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Posted on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 4:53 p.m.

Excavation work expected to start soon at site of new underground parking structure in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

Expect to see crews digging a "big hole" starting next month to make way for an underground parking garage in downtown Ann Arbor.


Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members received a brief update today on the DDA’s $59 million Fifth Avenue underground parking structure project.

Michael Ortlieb, the project manager from Carl Walker Inc., said the design process is continuing as planned, and the construction manager is now in on the discussions.

Ortlieb said the DDA will soon go out for bids for excavation work, and crews should begin “digging a big hole” in October.

"It's going to take several months to dig the hole, so that's a fairly long process," he said.

Once the hole is nearly done, the foundation will start to go in, Ortlieb said. By March or April, the DDA should have a good idea of what kind of development will be going on top of the parking structure, he said.

The city is currently soliciting proposals; it's expecting one for a hotel and conference center from a group of out-of-state investors.

Ray Detter of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council spoke at today's meeting to say his group recently reaffirmed its support for the parking structure project. But he said the group hopes the DDA and city of Ann Arbor give careful consideration to what goes on the city-owned lot.

"We still strongly support residential development on that site. We want the downtown to be vital," Detter said, suggesting that a residential complex with 200 people living in it could significantly improve the downtown economy and expand retail businesses.

Adrian Iraola, another project manager from Park Avenue Consultants, said he's been working on where to put excavated soil materials from the site. He said the city of Ann Arbor has formally notified the DDA that it doesn't want the soils at the city's airport.

Iraola said he's now approaching excavation companies to see if they're interested in taking the soils. He's also talking to concrete manufacturers and other organizations about recycling the soils if possible.

Last month, two downtown businesses filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming construction of the underground parking garage would have a devastating impact on their businesses and the surrounding environment. That case is pending.

Photo by Ryan Stanton, DDA board members discussed updates regarding the Fifth Avenue parking structure project at today's board meeting.

Ryan Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, Sep 4, 2009 : 4:48 a.m.

I must say, while I miss the AA News' investigative reporting I do enjoy (and learn from) this free flowing stream of "letters to the editor." One question/ everyone out there that opposes current city government, do you vote? Also, while I appreciate the need in many instances to write behind a pseudonym/screen name do you advocate your views with your neighbors and encourage them to vote? I find myself in the conservative (not the same as Republican with a capital 'R') minority in this town but I do engage in lively discussions in my neighborhood and believe I've talked at least a little of my sense into formerly apathetic neighbors. If you don't vote, you don't count, and if you won't discuss, you can't make a difference.


Thu, Sep 3, 2009 : 9:28 a.m.

This is another example of City Council not listening to citizens. For some reason they believe that they are all knowing and that it is their right to do what they want and simply raise fees and taxes to pay for it. This is what happens when you have one party (I don't care which one) is in power. The thinking is skewed and there is no one to push back. Mayor John is getting more and more powerful and becoming more knowing of how to work the system. This is not a positive trend for Ann Arbor. The disconnect is becoming obvious


Thu, Sep 3, 2009 : 9:09 a.m.

@phil dokas: I'm playing devil's advocate here, but it's not unusual for construction projects to go ahead with pending litigation. Whether or not a garage is the right choice for the site, it's not practical to run a project in such a way that anyone with a lawyer can hold things up indefinitely. There's a risk that the project could get screwed up should the lawsuit go poorly for the city, but do you really think the guitar/falafel team has a case? I have no clue about the OMA/FOIA violations, but the rest of it? "Your vibrations *might* hurt my historic structure, and anyway I like it quiet when I work on mandolins" is kinda hopeless based on what little I know about the law. It'd also set all kinds of weird precedent if AA were told it can't bring more cars downtown because of air quality concerns, because where does that end? For those who don't see demand downtown: good development creates its own demand. There was no demand for a theme park in Orlando before Disney came to town. I'm not suggesting that this project is good or bad, but it's silly to say you couldn't bring a whole lot more people downtown if you had a great attraction.


