Ann Arbor city council meeting (May 7, 2012) Part 1: In Part 1 of this council meeting report, The Chronicle has collected those agenda items and discussion that relate to land use and open space, which was one of two dominant themes of the meeting. The other major theme was public art, which will be included in Part 2 of the report – along with other items not related to land use.
Three parcels received discussion at the council's May 7 meeting, from south to north: 415 W. Washington, 721 N. Main, the MichCon property. (Image links to higher resolution file)
In connection with different agenda items, the council discussed the future of three major parcels within the city, two of which are city-owned: 415 W. Washington and 721 N. Main, and the MichCon site near Broadway bridges.
First the council heard an update on the possible future of the city-owned 415 W. Washington property, located across from the Ann Arbor YMCA, which opened in 2005. The Y replaced the old Ann Arbor Technology Center, which had been the home of the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, along with independent artists and musicians, who rented space at the center. It burned in the course of a 2003 demolition.
The 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios went on to re-locate in Detroit. The group has some experience re-purposing buildings as space for artists, recently hosting a fundraiser for an additional property it has acquired – the 3rd Police Precinct in southwest Detroit. Artists can rent literal jail cells there as work space.
On Feb. 1, 2010, the Ann Arbor city council had established a task force – consisting of greenway advocates and members of the arts community – to explore the future use of the 415 W. Washington property. The Ann Arbor Arts Alliance was the group identified to represent the arts community interests.
Now, the 555 group appears ready to take responsibility for the arts portion of planning for the site. That’s the portion that entails re-using the existing building on the site, which is located in the Old West Side historic district. Carl Goines, a representative of 555, addressed the council on Monday night. Goines had co-founded the group 10 years ago in the tech center.
Goines described how an investment of around $45,000 is needed for surveying and environmental analysis of the 415 W. Washington site. That investment would be required whether the building is preserved or demolished, he said. Mayor John Hieftje indicated in his comments at the meeting that he’d be willing to give the group perhaps a year to establish a viable way to re-purpose the building, but also indicated an eagerness eventually to apply to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for a grant to develop the entire parcel as a park. If the 555 group could not find a way to rehabilitate the structure within a reasonable time, Hieftje indicated a willingness to pursue the option of asking the city’s historic district commission for permission to demolish the structure.
The other city-owned parcel discussed by the council was 721 N. Main, former site of a city maintenance yard. That came in connection with a council resolution to establish a task force to study the North Main corridor, and deliver a report in a year’s time, by July 31, 2013. Earlier than that, by the end of 2012, the task force is supposed to provide a recommendation on the use of 721 N. Main.
The city has an already-approved grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for demolition of two buildings on the site – but not the main building. The 721 N. Main parcel will also likely be part of a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant application by the city in the spring of 2013.
The task force is also supposed to provide a recommendation on the future use of the MichCon property, between the Amtrak station and the Huron River. MichCon is currently undertaking an environmental cleanup of the land, and the standard to which MichCon remediates the parcel will depend on its intended future use. Hieftje has been clear about his preference – that the city acquire the land for a park. A possible source of funds the city could use for acquisition of such a park would be money generated by the open space and parkland preservation millage.
By administrative policy, a third of the revenue from that millage is overseen by the land acquisition committee of the city’s park advisory commission. The council confirmed a new appointment to that commission at Monday’s meeting – Ingrid Ault, who replaces the term-limited Gwen Nystuen. The other two-thirds of the millage revenues – for preservation of land outside the city as a greenbelt – is administered by the greenbelt advisory commission. And notice of two upcoming reappointments to that body was also on the agenda – for Catherine Riseng and Peter Allen.
Allen is a real estate developer, who might have alternatives in mind for MichCon’s property that include more than just a park. [Full Story]