on June 28, the DDA operations committee was presented with data for peak usage on some of its parking facilities.

Color Coded peak occupancy

Extracted from Ann Arbor public parking system color-coded peak occupancy chart.

The idea is to look at how much of a facility’s capacity is used on a given day and to log the maximum usage on that day in terms of percentage.

The percentages were then color-coded in one of four ways: light green (Sundays and holidays when there’s no charge to park); dark green (less than or equal to 60% peak occupancy); red (between 61% and 79%); and purple (greater than or equal to 80%).

A year’s worth of data was presented to the committee. The Chronicle has assembled that data into a single file: [.pdf of peak occupancy data]

The DDA is looking at this approach as a way to measure the impact of the opening of the new underground parking structure on the existing parking structures.

Parking: “Library Lane” Construction Update

John Splitt gave what was likely the final construction update on the underground garage. The last concrete pour had been completed the previous week, and the rest of the work involves finishing touches, he said. He expected everything would be ready for the grand opening on July 12.

Parking: “Library Lane” Time Capsule

The DDA board’s annual meeting was not scheduled to start until 1 p.m., and the board concluded the substance of its monthly meeting by around 12:40. DDA executive director Susan Pollay took the opportunity to announce that for the grand opening of the Library Lane parking structure, the public was invited to contribute items for a time capsule to be placed within the structure.

In addition to photos and written documents, she suggested that people bring “artifacts” – perhaps a Borders gift card. The suggestion had come from Ray Detter, Pollay said, who has an interest in helping the community remember the past. [Detter has been instrumental in the creation of the historic street exhibit program.] DDA staff will be writing up a description of the items on acid-free paper.

Parking: AirRide Parking Usage

As part of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s new service between Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metro Airport, the DDA has offered parking in the Fourth & William structure for up to two weeks for just $2. The minimal charge for parking was considered an introductory rate. The basic standard fare for the bus service itself was also introduced at a promotional rate of $10 – which will increase to $12 after July 30.

At its June 28 meeting, the operations committee discussed the idea of increasing the rate to $2 per day. Based on data for a bit more than a month – between April 23 and May 29 – 80 patrons of the AirRide service parked an average of 5.5 days per use, generating $160 of revenue. The same patrons would have paid around $900 at the proposed $2/day rate. Most people used the service by starting on Friday.

AirRide parking patronage by weekday

AirRide parking patronage by weekday for the period from April 23 and May 29. Most people started their trip on a Friday, but many people also started on Wednesday or Thursday.

AirRide Parking Patronage by Parking Event

AirRide parking patronage by discrete use.

Downtown Planning

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority also factored into the July 2 board meeting in the context of planning that’s taking place in the vicinity of the AATA’s downtown Blake Transit Center, near Fourth and William. The transit center is in the general area of the Connecting William Street planning effort.

Planning: Blake Transit Center

Michael Ford, CEO of the AATA, appeared at the board’s July 2 meeting to give board members a quick update on the Blake Transit Center (BTC) reconstruction project. He led off by congratulating the board on the new underground parking structure, which is right across South Fifth Avenue from the BTC. He drew laughs from the board when he assured them that the construction on the BTC will try to minimize the disruption to the area – as “disruption” came out as “destruction” on his first attempt.

Looking westward down Library Lane.

Looking westward down Library Lane. The Fourth & William parking structure stands in the distance on the other side of Fourth Avenue. The AATA is hoping for an easement on land that's part of the Federal Building site, where the downtown post office and federal court are located. An easement would allow for a continuous pedestrian route along the left (south) side of Library Lane across Fifth and on to Fourth Avenue.

Ford reviewed the basics of the project, which many board members had been briefed on several times before. The current transit center was built in 1987; over 5,000 riders a day come through the BTC. Ford described the BTC as having outlived its useful life. The new BTC will move to the opposite side of the block – from Fourth Avenue to the Fifth Avenue side. It will still use the mid-block driveway, but bus traffic will go from Fourth to Fifth, eastward – instead of the current configuration, which has buses entering the drive from Fifth and exiting onto Fourth. Ford said that would make for a better traffic flow.

