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Posted on Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Council prepared to vote down hotel and conference center proposal

By Ryan J. Stanton


A group called Citizens Against the Conference Center recently launched a grassroots campaign in opposition to the conference center project. In the last week, it put out yard signs reading "No Downtown Conference Center" at about 180 different locations throughout Ann Arbor, including in front of Jerusalem Garden.

Ryan J. Stanton |

(This story has been updated multiple times with additional information.)

A private developer's proposal to build a hotel and conference center on the city-owned Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor appears to be headed for defeat.

Five Ann Arbor City Council members are co-sponsoring a resolution on Monday's agenda to reject a letter of intent with New York-based Valiant Partners.

"I haven't been in favor of this proposal for a long time, and this is an opportunity for us to end the process and start over again with something new and take some time to think about it," Mayor John Hieftje said in an interview today. "Looking back, I wish I had taken action to stop it sooner, but this will be soon enough."


A conceptual drawing of the Valiant proposal for a hotel and conference center along South Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor.

The letter of intent was supposed to come back before council on April 19 and would have laid the framework for negotiations toward a complete development agreement with Valiant.

But in recent weeks it has appeared more and more unlikely that Valiant's proposal for a 150-room hotel and 26,000-square-foot conference center would have gotten the eight votes needed from the 11-member council when it came time to decide on a final deal.

The five co-sponsors of Monday's resolution to end discussions with Valiant are Hieftje and Council Members Stephen Rapundalo, Christopher Taylor, Sandi Smith and Sabra Briere.

"This is nothing against Valiant. This is just the project wasn't right for Ann Arbor," said Taylor, D-3rd Ward. "The proposal does not include the financial aspects the city is looking for and, for my part, I am unconvinced as to its viability. Rather than extend the process, it makes sense to call the question now and move on."

A representative of Valiant could not be reached for comment.

Hieftje and Briere already were among those voicing concerns about the project, along with Council Members Stephen Kunselman, Mike Anglin and Carsten Hohnke. The addition of Rapundalo, Taylor and Smith to the list is seen as a nail in the coffin for the project.

The resolution would completely conclude the city's request-for-proposals process for the city-owned Library Lot at 319 S. Fifth Ave., where the Downtown Development Authority is building a $50 million underground parking garage.

The resolution states that after serious consideration over many months, the City Council questions the viability of the Valiant proposal for a hotel and conference center, and more importantly has concerns about the financial risk to the city.

The city in 2009 sought proposals from developers interested in building atop the parking garage once it's finished, and Valiant's proposal rose to the top. An advisory committee headed up by Rapundalo recently referred the letter of intent to council for a decision.

The fact that Rapundalo changed his mind on the project is perhaps the biggest surprise to those who've been following the process.

"I'm still supportive of the concept and that hasn't changed one bit," he said. "It's like anything, the devil's in the details, and I think really what changed my mind, in terms of what was presented to us, was an analysis that we received from the city attorney's office and from the CFO about a number of issues that were raised. It was enough to give me pause for thought."

Rapundalo said those communications were privileged. filed a Freedom of Information Act request today asking for them and is awaiting a response.

In the absence of a full financial and legal analysis, Rapundalo said he couldn't conclude at this time that the project made sense for the city.

"I don't think this closes the door," he stressed. "It may close the door on the formal process on this particular RFP, but I don't think it closes the door on someone coming forward, including these folks, and proposing something different."

The RFP put out by the city in 2009 called for proposals that would include a beneficial use of the site, such as a public plaza, provide a positive financial return to the city, and demonstrate a clear benefit to the community. The proposal also had to be consistent with recommendations of the city's Downtown Plan and A2D2 initiative toward enhancing the downtown.

The rejection of Valiant's proposal would mean the city is deciding not to select any of the proposals that came in response to the RFP, including those calling for an urban park. After completion of the parking garage, the top would convert back to a surface parking lot.

The resolution states that future planning and proposals for the site must recognize that it is a valuable, one-of-a-kind parcel, and that whatever future project is contemplated must compensate the city with fair market value and a positive financial return, contribute to the tax base, add vitality and density to downtown, and provide appropriate public open space.

Hieftje offered his thoughts looking back on the RFP process.

"That was a fishing expedition that council launched and we didn't catch anything we wanted to keep," he said. "I think we have an opportunity now to step back from it now for a little bit and take a longer view of what's going to be best for the area."

