Stories indexed with the term ‘library lot RFP’

Column: When Lawyers Fool with FOIA

Two weeks ago, the city of Ann Arbor took a deliberate step to remove a document that had been publicly available on its website for nearly half a decade. Why?

Redacted version of Library Lot RFP No. 743  from Aug. 14, 2009 produced by the city of Ann Arbor in response to a recent FOIA request. The un-redacted document had been disseminated on the website from Aug. 14, 2009 until sometime around March 20, 2014.

Redacted version of Library Lot RFP No. 743  from Aug. 14, 2009 produced by the city of Ann Arbor in response to a recent FOIA request. The un-redacted document had been disseminated on the website from Aug. 14, 2009 until sometime around March 20, 2014.

Allegedly, that document contains information that – if it were disclosed – would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of someone’s privacy. Never mind the fact that the context of the document itself makes clear that the information in question is clearly and deliberately intended to be publicly available.

To erase any possible doubt about that, I resorted to an advanced investigative technique: I asked the guy. And it turns out that current Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board member John Splitt had been content to have publicly disclosed as his email contact information in the document – the same as elsewhere on the Internet.

The document in question is RFP No. 743 – issued in 2009 by the city for development of the Library Lot. Why did it even occur to anyone at the city to delete RFP No. 743 from [Full Story]

Council on Valiant Library Lot Idea: Hail No

At its April 4, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to formally end the review process for proposals that had been received in response to an RFP for the use of the city-owned Library Lot.

The council rejected a letter of intent (LOI) that had been presented in draft form at a March 14, 2011 work session, which would have called for the city to work with Valiant Partners over a four-month period to draft a development agreement for construction of a conference center and hotel at the South Fifth Avenue site. The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is currently constructing a roughly 640-space underground parking garage on the parcel.

The RFP review committee, which was charged with evaluating the proposals, had selected the Valiant Partners conference center and hotel proposal as the preferred one out of six responses to the city’s RFP. The name “Valiant” is an allusion to the University of Michigan fight song, which includes the line, “Hail to the victors, valiant.” The partners include prominent UM alums Fritz Seyferth and Bruce Zenkel. [Previous Chronicle coverage "Column: Library Lot – from Bottom to Top"]

Added on Friday, April 1 to the Ann Arbor city council’s April 4 agenda, the resolution to end the Library Lot RFP process was sponsored by mayor John Hieftje and councilmembers Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Sandi Smith (Ward 1). Voting against the resolution were Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4).

A vote on a final draft of the LOI – which was scheduled for the council’s April 19 meeting, along with a public hearing – will not take place.

Just after voting to reject Valiant’s proposal, the council considered a resolution to establish a process under which the Ann Arbor DDA would facilitate the development of downtown city-owned surface parking lots, which would now presumably include the top of the underground parking structure. That so-called parcel-by-parcel plan – somewhat of a misnomer, because it envisions the master planning of districts of the downtown, not individual parcels – has been considered by the city council at two previous meetings, but postponed.

When this brief was filed, the council had not yet finished deliberations on the DDA-led development plan.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 100 N. Fifth Ave. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Column on Hoops: Basketball, Civics

On Tuesday, a capacity crowd packed a local Ann Arbor venue to watch a five-person team do its work. Part of the color commentary included talk of game-changing players, and speculation about who had the best center of all the conferences. Everyone knew that whichever team prevailed on Tuesday would not win the whole tournament – it would just advance to the next round.

Ann Arbor West Park basketball hoop

The basketball hoop on the south end of the court in Ann Arbor's newly renovated West Park. (Photo by the writer.)

Here’s a highlight reel of how events unfolded on Tuesday. Play opened with a disputed call, and one of the fans nearly got tossed out of the venue. There was a guy with a red sweater, reminiscent of those favored by Bob Knight when he coached the Indiana University squad, even though he was not the guy in danger of getting tossed. He was actually prepared to do the tossing.

Early on, the coach told the team about the “four corners” – which some older sports fans might recognize as a stalling style of basketball made popular by legendary University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith. And the team managed to hold the ball for one final shot, which it made. The cheerleaders cheered. The victors were valiant … hail, hail, etcetera.

