You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Ann Arbor DDA renews downtown office lease but still considering moving back into city hall

By Ryan J. Stanton

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."


John Hieftje

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 Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

With the DDA generating a budgetary deficit cost cutting should be a high priority. Using government space should have been the first option. The 3,149 sqft that the DDA wants to use seems excessive for a 4 employee operation. One can get a good sized 4- or 5-bedroom home with that amount of square footage. The DDA should report to the taxpayers what accomplishments it achieved each year, especially since the DDA can not generate revenue to cover expenses. Certainly, the DDA Executive Director ($94,689) and the DDA Deputy Director($86,335) should explain why they deserve their salaries, particularly since we are laying off police and fireman in order to balance the City's budget.

Bob Martel

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

Four people in 3,149 SF? Outrageous, by any normal standard, they ought to fit in half that space. Just because the lease allows sub-leasing doesn't mean that they'll find someone to pay the approximate $17 SF that the lease calls for which would then allow them to move into City owned space. Don't these people talk to each other? I am baffled. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

I'm with you on this. When I read the article and saw the number of people meant to work in this space, (it's 5, in total, if you count the director and her 4 underlings), I certainly thought that was a generous layout. Perhaps they have a need for space this article doesn't address, (to give them the benefit of the doubt)?


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

I don't see any need for both the DDA and City Council. Let's decide which is the most efficient and get rid of the other.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

Do we really need the DDA? It was started in 1982 when the downtown was struggling. Now that conditions have improved, let's reevaluate the DDA's role and its responsibilities to our community. The DDA spends a lot of taxpayer money. Do we really need a separate branch of government that is not elected and not particularly accountable to the voters? DDA Chairwoman Joan Lowenstein wants --in her own words -- to "shelter" city council from having to make unpopular decisions. Hard to support people and organizations who act that way.

say it plain

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

I'm sorry, I'll be a much bigger fan of the DDA when someone points out some stuff they've done to help AA be a better place... I'm hoping to see lists ;-)

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

I see your point......but at the same time, would anything actually happen in this town if we allowed the vocal NIMBYs to stonewall everything? Probably not. There are certain things that bother me about the DDA, but right now I see it is a very necessary evil.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

The DDA should move into the city owned building. Paying rent when there is space available is just liking flushing money down the toilet. If the new Taj Mahal isn't big enough to house 5 additional people, Ann Arbor has more serious problems than we though before.

say it plain

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Oh my, this article shows clearly how very many things are wrong with the people who 'run' our fair city! 1. It seems like the DDA is only *now* becoming aware of how the real estate market has gone bust?! I guess they swallow the realtor-rhetoric koolaid *hard* if they're just now finding that they can get 'deals' on even commercial leases, d'oh! 2. For Pollay and her 4 fellow DDA employees, a lease of that kinda money is needed?! How many SF do they need exactly? Do they need extra conference room space to do the spell- and arrow-checks on, say, the 1 million dollars worth of ugly way-finding signs that apparently were too tricky to get right the first time design-wise?! 3. OF COURSE, the DDA should be leasing their space from the city, with the revenue going to the city...jeez, you'd think the 'real estate professional' mayor we have might be a little more of a salesman in that regard! Perhaps he can get his buddy Sandy Smith to do the selling on that point, doesn't she serve on the DDA board?! I guess some of our current city hijinks can be attributed to having all these savvy real estate professionals in positions of power with city government, and we see what great things power-to-the-realestate-brokers has brought our great global economy of late, so...hmmm...let's all watch out for more economic fun!