Hieftje said his preference going forward is to shop the site around to employers that would bring jobs to downtown. He said he had no regrets that the DDA is putting more than $5 million into making sure the foundations of the parking garage are suitable for future vertical development, because that's still the hope for the property.

"It's a perfect spot for something that's going to contribute to the vibrancy of downtown, and it doesn't look like it's going to be a hotel and conference center," he said.


The underground parking garage on the Library Lot continues to take shape, but a proposal to build a hotel and conference on top appears to be dead.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Taylor said it's "perfectly fine" if the Library Lot, which was a surface parking lot before the project started, reverts back to its previous use. He said the plan is to continue building a foundation suitable for a "very substantial project at that location" at the proper time.

"This is not a change of focus for the lot," he said. "This is an assessment that the Valiant proposal is not right for the city at this time, but the underlying vision for the site remains the same."

The Washtenaw County Hotel and Motel Association, which includes all of the major hotels in Ann Arbor with more than 1,800 employees, sent the City Council a letter on March 28. It advised the city it firmly opposes the project for several reasons, including the fact that demand for conference space in Ann Arbor and throughout the country is on a downward trend.

The letter states that the average occupancy rate for the area's upscale hotels was about 64.1 percent last year, with an average daily room rate of $99.21.

"The Valiant proposal estimates that its stabilized hotel occupancy rate will be 75.8 percent with an average daily room rate of $208.89," reads the letter from Joseph Sefcovic, the association's president. "If travelers were willing to pay twice the going rate to stay in Ann Arbor, opportunistic developers would have built hotels downtown years ago."

A group called Citizens Against the Conference Center recently launched a grassroots campaign in opposition to the project. In the last week, the group put out yard signs reading "No Downtown Conference Center" at about 180 different locations throughout Ann Arbor, including in front of homes and businesses, said group spokesman Eric Lipson. The group spawned from a pre-existing group called Public Land Public Process, which is often critical of city hall.

Lipson, a former city planning commissioner, said the group is cautiously optimistic the Valiant proposal will be defeated Monday night.

"We're very heartened by this news, but I think we're going to continue to press our case until that resolution is finally passed defeating this," he said.

Lipson said he personally would prefer to see open space at the Library Lot site, but the group isn't formally advocating any particular use.

"Our position is that we want to see a thorough planning process that includes public input," he said. "I think our group, in particular, feels we've had to sort of impose ourselves into the conversations. There's been no real chance for public input. We're more concerned that the members of the public, the citizens of Ann Arbor, be given a say on this particular lot."


This is what the surface of the underground parking garage would look like at the Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor if no development is built on top.

Image courtesy of Ann Arbor DDA

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


John Floyd

Mon, Apr 4, 2011 : 4:11 a.m.

If this meeting space and hotel are such good ideas, such good ways to create value, then why did the developer not want to own them? Why did they want the city to be the financially responsible party? Why did they want to have any tax, or tax-like, payments to the city to be subordinated to their operations and financing expenses? Since national demand for meeting space has been shrinking for several years, while many cities are expanding meeting space, why does anyone think that Ann Arbor would be able to steal business from cities with 12-month climates or genuine urban scale and amenities - at a profitable price? Where is any systematic study or data showing that either 1) demand for meeting space is growing faster than the supply of meeting space, so that a meeting space in Ann Arbor has a good shot at getting a piece of an expanding market; or 2) Ann Arbor is a likely candidate to take business away from existing/expanding meeting spaces; or 3) there is significant unmet demand for additional facilities in Ann Arbor. If all this does is cannibalize business from existing venues, there isn't any economic development going on - just publicly subsidized re-location of existing activity, at the expense of existing firms. I don't see "Truthspeak" or any other proponents of city-owned/subsidized hotel & meeting space talking about these issues. To me, these seem like obvious, elemental questions to ask at the beginning of building a business case for such facilities. I'd like to see questions like these asked the next time a city-driven development process is initiated.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

Oh, and I am soooo relieved that I won't have to look at a tippy box when I go downtown, or *shudder* have to walk near it during a windstorm.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

Whatever happens in the future, I want the council to know that I do not favor of any project that carries risk for public monies. I want public coffers to fund public schools, roads, libraries, police, fire, and the like--public services and infrastructure, in other words. Businesses benefit from this infrastructure, too. Our services and infrastructure crumble under our feet even as we speak. We cannot afford this. What sticks in my craw is the trend toward privatizing profits and socializing losses. This is ruining us as a nation. When I want to invest in a business, I will buy stocks, after doing some research about the business. If enough stockholders think a company is making sound decisions, the company will be able, for instance, to build a hotel and/or place to hold conferences using private monies. The people so investing will either make a profit or take a loss. Public monies should not be risked.