On that side of the block, there will also be a visual connection to the Ann Arbor District Library. It’s hoped that the federal government, which owns the building just to the north of the AATA parcel, will grant an easement to allow for a continuation of the walkway along Library Lane from Division to Fifth Avenue across Fifth and continuing on to Fourth. Ford said that the new BTC will be barrier-free and fully ADA accessible. It will house offices for getDowntown. The exterior materials will be durable and low maintenance. Heated sidewalks will help with snow removal, he said. The center will include other environmentally friendly features, including a green roof, he said.

Construction drawings have been submitted to the city of Ann Arbor, Ford reported. The site plan is supposed to go before the planning commission on July 17 with possible city council approval on Aug. 20, Ford said. The AATA wants to get construction done before art fairs in July of 2013, so the AATA is looking to break ground in September or possibly October 2012.

Ford noted that the AATA had taken the standard approach of seeking approvals from the planning commission and the city council, even though the AATA need not have done that as a public agency. But that meant there’s a very quick timeline, he said, so he’s looking to try to move the process forward.

After his presentation, Sandi Smith asked about the design of the foundational footings for the new BTC. Ford clarified that even though the current design is for a two-story building, the footings are being designed for possible expansion upward for a third and fourth story.

Newcombe Clark told Ford that taking the standard traditional route through the approval process is nice, but it creates a tight timeframe. Clark wondered if there were to be a delay, would the AATA just “pound it through.” Ford indicated that he felt the AATA had done enough outreach that he hoped there would not be a delay.

He allowed, however, that it might be necessary to “punt to Plan B.” He indicated that Plan B was not yet worked out. Clark told Ford he was just asking so that the DDA would know if next year there would be construction to deal with during the summer festivals – so that the DDA could help out with anything that it could.

Planning: Connecting William Street

Joan Lowenstein reported that the leadership outreach committee (LOC) for the Connecting William Street project had met twice in June. That project aims to find alternate uses for the surface parking lots in the area bounded by William, Ashley, Liberty and Division streets. That project is being undertaken by the DDA at the direction of the Ann Arbor city council, given last year on April 4, 2011.

Lowenstein reported that the committee had provided input on the development of three basic scenarios and was getting close to finalizing them. Based on the discussion at the LOC meetings attended by The Chronicle, the three scenarios that are being developed at this stage can be described as minimum, medium and maximum density – defined in terms of the D1 zoning code.

That translates into a minimum of two stories on the low end. The LOC, in conjunction with the lead consultant on the project – Cheryl Zuellig of SmithGroup JJR – felt that two stories would likely not be financially feasible, so the first scenario was developed based on three- to four-story buildings for each of the parcels. The second scenario tries for each parcel to come as close to the “by right” maximum of 400% floor area ratio (FAR) specified in the D1 zoning code. And the third scenario is intended to illustrate the 700% FAR that is available within the zoning code, if criteria are met that award premiums. Those criteria include residential uses, affordable housing units, pedestrian amenities, energy efficiency and the like.

July and August will be spent meeting with community members and stakeholder groups getting feedback on the scenarios in an effort eventually to develop a preferred scenario, Lowenstein told the board at its July 2 meeting. The idea is not to choose between the three scenarios, but rather to assemble the preferred scenario for each parcel and to assemble the overall preferred scenario in a way that the LOC has called a “Mr. Potato Head” style.

Officer Elections

Following its regular monthly meeting, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority held its annual meeting. It was a short meeting, and consisted mainly of board officer elections. The outcome of the elections: Leah Gunn, chair; Sandi Smith, vice chair; Keith Orr, secretary; Roger Hewitt, treasurer. The DDA thus followed its custom of electing its current vice chair to serve as chair for the next year.

Lowenstein Gunn Orr

From left: Board members Joan Lowenstein, Leah Gunn and Keith Orr.

The nomination and vote for treasurer was uneventful. Joan Lowenstein nominated Roger Hewitt, the current treasurer.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to elect Hewitt as treasurer for the coming year.