Thu, Sep 3, 2009 : 6:34 a.m.

Halflight, the building by Seva is only 5 stories high (as opposed to the 15-25 foot convention center planned) and did not dig a six-story hole in the ground. I don't think the two projects can be compared.


Thu, Sep 3, 2009 : 12:28 a.m.

Michael Christie wrote: I live in the condo's next to Seva and I'm not looking forward to what is going to be next to us.... That's ironic. That's exactly what all the NIMBYs said about your building. You do know that the city permitted the demolition of a historically protected building to build the Denali. As far as I know, the city hasn't been protecting the historic resource of surface parking lots. Yet.... The building will be right off someone's balcony (lower home values while the city raises taxes)... Right. The library parking lot is a huge downtown parcel, and you expected that it was going to just stay the way it was? Did you actually check the zoning for that area before you bought your condo, or only when you wanted to obstruct a project you don't like, and then discovered that you couldn't control what was built next to you?... the hole will be so big it will most likely cause major settlement to our building,... If it does, you'll have a big damage claim against the city and/or the DDA for repairs to your building. I will have a big damage claim against AATA if and when I get run over by a bus, so let's get rid of the AATA.... A collective group of us have complained, but it's all lip service and the city really doesn't care about a couple of small businesses and a residential building with 19 units. It's all about the revenues for parking and a more dense environment.... The city wants more dense development downtown and that's the only reason your building exists. Stop complaining.


Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 11:30 p.m.

well mike, when you go to sell your condo sue the city if the value of it dropped significantly due to the monster next to you. you also forgot something....enjoy the dust. everyone around there will have lots to clean and then reclean and then reclean.


Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 11:08 p.m.

ok. so there is a lawsuit pending. They are going to dig a "big hole" BEFORE they know what will go there? hmm, this sounds like something that might end badly.

Concerned Citizen

Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 11:05 p.m.

Thanks for the clarification, :-)...[though I'm still not sure "what's up", :-)... It's not "your" fault!]

Michael Christie

Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 11 p.m.

I live in the condo's next to Seva and I'm not looking forward to what is going to be next to us. The building will be right off someone's balcony (lower home values while the city raises taxes), the hole will be so big it will most likely cause major settlement to our building, and with the height of the building being 15 stories, all sun will be lost. A collective group of us have complained, but it's all lip service and the city really doesn't care about a couple of small businesses and a residential building with 19 units. It's all about the revenues for parking and a more dense environment. I'm all for people downtown, that's why I moved here. I wouldn't have had the city had a clear and concise direction on real city planning.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 10:57 p.m.

Concerned Citizen -- Yes, we reported in a couple of recent stories that, though DDA officials have said the project would break ground this fall, the city's request for proposals sent out to developers stated construction wouldn't start until the spring. It was clarified today that excavation (digging a big hole) could begin in mid-October, and it sounds like work involving concrete would happen next spring. Hope that clears everything up.

Concerned Citizen

Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 9:38 p.m.

...and didn't the two most previous articles in, regarding this lot, say that the start date was to be NEXT SPRING?... Would you please sort that out,... Thanks!

Concerned Citizen

Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 9:25 p.m.

Who is responsible for the preservation of the heritage trees and hedgerows that are adjacent to this site?


Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 7:05 p.m.

Yes to more parking, yes to residential as well as retail (but limit restaurants as there are getting to be a ton of foodie places which i love but retail is missing - A GROCER WOULD BE WELCOME). no to hotel and convention center...more stability first!


Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 5:27 p.m.

god...isn't it great to live in the City of Ann Arbor where public funds are unlimited. Just think how many states and cities across the country are short on funds...but here in Ann Arbor we taxpayers have unlimited city hall, new hole in the ground,....


Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 5:17 p.m.

Maybe they can use the soil to shore up the Argo dam...duh??

Phil Dokas

Wed, Sep 2, 2009 : 4:42 p.m.

It strikes me as a little head strong for them to dive straight into work with litigation regarding that very work pending.