Marshall Applewhite

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

I'm very glad they've decided to scrap this idea. Now, we can finally erect a giant concrete palace with an enormous portrait of Chairman Mao on it.

Will Warner

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

I was going to comment, but I realized that the moderators would be able to tell that I have no expertise in city planning and that my opinion about the look of the proposed building is just my opinion, and so they would rightly delete my comment for irrelavence.


Sun, Apr 3, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

+1 for acknowleding the value of expertise, but then again this is an opinion board and ideas are what matter here.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

What: My suggestion is put in a Bicycling commuter center. Based on the McDonalds Cycling Center in Chicago, a building with windows, safe indoor bicycle parking, a bike repair and accessory store, lockers and showers will promote bicycle commuting. A large negative aspect of bike commuting is bike theft and protection from the weather. Showers and lockers are needed to clean up. Where: Perfect location, right next to the AATA. Get out of the locker room and get on the bus to get to work. Or walk. Why: 1. Gas prices are volatile. Affected by global demand, political upheaval in the Mideast, decisions made by OPEC countries, decisions made by non OPEC oil producing countries, gas tax increases, licensing and registration increases needed as per political need for revenues. When the economy recovers global demand will increase as it was before the economy fell in 2008. When gas prices are high, people stop driving and buy bikes (ask any bike store). Gas prices probably are not going to drop like they did in 2008. 2. Americans are obese and need the exercise. Driving costs you money and makes you fat. Bicycling runs on fat and saves you money. 3. Helps the environment. 4. A2 is already bicycle friendly. 5. Parking a car is too expensive here. 6. There are studies that show bike/walk programs attract property buyers and keep property home sales higher. How: The McDonald's Cycling Center is funding by the McDonald's corporation, yes the same bastion of obesity with the arches. Perhaps we have a similar corporation(s) nearby (Dominos, Univ Michigan) that might be interested. A fee for use can be partially offset by the federal tax deduction of $20/mo, for bike commuting if your employer wants healthy employees. Facilities like these are very popular in cities that have them. Here is a link to the McDonalds Center in Chicago: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Maybe something like this could be put on a level in the new garage rather than topside.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

Another interesting link to the MCC and connections to other city programs: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It may not work for everyone, but it can have an impact on saving transportation costs, improving health and easing parking congestion for both the city and the U.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.


Pam Wilson

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Great news! The proposed conference center would have stood out like a very sore thumb in Ann Arbor. Now, lets take the time to make a decision on what we need and what will enhance the downtown area! Thumbs up to the Council. Best decision in years!

Seasoned Cit

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

In the '50's a proposal to build a Civic Center downtown (where the Masonic Temple had been) was &quot;studied &quot; in the Ann Arbor way and one of the main reasons it wasn't built was that many of the local non-profits, who were mentioned as possible tenants couldn't agree who would get what. (At that time there was only one downtown hotel as all new ones were being built just over the City line so they could get a liquor license) Later the Kellogg Foundation offered the UM a residential conference center and the UM politics couldn't decide if they wanted it on central campus or on the growing North Campus. MSU ended up with the Kellogg Center on their campus when their President Hannah went after the building. The UM eventually built the Chrysler Center on North Campus for Continuing Education and filled it every summer with business and Engineering short course attendees. The Towsley Center for Medical Education was built in the hospital complex for Continuing Ed programs, also with no hotel space requiring that attendees had to be bussed to and from campus and the hotels. Both of these buildings still exist but have been converted into space used by students and in-service training. The lack of housing, food service, and of course parking have forced almost all conferences involving outside attendees off campus. Large annual conferences such as the Midwest School and Vocal Music Conference, Even UM Staff Benefit Programs have been held at Eagle Crest as it is the largest hotel/conference center in the county. It appears that history is again repeating itself and a facility that could bring business and visitors to downtown as well as pay substantial property taxes, will be passed over and if we're really unlucky another park will be build on the parking structure so the cities homeless will have a place to sit when the cold weather doesn't force them into the Library.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

This would be a perfect location for a CVS Pharmacy or McDonald's. This city is hilarious. People whine about creating &quot;density&quot; downtown, making this a &quot;walkable&quot; city, etc. But propose to build a hotel/conference center, drugstore, high-rise apartments, etc. downtown that will add jobs, residents, hotel patrons, or much-needed retail and the tune just changes to &quot;That's bad for Ann Arbor.&quot; Why not just come out and say it: Ann Arbor is anti-development.