The nomination for secretary followed the pattern of nominating the currently-serving board member for the office to continue in that same capacity. Leah Gunn nominated Keith Orr to serve as secretary.

Newcombe Clark then paused the proceedings by asking which board members are up for re-appointment. Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, told Clark that Roger Hewitt, Keith Orr and Sandi Smith had terms that end on July 31. Clark followed up by asking if any of the three were finishing their second terms at the end of July. Pollay clarified that Hewitt and Smith would be completing their second terms. [DDA board members are not subject to term limits.]

Smith responded to Clark’s line of inquiry by noting that DDA board members may continue to serve past the concluding date of their appointed terms – until a replacement is appointed. [From the DDA enabling statute, Act 197 of 1975: "A member shall hold office until the member's successor is appointed."]

Outcome: The vote for Orr as secretary was unanimous, but with Clark abstaining.

John Splitt nominated Sandi Smith to serve as vice chair. The board went to a vote without discussion.

Outcome: The vote for Smith as vice chair was unanimous, but with Clark abstaining.

Keith Orr nominated Leah Gunn as chair. [That follows the custom of electing the current vice chair to chair the board.]

Outcome: The vote for Gunn as chair was unanimous, and Clark did not abstain from that vote.

The board also established its two committees as essentially committees of the whole – a partnerships committee and the operations committee. The board formally voted to restore the name of the “operations committee” – because “bricks and money/transportation” committee had become somewhat unwieldy. On the restoration of the previous committee name, Sandi Smith offered: “What is old is new.”

Officer Elections: Background

Board member Newcombe Clark’s abstention on some officer votes this year marks the third year in a row that he has abstained from officer elections over the uncertainty of board appointments. The appointments are the responsibility of mayor John Hieftje to make. Hieftje serves on the DDA board, but did not attend the July 2 meeting.

Bob Guenzel had been elected to that post at the board’s Sept. 7, 2011 meeting – after the board originally had elected Gary Boren chair two months earlier at its July 6, 2011 meeting. Boren’s term on the DDA expired at the end of July 2011, however, and Hieftje chose not to nominate him for re-appointment. Nader Nassif later was appointed instead. Last year, Guenzel had already been elected vice chair, and thus was asked by his board colleagues to accept the chair’s role. And Gunn was elected vice chair to fill the vacancy left by Guenzel, which left the other board officer positions intact: Keith Orr, secretary; and Roger Hewitt, treasurer.

Officer Elections: Thanking Guenzel

Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, offered her thanks to the board for the work they’d accomplished over the last year. She reported that she’d given another tour of the underground parking garage that morning. She’d pointed out to the tour group she led [which included The Chronicle] how the Fifth and Division streetscape improvements interfaced with the underground garage: The sidewalk bump-out at the southwest corner of Liberty and Fifth prevents southbound traffic from inadvertently entering the speedramp into the underground garage. Pollay expressed appreciation on behalf of the DDA staff and the community that board members are so generous with their time.

Pollay thanked Guenzel for his wisdom, insights and mentorship.

Guenzel returned the thanks to the staff, saying that none of the work could be done without them. A volunteer board can only do so much, he said. [DDA board members serve without compensation.] Guenzel called serving on the board a pleasure and an honor. Of the many boards he serves on, Guenzel said that the DDA is special because its members work very hard. DDA board members are active board members and they’re also active in the community, he said.

Guenzel said he was looking forward to next year under Gunn’s leadership and to the opening of the new underground parking garage.

Pollay awarded Guenzel a brass plate engraved with his name – which will be affixed to a barstool at Arbor Brewing Company. He was also given a gift card to ABC.

Grant Faucet

At the DDA partnerships committee meeting, held the week before the July 2 board meeting, committee members in attendance were briefed on a couple of grant requests. The general reaction was cautious, as Roger Hewitt described the “grant faucet” as very difficult to turn off, once it has been turned on.

The grant requests were reviewed briefly at the board’s July 2 meeting.