The venue? It was the fourth floor meeting room of city hall. And the five-person team was the committee charged with evaluating proposals for use of the city-owned Library Lot. That’s the parcel atop the Fifth Avenue parking structure currently under construction.

Who says local civic affairs isn’t at least as interesting as NCAA basketball? Well, actually, most readers would say that, I’m guessing.

But here’s something I think we can all agree on: Fans at basketball games get to cheer or boo as loud as they like … within certain parameters. The parallel principle for public meetings, like the one on Tuesday, is that members of the public should be allowed to address the group during its meeting.

The city of Ann Arbor’s stated written policy on this is actually quite clear: Even entities that are not public bodies under the Open Meetings Act should, to the best of their abilities, conform with the spirit of the OMA – which includes a provision for public participation at meetings. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Gives Kudos

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 18, 2010): The bulk of Monday’s 20-minute library board meeting was devoted to accolades: A clean audit for the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, praise from representatives of people with disabilities, and a five-star ranking for the AADL, making it among the top libraries in the country.

Shannon Owen

Shannon Owen, circulation clerk at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch, checks out materials for patrons on Monday night. (Photos by the writer.)

In addition, during public commentary the board heard from Alan Haber, a community activist who’s advocating for a greenspace commons to be located atop an underground parking structure being built adjacent to the downtown library on Fifth Avenue. Haber presented architectural renderings of the proposal, designed by Stephan Trendov, and asked the board to allow him to give a more detailed presentation at an upcoming meeting.

In his financial report, AADL associate director Ken Nieman told the board that while most costs are expected to be in line with budgeted amounts during the current fiscal year, that might not be the case for employee benefits. It was an issue that arose during the board’s September meeting as well, when library officials reported that they were changing the insurance options for non-union employees to address increased expenses. On Monday, Nieman also said they’d just received word that the employer contribution rate to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) was going to increase again – it had already been bumped up to 19.4% on Oct. 1, and would rise to 20.5% on Nov. 1. [Full Story]

Hotel/Conference Center Ideas Go Forward

On Thursday evening, the city of Ann Arbor’s committee reviewing proposals for the Library Lot decided to continue consideration of only two of the five proposals remaining. A sixth proposer had formally withdrawn before the interviews.

Sam Offen Margie Teall

Sam Offen makes an argument for bringing along Dahlmann's park proposal to the next phase of consideration – he was not successful in convincing his colleagues to do so. At right is Ward 4 councilmember, Margie Teall. (Photos by the writer.)

After the meeting, eight people crammed into an elevator on the sixth floor of city hall, where the committee had met. The eight included The Chronicle, two councilmembers on the committee (Stephen Rapundalo and Margie Teall), along with Alan Haber – who had helped put forward the Community Commons, one of the proposals eliminated by the committee.

As the elevator doors closed us in for the trip down to the lobby, Haber mused that here in the elevator, we had, for a brief moment, a commons.

The committee’s decision had come after two days of public interviews earlier in the week when each proposer was given 30 minutes for a presentation, 30 minutes to respond to questions from the committee, and 30 minutes to respond to questions from the public. The interviews took place on Jan. 19-20 and were followed by a public open house on the evening of Jan. 20.

At the Thursday evening committee meeting, Stephen Rapundalo, the committee’s chair, reported that the request for qualifications sent out by the city to provide consulting services on the remaining proposals – the hotel/conference center proposals by Acquest and Valiant – had resulted in seven responses. The next meeting of the committee will take place on Feb. 16 from 10 a.m.- noon. Letters will be sent to the three proposers whose projects will not be given further consideration by the committee. [Full Story]

Library Lot Math: 6 – 2 + 2 = 6

At its Friday morning meeting, the committee responsible for evaluating development proposals for the Library Lot agreed to reconsider two of the proposals previously rejected.

Samm Offen Jayne Miller

Sam Offen reads a section of the Library Lot RFP that he interpreted to mean that financial considerations should come later in the process. At right is Jayne Miller, community services area administrator. (Photos by the writer.)