Tom Whitaker

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

The term &quot;density&quot; refers to population per acre, not cubic yards of concrete per acre. How would a conference center contribute to density and walkability? Have you ever walked past the Lansing Center? Multiple high-rise apartment buildings have been built recently: Corner House, 411 Lofts, Ashley Terrace, Zaragon, and two are currently under construction, Zaragon 2 and 601 Forest. Liberty Lofts was built out of an old factory with a significant addition (in an historic district, no less!) City Apartments has been approved and may start construction this summer on First Street. At least a half-dozen more are approved, but can't get financed right now. All this in a city that saw its population decline slightly over the past decade. Sounds like anything but anti-development to me.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

I love computer graphics and marketing. Check out the graphic image of the parking lot without a building. We have one bus, 3 cars in the lot and 1 one on the street. It doesn't look so lively and the image creates a marketing idea of... 'hey... this area isn't lively, we want something to go there'. Check out the graphic image of valiants proposal. We have people streaming in droves in and out of the building. We have people smiling and babies laughing. Life is good and even nature agrees; as clouds hug the building and give their approval. Graphic marketing -- gotta love it.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Hey--how about a for-profit prison?

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

Looking back on this ordeal.... I think a key moment occurred at a meeting whereby the public was not allowed to talk. By silencing people, folks stand up and listen to the one who is silenced, and pay much more attention to the other side of the story. Perhaps, if you had let them speak it would have respected democracy, they could have voiced their concerns (gotten it out of their system), and people may not have noticed or cared. But, by silencing the public you created a louder voice, passion in their hearts and folks stood up and paid attention. <a href=""></a> I'll post what I posted in the comments on that page: &quot;Wieder said he was objecting to the fact that residents in attendance weren't allowed to speak at the meeting to voice their concerns.&quot; &quot;I don't know if this is a good project or a bad project -- I don't have an opinion on it, but... I am in favor of debates in a democracy. This is Ann Arbor, I believe we are a community of open-minded people. And so it would be nice to know the opposing sides to this issue, and show respect at listening to both sides -- even if you disagree. To silence someone without listening to their opinion, seems to be of poor sports(person)ship..&quot;

Carey Allen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

How about a park/playground downtown? It is right next to the library and I would personally love to have a park to walk to downtown after getting a cone somewhere with the fam.

David Cahill

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

Council member Briere suggested a resolution shutting this process down to the mayor at last Saturday's College Democrats pancake breakfast at tje Arbor Brewing Company. Apparently several council members, including Council member Kunselman, have been discussing this idea with the mayor independently. A long-overdue decision whose time has plainly come.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

After the mayor and others requested proposals from developers/architects who each spent tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, and their proposals were reviewed by expensive outside consultants the mayor says he wished he would have stopped it sooner. The mayor and the city should reimburse all those that wasted their time and money on pursuing a business opportunity requested by the city, that now the city says they do not want. City residents should be embarrassed that the Mayor of Ann Arbor and others would treat business people in such a disrespectful manner.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

These business people hoped to take advantage the city. They invested a bit of money to try to outsmart the city. Didn't work for them. Hey, that's business.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Are you implying that a promise/guarantee was made for this project to happen? From my understanding of it, this was not a promised/guaranteed development and it was known that it had to pass city hall and other steps. so if people spent a lot of $ trying to come up with an idea and competing for that idea.... then yes, it is sad that they lost money...but... this sort of business is also high risk and high return. win the deal and make $$$$$$, lose the deal and lose $$. this deal might not work, so they move onto the next deal.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:23 a.m.

Can we please have a new downtown library then... or how long are we going to patch up the current one? It is a symbol of our community and a renovation of rebuild is *sorely* needed.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Maybe make a new information technology area, education center and conference area? There are a lot of ways to create a 21st century Library...


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 10:23 a.m.

What the what????? I wouldn't pump another penny into a new Library's bleeding money as it is as the world turns digital... Except for a handful of people who would use that new library?? The downtown library isn't any type of symbol of our community anymore and hasn't been for at least a decade now.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 3:59 a.m.

