Ann Arbor officials pushing forward with evaluation of hotel and conference center proposals for Library Lot
Ann Arbor resident Alan Haber says he plans to continue pushing for the development of an urban park on the downtown Library Lot.
Haber, one of the authors of the Ann Arbor Community Commons proposal rejected earlier this year by a city advisory committee, appeared before the City Council Monday night hoping to revive discussion of his idea.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
"I continue to persevere on the question of the commons on the Library Lot," Haber said, criticizing the city's Library Lot advisory committee for failing to move forward on evaluating the remaining development proposals for more than four months.
Haber said he worries the process is going nowhere. And if no development happens above an underground parking garage now being built at the Library Lot, the site will revert back to a surface parking lot. Haber argues instead for a park.
The Library Lot advisory committee, led by City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, narrowed a pool of six proposals down to two in January, rejecting Haber's idea for a park and three others. The two remaining proposals both call for a hotel and conference center development, an idea that doesn't appear to have strong support from the council due to the financial risk it would require from the city.
Rapundalo confirmed the default plan would be to turn the Library Lot back into a surface parking lot until a plan for development was adopted. He said the City Council would have to discuss Haber's idea to make it a park instead.
"The case would have to be made why we should consider something other than the surface lot," Rapundalo said. "But doing what he wants, in effect, would be an end run around the intent of doing a development on that property."
The Library Lot is located on Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William streets, adjacent to the downtown library. The city owns the 1.2-acre property, where an underground parking structure is being built.
City officials hope to find a suitable development proposal for what goes on top of the parking structure.
Rapundalo said the city is close to signing an agreement with a consultant to help evaluate the feasibility of the two hotel and conference center proposals, which were submitted by Valiant Partners and Acquest Realty Advisors.
After the consultant is hired, he said, a series of meetings will be held with stakeholder groups like the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ann Arbor SPARK and the Ann Arbor District Library. He said the city may even have the consultant sit down with both Valiant and Acquest to discuss their proposals.
"I know the consultant had a while ago developed some series of questions after having done a fairly extensive assessment of the proposals," Rapundalo said.
“With a little bit of luck," Rapundalo said, perhaps the consultant will be able to come to the committee by mid to late August and "we will pick up at that point." He said the committee has a process to complete and won't be reconsidering Haber's idea.
City Administrator Roger Fraser said the goal remains to do something with the site that will stimulate the downtown economy. He thinks that could be accomplished in any number of ways, including a hotel and conference center, an office complex or residential housing — but not a downtown park.
"It would get a very limited use by a small number of people. It's mostly passive uses," Fraser said of Haber's idea. "We think this site has potential to serve as an economic stimulus for the downtown and help ensure the health of our downtown businesses The idea is to get more people coming into the downtown on a regular basis, people who are involved in the downtown 24-7."
The Downtown Development Authority has provided $50,000 to the city to hire the consulting firm. Rapundalo said the DDA, with the use of an intern, will conduct a comparative analysis to complement the consultant's work.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.