The suggestion for reconsideration had been brought to the committee by two of its members, Margie Teall and Stephen Rapundalo, who also serve on the city council.  Monday’s city council meeting had included conversation about the issue.

The committee will now re-include in the interview process the two proposals it had eliminated at its December meeting. Representatives for all six proposals to develop the top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking structure will be interviewed in a little less than two weeks. On Jan. 19, the two that had been dropped previously – proposals that call for predominantly open space in that area – will be interviewed, followed on Jan. 20 by interviews of the other four proposers.

Related to this process, at its Wednesday meeting the Downtown Development Authority had approved up to $50,000 for a consultant to assist with the review of proposals. So on Friday, the committee was also briefed on the request for qualifications (RFQ) for the consultant, which has now been released – and no candidates with operations in Washtenaw County will be considered. [Full Story]

Mixed Message from Council on Library Lot

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (Jan. 4, 2010): Ann Arbor’s city council rejected a resolution on Monday night that would have asked responders to the city’s request for proposals on the Library Lot to provide more information to the council, even if their proposals had been eliminated.

Rupundalo and Briere

Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) explains the work of the RFP review committee for the Library Lot proposals, as Sabra Briere (Ward 1) listens. (Photos by the writer.)

At the same time, the council’s representatives to the RFP committee – Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) – told their colleagues that they would bring to the committee the suggestion of re-including two already-eliminated proposals.

That idea will be floated to the committee when it next meets, on Friday, Jan. 8 at 9 a.m.

In other business, councilmembers grilled the city’s transportation program coordinator about revisions to the city’s bicycle and pedestrian ordinances to align with the Michigan Vehicle Code. Despite that, council sent the revisions on to the next step towards final approval.

The council also authorized a vote to be held among property owners to establish a business improvement zone (BIZ) on Main Street between William and Huron streets. That’s the next step in a multi-step process for establishing the BIZ, which allows property owners to levy an additional tax on themselves to use for specific services.

The council also heard a presentation on the city’s snow removal policy from Craig Hupy, who’s head of systems planning for the city. Councilmembers heard little enthusiasm from city administrator, Roger Fraser, for any deer removal program for Ann Arbor.

Fraser also announced that the city’s community services area administrator, Jayne Miller, would be leaving her city post to head up the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, which oversees regional metroparks, sometime in the next month. [Full Story]

Library Lot: Choice Between Apples, Pears?

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 3, 2010): As construction gets started on the underground parking garage on the former surface parking lot next to the downtown library, the city of Ann Arbor is trying to answer the question: What goes on top?

Tangerine Tower is not an alternate proposal for the Library Lot development. But in providing art to accompany an article, sometimes you go to press with the fruit you have, not the fruit you wish you had.

Tangerine Tower is not an alternate proposal for the Library Lot development. But in providing an illustration to accompany an article, sometimes you go to press with the fruit you have, not the fruit you wish you had.

A committee appointed to review the proposals submitted for the city-owned parcel, known as the Library Lot, recently dropped two of those proposals from consideration. [Chronicle coverage: "Two Library Lot Proposals Eliminated"]

The two proposals – one from Ann Arbor residents Alan Haber and Alice Ralph, and the other from a local developer, Dahlmann Apartments Ltd. – both envision the top of the underground garage primarily as open space.

At Sunday’s city council caucus, seven supporters of an open-space use for the Library Lot outnumbered the four councilmembers who attended: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and mayor John Hieftje.

Conversation at caucus was devoted almost exclusively to the RFP (request for proposals) process and dissatisfaction with its preliminary outcome. On the council’s Monday night agenda is a resolution sponsored by Briere that seeks – “delicately,” in Briere’s words – to address some of that dissatisfaction.

Briere likened the winnowing down of the alternatives in advance of public participation to asking someone if they’d like an apple or a pear – you might get a different answer, she said, if you ask, “What kind of fruit would you like?” Maybe, she said, people want grapefruit. [Full Story]

Column: Visions for the Library Lot

Local developer Peter Allen and Stephanie Simon, a student in Allen's course at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Local developer Peter Allen and Stephanie Simon, a student in Allen's urban development course at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Simon was part of a student team that had developed a project for the Library Lot – they presented their work to library board members on Dec. 17. (Photo by the writer.)