Isn't there more than a bit of conflicted thinking going on with - apparently - a vocal minority on this issue? I mean, come on, a tiny - and decrepit - restaurant is joining the thousand or so &quot;no conference center&quot; movement? Sorry - but when Jerusalem Garden pretends to be more than it is, that doesn't equal credibility or even rationality. If city council sees a problem with return on investment, then that ought to be good enough to dump the conference center. But then we're right back to having a group of residents who &quot;want something&quot; and &quot;don't want something&quot; but - they never have come up with a realistic, truly city- benefitting idea. They didn't want a big apartment building to their south, now they don't want a big hotel to their north. It's like they're trying to grab these properties for their own purposes and expand until they've become the whole city. Whatever, in view of all this, our mayor and city council have come up with the inevitable: WAIT and see what comes up. Maybe the &quot;strong willed&quot; residents in the nearby homes will have time now to make up their minds and bring forth a miracle idea for that property. will have to check in with them... every 30 years or so to see how their decision making is coming along. Can't wait (because I won't live that long).

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 2:51 a.m.

City Hall. Thank you.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 2:02 a.m.

Rod: Back in Mid-Feb. the mayor wrote me after I emailed him about this. He said he was not in favor of it but that he was willing to let the process work and wait until something came out of the committee. With this going to the council on the 19th, I guess it was time to act. His quotes that I have seen on this issue have been consistent going back as long as I can remember.

Rod Johnson

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:38 a.m.

Showing his usual courageous leadership, the Mayor waits until the outcome is a foregone conclusion, then claims it was his position all along.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

I am shocked, shocked, that a hotel had been considered.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:52 a.m.

Wow, that was quick. I was kind of looking forward to the show down on April 19th at City Hall. The signs were already printed up, but this is way better by far. It looks like we are getting a surface parking lot for now with an option to build. I was a fan of a down town park, but I figure since we will have all of the extra parking spaces maybe the surface parking structure can be used for events after all. All you need to do is set up a stage and put out some chairs. Vendors can bring their own tents and we got a party. It is not grass but it is still an open space right? Maybe the parking lot can be the site of next years hash bash. Ideas for the space that are cooler than a conference center -Mini drive-in theater -Heliport/balloon/missile launch site -build a large Radio dish to listen for Messages from space -studio sound stage for what is left of our film industry -huge ferris wheel -Tar pit with replicas of dinosaurs -Make life size replica of stonehenge made from straw bails -How about we fill the parking lot with all of the couches left on our sidewalks after spring semester. -Fill the parking lot with sand and call it The Ann Arbor Desert with tour guides in safari hats -Use if for a training grounds for the less popular U of M sports like outdoor ping pong and bull riding -Create a huge Pirate themed miniature golf course -On the golf theme, create a driving range without nets -An indoor tree museum -a Jedi training center -A corn maize -A Robo Cop themed park -Build a ridiculous mansion on the lot and film really bad match making or making of the band reality shows there -Plant an oak grove and make a squirrel sanctuary

Peter Eckstein

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:18 a.m.

Congratulations to Ryan Stanton for excellent coverage of this issue and for initiating--or asking the dot com to initiate--a FOIA request. An important council decision is about to be made--correctly, in my opinion--but the public is to be denied the &quot;privileged&quot; information that lies behind the decision? Since when is a CFO's opinion privileged? And, while an attorney cannot be forced to divulge an opinion given to a client, can't the client (in this case our elected council members) make public an attorney's opinion, especially one paid for by the taxpayers? Congratulations, too, to all those citizens who fought to make their voices heard in a process that from the beginning had all the earmarks of an inside deal.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:36 a.m.

I agree. Congrats Ryan. This couldn't have been easy to do. Nicely done!

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

Yes, Peter, thank you for recalling Ryan's critical involvement in getting all the information about the proposals, including the cost proposals, public. Sometimes we forget the important contributions of our local journalists. That was a big one.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

This is what happens when Ann Arbor elects a council of phony hysterics who can talk for days without making a single relevant point. This is one more nail in Ann Arbor's coffin.

Pete Warburton

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Good ! Now let us move ahead with the 24/7 Casino !


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 11:36 p.m.

Yay! Once again City Council, under direction of our fearless leader Mayor Hieftje, will manage to block development and job creation! Yay! But, to make amends, we will still get our single unit halfway housing for male felons built at the corner of Main and Summit - complete with a superb liquor store and access to a playground! And, wait there's more, we'll even throw in a special waiving of zoning to suit the inappropriate plans. Yay! Go team go! Maybe, if we are lucky, we'll get a new park on the library lot? Another park we don't have any money to maintain. Yep. Because Ann Arbor is broke and so are too many of our residents. But, again, job creation is always low on Mayor Hieftje's list. I think I'll go for a bike ride and think about this.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

This was going nowhere, it was good move to cut it off.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 11:22 p.m.

