Ann Arbor DDA renews downtown office lease but still considering moving back into city hall
Mayor John Hieftje's proposal to have the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority move its offices back into city hall didn't pan out today, as the DDA's governing board instead voted to sign a five-year lease to stay at its current offices at 150 S. Fifth Ave.
But DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said she's intrigued by the mayor's idea, and today's decision doesn't rule out the possibility that the DDA could still make the move. She noted there's a clause in the DDA's lease allowing it to sublet the 3,149-square-foot space.
"I know it can work because my predecessor, the director before me, had the DDA office in city hall," Pollay said. "Moving to city hall is definitely still an option."
The DDA has leased its current offices from Weinmann Block LLC for the past four and a half years, and the lease was set to expire on June 30. With the Ann Arbor Police Department vacating city hall and moving into the new police-courts building next door, Hieftje thinks there's a way to move the DDA and its four employees into a newly renovated first floor of city hall.
"We certainly have brand-new conference facilities, just basically putting up some partition walls and opening up some windows down in the first-floor level, and that's going to be very much improved," he said. "That's going on and we think there's going to be some attractive spaces there, and those conference rooms are going to be wired for CTN for full television."
The DDA recently hired a real estate broker and toured several office spaces downtown, finding out there's been a downturn in the market. And that explains why the DDA was able to renew its lease today at a reduced annual rate of $53,415, down from $70,722.
Hieftje said if the DDA moved into city hall, the city and DDA both could benefit financially. The DDA could get an even better deal on its lease, and the revenues would stay with the city.
Still, Hieftje said, renewing the DDA's lease was the right move for now.
"It's a good time to sign it because of the economy right now," he said. "I don't think this is a setback at all because there's a good lease in place that has a possibility for sublease."
Pollay said she's impressed with how renovations in city hall are taking shape in conjunction with the $47.4 million police-courts building project.
"Not only the new municipal center, but the old Guy Larcom building is really taking new form — new windows, all new layout of the floors," she said. "As a staff member, what I liked was we're keeping options open. We're going to take on a lease, but if there is a strong and compelling reason to go over there, we'll know more about it. The city itself is still figuring out where everybody is going to fit. And if there's room for us, then that's a topic that can be brought up."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.