Stories indexed with the term ‘Valiant Partners’

Ann Arbor Council Focuses on Downtown

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (April 4, 2011): At its Monday meeting, the council focused much of its time discussing the future of downtown Ann Arbor.


Councilmember Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) ticks through the list of parcels that would be the focus of a DDA-led development process. (Photos by the writer.)

Councilmembers voted on two major downtown-related agenda items – one affecting the immediate future of an individual parcel, the city-owned Library Lot. The other item involves a process by which the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority would lead the planning of development for multiple downtown parcels, including the Library Lot.

The council voted, over dissent from two of its members, to end the RFP process for the Library Lot and to reject a draft letter of intent they’d discussed at a March 14 work session, which would have called for the city to work with Valiant Partners to craft a development agreement for construction of a conference center and hotel on the lot. The Ann Arbor DDA is currently building a roughly 640-space underground parking garage on that parcel.

Based on a separate resolution passed by the council, the future use of the Library Lot could emerge from a process to be led by the DDA. The council required lengthy deliberations before narrowly approving an amendment that reduced the area of focus for the DDA-led process. The amendment limited the area to the square bounded by Ashley, Division, Liberty and William streets, which would include the Library Lot on South Fifth Avenue, the Kline Lot on Ashley, the old YMCA Lot at Fifth and William, and the Palio Lot at Main and William.

The resolution on the DDA-led process is part of a broader ongoing negotiation between the city and the DDA, related to the contract under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system. That contract is being renegotiated, and since January, the city has not budged from its position that the DDA should pay the city a percentage-of-gross parking revenue of 16% in the contract’s first two years and 17.5% in years thereafter. It appears that the DDA board is gradually conceding to the city’s bargaining position. That will become clearer at the DDA board meeting on Wednesday, April 6.

The city’s negotiating position is based in part on the idea that the DDA is, as mayor John Hieftje has described it, “an arm of the city.” Hieftje’s view of the DDA as part of the city was further accentuated on Monday, when he announced at the end of the council’s meeting that he would be inviting the DDA to move its offices into newly-renovated space in the city hall building. The DDA currently leases space about a block south of city hall.

Also a part of Monday’s downtown-themed meeting was initial approval the council gave to a revision to the city’s ordinance on panhandling. That ordinance revision – which added some areas where panhandling is prohibited – will require a second reading and a public hearing in front of the council before it can be enacted.

An additional part of the downtown discussion came at the start of the council’s meeting, with a presentation on work being done to plan and study the 415 W. Washington parcel for future use as a center for artists and as a greenway park.

In non-downtown business, the council accepted a series of easements that will set the stage for TIGER II grant funds – already awarded by the federal government – to be formally obligated to the city. At stake is $13.1 million, which is currently still part of a continuing resolution for the federal budget. But that continuing resolution expires April 8, so the council was acting with some urgency.

The council also gave necessary approvals for a bus pullout to be constructed on Washtenaw Avenue, and authorized emergency purchase orders for furniture. And the council heard a presentation from Andrew Brix, the city’s energy programs manager, about efforts to increase the percentage of renewable energy that the city uses. [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]