It was a telling moment. A group of graduate students from the University of Michigan had just finished making presentations to members of the Ann Arbor District Library board. They were part of a class on urban design taught by local developer Peter Allen.

Some of their class projects had focused on development of the Library Lot, and two teams were on hand to show their work to the board.

When they were done, Allen talked about why the student perspective was important – for the worldview they brought, and the insight they could give on how to make downtown Ann Arbor attractive for the 25 to 35-year-old professional.

The moment came when Prue Rosenthal, the board’s treasurer, asked this question: “How many of you plan to stay here?”

Silence – then some awkward laughter. None of the six students, it turns out, intend to stick around Ann Arbor after graduation.

That alone isn’t a big deal – it’s a small sample, after all. But it was striking when combined with the vision these students had for downtown development – a vision very different from what’s typically proposed for Ann Arbor, or from what actually gets built. But it’s a vision that, if realized, might compel these young professionals to make a life here. [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]

More to Meeting than Downtown Planning

Ann Arbor City Council Meeting (Nov. 16, 2009) Part II: The length of Monday’s city council meeting, which did not adjourn until nearly 1 a.m., might be blamed on the lengthy public commentary and deliberations on downtown zoning and design guidelines.

people standing taking the oath of office

Left to right: Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Sabra Briere (Ward 1) and Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) getting ceremonially sworn in at the start of council's Nov. 16, 2009 meeting. Standing to the left out of frame are Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). (Photo by the writer.)

But it would have been a long meeting even without the downtown planning content, which we’ve summarized in a separate report: “Downtown Planning Process Forges Ahead.”

Before postponing the acceptance of the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP), the council got a detailed update on how things stand on the city’s dispute with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) over Argo Dam.

An agenda item authorizing capital improvements in West Park prompted a lengthy discussion of how the Percent for Art program works.

Some public commentary calling abstractly for greater support for inventors and entrepreneurs was followed later in the meeting by an appropriation from the city’s LDFA to Ann Arbor SPARK to fund more business acceleration services.

A consent agenda item on the purchase of parking meters was pulled out and postponed.

The council also heard a detailed report from the city administrator, which covered emergency response time to a recent house fire, ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps, responses to the library lot Request for Proposals, updates on the task forces for Mack Pool and Ann Arbor’s senior center, staff reductions in planning and development, the East Stadium bridges, as well as the upcoming budget retreat on Dec. 5.

Stephen Kunselman’s (Ward 3) use of attachments to the agenda to document questions for city staff received some critique.

Also worth noting, the five winners of recent council elections were sworn in, and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) was elected as mayor pro tem. Those topics in more detail below. [Full Story]

Zoning, Design Guides on Council’s Agenda

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday Caucus (Nov. 15, 2009): Around two dozen residents came to city council chambers Sunday night to convey their thoughts on two major planning issues on the city council’s agenda for Monday.

two women leaning over a drawing discussing it

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) confirms with an Ann Arbor resident at the city council's Sunday caucus that the map she's sketched reflects accurately the block bounded by Huron, State, Washington, and Division streets. In the background, Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3). (Photo by the writer.)

The downtown zoning ordinance package – known as A2D2, which the council has approved on two prior occasions at a “first reading” – will be given a public hearing, with a vote also scheduled for Monday night. In addition, the downtown design guidelines will have its public hearing continued, which started on Oct. 5. No vote on design guidelines is scheduled for Monday.

Also receiving discussion at caucus were the six projects that were submitted before last Friday’s Nov. 13 deadline, in response to the city’s request for proposals to use the space on top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage.

Also the council’s agenda, but not receiving discussion among councilmembers who attended the caucus, is the council’s formal acceptance of the Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan (HRIMP) from the city’s environmental commission – but not the plan’s recommendations related to Argo Dam.

And a consent agenda item that requests funds to purchase additional electronic parking meter equipment contains in its description a plan to install meters in new areas that have not been previously identified.

Finally, there’s a whole new category of item on Monday’s agenda – a category that raises questions. [Full Story]