Low income housing and a park for drunks and druggies to hang around in sounds good.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 11:03 p.m.

No need for the hotel. A nice conference center could work there like Moscone in San Francisco. Stephen Landes had a good thought to incorporate / relocate a new AATA transit center there as well.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

Better off leaving it vacant. No sense having a perfectly good building fall in a sinkhole.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

It is not accurate to say that the group Public Land, Public Process &quot;is often critical of city hall&quot;. The group was formed in the wake of the first meetings of the RFP advisory committee, when it became clear that the committee was moving toward a preordained conclusion. The only topic that PLPP has ever worked on has been the issue of what process should be followed to dispose of city-owned land. As the name indicates, PLPP believes that public land, which belongs to all of us, deserves a public process to determine its best use. Our position statement, published over a year ago, is here:<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Members of PLPP do not all agree on what the ultimate use of the Library Lot or of any other public land should be, only that it should be the result of a public discussion. Instead, the history of the Valiant proposal has been one of inside deals and private understandings. As I reviewed in a blog post dated January 2010 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> the Valiant developers were engaged with certain city officials and were showing investors around as early as April 2008. Notably, city administrator Roger Fraser, who has been a consistent supporter of this proposal, was involved in these discussions very early. The members of PLPP, all of whom have other interests and some of whom are also politically involved in other ways, have together been both vigilant of the flawed process supporting the Valiant proposal and finally involved in the grassroots campaign to defeat it. Again, it is not accurate to say that the group has simply been critical of &quot;city hall&quot;, but rather, that we have focused on the one issue of how decisions are being made about valuable land that belongs to our city, and thus to us all.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

Well put Vivienne like all of your posts. I read the position statement and I agree that public input is important. The only thing I would point out is that it is not always representative of the whole public. Public forums typically draw vocal people who are concerned based on a personal agenda, while a large portion of the population that may be in favor of a development do not find it necessary to attend. What is best is an accurate representation of how the public feels on issues perhaps by surveys. I also agree completely that decisions should be open. On this issue I defer, I do not care one way or the other. This project could turn out to be a disaster or perhaps it might be completed at the same time the economy recovers and put A2 ahead of the pack. But the risk is too big. That Valiant was strolling with city officials back in '08 is not unusual. Turns out it takes a while to get projects up and running, especially in Ann Arbor, where records are probably being set for the time it takes to build something. What makes me suspicious here is this statement: &quot;Rapundalo said those communications were privileged.&quot; Why? I do not think any communications between the city attorneys and council should be withheld from public perusal in regard to development decisions. To do so raises the specter that it is only &quot;privileged&quot; because somebody goofed somewhere or they are about to do something goofy. A cover up perhaps?

Kai Petainen

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Vivienne.... excellent work. Nicely done!


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 11:28 p.m.

Well said!

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9 p.m.

Just an FYI to those who've followed the process — there's also a progress report on &quot;the future site of the Green Way Park and Art Center for 415 W. Washington&quot; on Monday's council agenda. Ann Arbor Arts Alliance board member David Esau is expected to give a 20-minute presentation.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

Perhaps, in retrospect, the entire Library Parking Lot project should have been halted: $38 million. 477 new parking spots at a cost of $80,000 per parking spot. They need to earn $21 per parking spot per day just to make 10% on the dollar. Horrible decision. The is a literal money pit. Fraser did a great job coming in from the land beyond, spending money left and right that didn't exist, although some council members may disagree?! I used to think Ann Arbor wouldn't be just like every other city and become completely irresponsible fiscally. It is embarrassing.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

I think you are correct. This garage may have been necessary with some structure above it, but the need for more parking does not justify this cost.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

Now that's behind us, how about changing those signs to read &quot;Citizens Against the Fuller Parking Garage&quot;. Doesn't anyone care that this council wants to build yet another parking garage and this time right next to the Huron River??


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

That's next! The Fuller lot proposal is a taxpayer giveaway to the UM


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

That is one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. What is this, 1968? The University is finally understanding that classic architecture (see the law school, Ford public policy building, and North Quad) looks way better that modernist, boxy looking garbage, and now developers want to start building ugly crap. Great.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

Or the addition to the Museum of Art. I suspect it was the law school that insisted on keeping up the traditional look of the new building. The U used to hold the traditional look as important. That addition to the museum has ruined the character of the the whole area, including Angell and Tappan Hall. That hotel was going to be ugly.