Grant: Bike Sharing

John Mouat told the board that a bike-sharing program appears to be moving forward – sponsored by the Clean Energy Coalition. The University of Michigan has stepped forward as the main financial supporter, he said. The DDA had previously been asked to provide in-kind staff support. Now, however, the CEC is also interested in receiving a small grant. Mouat told the board there’s no urgency at this point. But the feeling on the part of the committee is that it’d be best to wait until October before the DDA starts responding to various grant requests.

By way of additional background, Mouat had briefed the board on the in-kind support for the bike-sharing program requested by the Clean Energy Coalition at the DDA’s Dec. 7, 2011 meeting. The bike-sharing program would work on analogy to car-sharing programs like Zipcar. The initial request only for an in-kind contribution from the DDA was based on the hope that a grant award from the Federal Transit Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) would cover both capital costs and operations. But it turns out that the FTA has limited the program to capital costs only.

At the partnerships committee meeting of June 27, the grant request by the CEC to the DDA was described as $5,000 in calendar year 2012 and $10,000 annually for the three years from 2013-2015. Other organizations that had been asked to contribute financially include: the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority ($18,000 this year and $40,000 annually for three years); city of Ann Arbor ($15,000 this year and $40,000 annually for three years; and University of Michigan ($66,000 this year and $200,000 annually for three years). University of Michigan was described as contributing the lion’s share because UM is interested in controlling the advertising component of the program.

At the partnerships committee meeting, Mouat described Stephen Dolen – UM executive director of parking and transportation services – as publicly supporting the bike-sharing program for the UM campus. Mouat also described city of Ann Arbor transportation program manager Eli Cooper as supportive of the program. Hewitt was not terribly sanguine about contemplating any grant requests, saying he imagined there will be lots of requests for money. Hewitt noted that there’s still not final reconciliation on the cost of the new underground parking structure. Until all those construction costs have been reconciled, Hewitt said, he wanted to put off all grant requests. He did not want to open up the “grant faucet” again.

The Clean Energy Coalition was hoping for a response by August, but the committee seemed reluctant to move any quicker than possibly October or later. At the partnerships committee meeting, DDA executive director Susan Pollay noted that there will be competing priorities. As an example, she cited a request from mayor John Hieftje that sidewalk improvements be made in the State Street area [from Liberty southward].

Grant: Connector Study

At the board’s July 2 meeting, John Mouat also apprised his board colleagues of a financial request to support the next phase of a connector study – the alternatives analysis phase for a study of the corridor running from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and further south to I-94.

By way of additional background, Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, included in his written report to the AATA board in advance of its June 21, 2012 meeting an update on the connector study. His report indicated that the funding for the alternatives analysis study was essentially in place. Pending the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, the AATA will be moving ahead with an alternatives analysis portion of the connector study. The alternatives analysis phase will result in a preferred choice of technology for the corridor (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops.

That study will move forward, based on a total of $300,000 of local funding that has been identified to provide the required match for a $1.2 million federal grant awarded last year for the alternatives analysis phase. The breakdown of local support is: $60,000 from the city of Ann Arbor; $150,000 from the University of Michigan; and $90,000 from the AATA.

A feasibility study costing $640,000 has already been completed. That study was also funded through a partnership with the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor DDA, UM and the AATA. Chronicle coverage of that feasibility study includes: “Transit Connector Study: Initial Analysis“; “AATA: Transit Study, Planning Updates“; and “Washtenaw Transit Talks in Flux.”

A total of $1.5 million for the connector alternatives analysis study – of which $1.2 million is a federal grant – is included in the AATA’s capital and categorical grant program, on which the AATA held a public hearing at its June 21 meeting. In November 2011, Ford had updated the AATA board on the possible timeline for the alternatives analysis, saying that phase would take around 16 months.

At the DDA partnerships committee meeting on June 27, Susan Pollay – executive director of the DDA – indicated that the DDA had been asked “in a friendly way” to help fund the city’s $60,000 portion as a “sign of Kumbayah.”