Seasoned Cit

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

How do you class the New Business School Building??? Classic? way!

lou glorie

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

The Council Resolution rejecting the Letter of Intent for the Valiant project is flawed in that the last &quot;resolved&quot; clause prescribes a profit/tax/revenue making future for the site. I believe now is the time for a meaningful, rubust public process for deciding the future of this last significant publicly-owned parcel downtown. Whatever goes there should benefit the whole community and to restrict the future use to revenue production rather than economic or civic life enhancement is something that should only be done when we have all had a chance to weigh in and consider all options. I do not see the rejection of the Valiant project as a win for our community unless the process for developing this parcel becomes truly democratic. Something equally abhorent may come along in the future and some members of council, will insist, as many have done with the Valiant project, that it would bring good forutne to our city. And citizens who refuse the role of rubes will once again be pelleted with &quot;obstructionist&quot;.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8 p.m.

This is great news! Special thanks goes to David Cahill and Sabra Briere who are vehemently anti-development and worked very hard to torpedo this project from becoming a reality.

Nick Danger

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

We desperately need jobs in Mi .When opportunities pop up the city votes them down. Don't complain when the construction tradesmen are unable to find work. Oh I forgot, everyone in AA is a professional or student. Why worry about working people being out of work ,there not one of us

Moscow On The Huron

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:07 a.m.

This is a common misconception of the left: the Government exists simply to give things to people, including jobs.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Well said, belboz.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

It is not the job of the city to ensure construction jobs are filled. If buildings are not needed, then the taxpayers shouldn't just build for the sake of building to keep you employed. It is unfair to the current landlords and taxpayers who can't afford frivolous spending.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

So many extremely smart people in Ann Arbor--and so many extremely stupid plans and projects. Quite a paradox!

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

This is the best news I've heard from downtown Ann Arbor in months, years..... now the Martians will have to find someplace else to park their toaster.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

I am surprised that this has gone as far as it has. How could anyone on the council support this after reading the studies done on the project? Unless AA gives these guys a big break on the price of the land, who could afford to build there? The hotel project wanted half the structure, so the price to the developers starts at $25M then add the air rights, $2M or $3M, we are looking at $28M before they start construction. How could any project afford this?


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

Of course it will be voted down... ANYTHING that helps bring in more out of towers, income, and development will be voted down by this council to appease the 1000 people that live in the 6 square blocks of Ann Arbor that they care anything about... Look, I don't think this center was the right option there either...but let's be serious...NOTHING will ever be built on that space with the councils current makeup.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

I'm not convinced of the viability of the project, either. It probably was the best decision on that particular plan. If there were a demand for a conference center like this, the University would have built one - as the University is the primary draw for those types of events. This type of center is more appropriate for larger metropolitan areas - much in the same way mass transit is more appropriate for more concentrated areas. Ann Arbor simply isn't big enough for either concept. However, the attitude of so many in Ann Arbor is troubling. That someone would honestly advocate a tent city downtown is an example of the destructive hatred Ann Arborites have for anything resembling a corporation. Something like that would cause enormous problems for downtown businesses. Not to mention it would be reckless for people to actually use the $50 million parking structure. Like it or not, a city has a responsibility to build a tax base, not confiscate the wealth of anyone who dares try to make a better living for himself.

Moscow On The Huron

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

&quot;Never allow an opportunity to trot out another tired Republican talking point about wealth confiscation to pass by. This would have been a plain ordinary transfer of publicly owned wealth to the Richy Rich's with UM connections.&quot; Never allow an opportunity to trot out another tired Democrat talking point about Rick Snyder to pass by.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Given the exact nature of the economic collapse, it should be named for Kennedy and Johnson.

David Briegel

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

I'm certain the tent city comment we a real serious suggestion and not a sarcastic comment. Whatever we do, we must name IT after Ronnie Reagan, the Godfather of our economic collapse! It was the economy that &quot;trickled down&quot; in an almost complete collapse.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

Never allow an opportunity to trot out another tired Republican talking point about wealth confiscation to pass by. This would have been a plain ordinary transfer of publicly owned wealth to the Richy Rich's with UM connections.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

I am glad that it will resort to a surface parking lot temporarily if nothing can be built yet. We can now take time to have an adult discussion about the right type of development that she could go in that location. As i have posted many times before, I am so tired of all the threats, bashing, smearing and shaming of everyone involved. Nobody can think out loud or think out of the box because of all the drama from a few. IMO the majority in this city want something to be developed there. We may not have been thrilled with the conference center design, but we still want SOMETHING to be developed there that will be good economically for the city. Also, I am still in favor of some type of hotel going there and hope that it will still be considered.. This is a good move for now.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

How convenient for the Valiant Conference Center supporters on council to get a chance to vote no. &quot;The devil is in the details&quot;? If nobody had been willing to say the emperor had no clothes, Mr Rapundalo and the rest would have been ignorant of the details and we would have a white elephant on our hands.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

Amend that to say a COSTLY white elephant.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

The resolution not to approve the Valiant proposal includes a questionable clause: &quot;RESOLVED, That future planning and proposals for this site shall recognize that this is a valuable, one of a kind parcel, and that whatever future project is contemplated for this site shall compensate the city with fair market value and a positive financial return, contribute to the tax base by paying property taxes, add vitality and density to Downtown and provide appropriate open space for public use. &quot; Why limit the use of the library lot and promote a vision which is not shared by many who live here. How about having some public process to decide what the best use is?


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

There has already been a lot of feedback from the community about this site. I, for one support the councils statement, but more community discussion, when decisions will be down the road, can't hurt.

Atticus F.

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

I honestly would rather see a homeless tent city on that site.

Moscow On The Huron

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 1:02 a.m.

&quot;Bobby, we could name it after Reagan in recognition of what really 'trickles down'!&quot; Predictable Briegelism.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

Remember &quot;Resurrection City&quot; in 1968? It was a tent city that was a disaster of an idea.

David Briegel

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9 p.m.

Bobby, we could name it after Reagan in recognition of what really &quot;trickles down&quot;!


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

I support the council members decision that there were too many unknowns and too many risks for the city to take a financial risk w/ this project, but as for preferring a tent city at the site, that is a sad and inane comment.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

Downtown grocery store, small street-front retail spaces and apts / condos above would work well and help encourage more folks to live downtown as opposed to out in Dexter.

Emma B

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

A grocery store downtown would be incredible! I've always wondered why Ann Arbor hasn't pushed for that before with all the people biking and walking. And amen, @WhyCan'tWeBeFriends.


Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 4:36 a.m.

And is it too much to ask to make the condos affordable? Small, no granite needed - just good clean design and perhaps 1/3 the price of the typical new build condos downtown. Ann Arbor is not London. Build for real people in Michigan.

Emma B

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

So relieved to hear Ann Arbor doesn't want more lego buildings.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

I'm sorry, can someone please remind me why we need a 50 million dollar underground parking garage in the first place?

Peter Jameson

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

Yea, I didn't think hippies drove automobiles.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Guess the little yard signs worked

Peter Jameson

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

Yea, my sign business made tons of cash from them!

Tom Joad

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

A boondoggle plan if I've ever heard one. We built a gargantuan hole in the earth to fill it with cars, now let's build a hotel/conference center to utilize those spaces. Amateur hour thinking. That building depicted in the conceptual drawing looks like hell

rusty shackelford

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

That's OK, it's really more of a Shelbyville idea.

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

Awesome! I tip my sombrero to you, sir or madame.

Atticus F.

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

That was funny rusty!


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

Looks like some semblance of sanity is gonna let's just hope the sanity is allowed to persist, and the DDA doesn't get involved.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

Thank you to Mayor John Hieftje and Council Members Stephen Rapundalo, Christopher Taylor, Sandi Smith and Sabra Briere for putting an end to this ridiculous proposal; I am relieved that cooler heads prevailed!

Urban Sombrero

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

@Peter Jameson: elaborate design or elaborately UGLY design? Hard work on the behalf or others or not, the conference center that was proposed was an epically fugly design. It was something that would stick out like a sore thumb downtown and would most likely be a huge taxpayer expense, with little benefit. I'm one of the first ones to criticize the city council, but I have to admit that I think they got it right here.


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

I do not think thanks are in order after wasting city resources in such an irresponsible push for an impractical project.

Peter Jameson

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

I know! It feels so good to ruin the work that others put into the planning of such an elaborate design!

Top Cat

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

Now we can get on to something we really need.....a minor league ballpark on the Pfizer site !

Will Warner

Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

Yes, a tree theme. How about the PussyWillows?


Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

How about the Wolves-in-sheep's-clothing? Describes AA politics to a T. Republicans who call themselves Democrats so the voters who used to be liberals won't feel bad about voting for them.

David Briegel

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

The Tree City Twigs

Top Cat

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

A tree theme....The Mighty Oaks ?

John of Saline

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

What would the team be called?