At the July 2 DDA board meeting, Mouat indicated a preference to hold off consideration of grant requests until after the final reconciliation of the underground parking garage.

Keith Orr drew out from Roger Hewitt that this second phase of the study should result in a “locally preferred alternative” of technology – and that this is part of the federal grant funding requirements to get federal matching funds. Mouat ventured that cable cars are the newest kind of technology for applications in contexts like these.

Grant: Tech Bounty Board

During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Ryan Bonner of Brightline Technologies addressed the board to get a feel for how receptive board members might be to a request to help financially support a “tech bounty board.” Bonner described such a “bounty board” as addressing the following kind of problem: A business has a specific technical need but no one in-house who can do the job. Currently, he said, the business could contract out, perhaps try Craigslist, or hire somebody. Getting those smaller projects done, Bonner said, can derail longer-term projects.

The idea, Bonner said, would be to set up an online bounty board where smaller and medium-sized businesses can post a technical need they have. The amounts for projects would under $5,000 – because the board would not trying to compete with existing businesses. The goal right now is to feel out possible demand and need for such an online board.

Bonner reported having spoken with Rich Sheridan (president) and Bob Simms (chief financial officer) at Menlo Innovations about the tech bounty board idea. They’d suggested that it’s something that would be supported best in the form of sponsorships. Bonner figured it would maybe take $5,000 to build the website. Bu it would need a critical mass of people who need things done. Bonner told the board that he was there to assess whether this is something that the DDA would be interested in hearing about.

A bit later in the meeting, Newcombe Clark advised Bonner that the best way to approach it would be to talk to executive director Susan Pollay about using the DDA’s committee process.

Communications, Committee Reports

The board’s meeting included the usual range of reports, which included one from the the downtown citizens advisory council.

Comm/Comm: 618 S. Main Coda

In his report from the downtown citizens advisory council, Ray Detter said he was very pleased with city council’s approval of the 618 S. Main site plan and brownfield plan. [See Chronicle coverage of the council's June 18, 2012 meeting.] Detter noted that the project had a broad range of support – from the design review board, the Old West Side Association, the planning staff and the planning commission. He stated that the project couldn’t have happened without the hard work of the DDA partnerships committee, led by Sandi Smith, which had developed the brownfield policy. Detter said he looked forward to welcoming the residents of the 618 S. Main project as new neighbors. He hoped when it’s built that there will be someone from the building on the downtown citizens advisory council.

Comm/Comm: Fair Housing – E. Huron

In his report from the downtown citizens advisory council, Detter also noted that he hoped the new owners of the property on the north side of E. Huron Street near Division will learn something from the recent projects that have been proposed and approved in the downtown area. Detter’s understanding is that the new owners are planning to build additional student housing. Detter observed that the D1 zoning for the E. Huron character district allows a maximum height of 150 feet. [Most of downtown has a limit of 180 feet, but the political compromises associated with the A2D2 rezoning of downtown Ann Arbor resulted, among other things, in maintaining the E. Huron area as D1, but reducing the maximum height by 30 feet.] Detter stated that he hoped that whatever is built doesn’t have a negative impact on Sloan Plaza, also located on E. Huron. Detter said he’s heard that there’s an increasing number of people who want to live downtown who are not students, and indicated a preference that the project for the E. Huron site not be built to be marketed to students.

Later in the meeting, Newcombe Clark responded to Detter’s remarks by noting that the downtown seems to be pushing into another multi-family construction phase. He stressed that it’s impossible to dictate what projects are built, based on people’s jobs or age. The Fair Housing Act removes those factors as possible considerations, Clark said, and they can’t be included in any of the DDA’s policies.

Present: Newcombe Clark, Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Leah Gunn, Keith Orr, Joan Lowenstein, John Mouat

Absent: Nader Nassif, John Hieftje, Russ Collins

Next board meeting: Noon on Wednesday, Sept 5, 2012, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. Note that the August DDA board meeting has been cancelled. [confirm date]

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One Comment

  1. July 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm | permalink

    Overall, it seems like everyone has their head screwed on straight.