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Posted on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Consultant's report: City of Ann Arbor could get $52M from sale of downtown properties

By Ryan J. Stanton


The Ann Arbor DDA is studying redevelopment opportunities for four city-owned parking lots downtown, as well as the first floor of the Fourth and William parking garage, as part of the Connecting William Street project.

Map courtesy of DDA

The city of Ann Arbor could net more than $52 million from the sale of four prime pieces of real estate it owns in the heart of downtown, according to a consultant's report. obtained more than 200 pages of financial analyses in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the Downtown Development Authority.

The reports were prepared earlier this year by Todd Poole of 4ward Planning LLC, a land use economics consulting firm with offices in Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

The DDA is studying redevelopment opportunities for four city-owned parking lots downtown as part of the Connecting William Street project and it tapped 4Ward Planning to help crunch some numbers.


The Y Lot at the corner of Fifth and William could be worth as much as $24 million, according to a consultant's report.

Ryan J. Stanton |

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said no formal appraisals have been done and the preliminary financial feasibility analysis prepared by 4ward Planning still remains in draft form.

But the initial findings are ambitious, putting the potential land value of the old Y Lot at the corner of Fifth and William at $24 million. That's about $17 million per acre.

The small Palio Lot at the corner of Main and William could go for $3.7 million ($37 million per acre), while the larger Library Lot on Fifth Avenue could go for $9.3 million ($11.4 per acre) and the Kline Lot at Ashley and William could go for $15.5 million ($3.9 million per acre), according to the report.

The report notes the land values are a function of several factors, including land-use class and densities permitted. For example, office lease values per square foot in downtown Ann Arbor are far greater than retail lease values. And the higher density permitted, the greater the price.

Mayor John Hieftje said he knows the four undeveloped properties the city owns downtown are valuable but he's not sure about the consultant's projections just yet.

"I'm always wary of numbers that are not the result of a formal appraisal, but it wouldn't surprise me if those parcels are worth a lot of money," he said. "There's certainly a lot of value there."

Poole noted in his report dated March 16 that 4ward Planning relied on build-out assumptions provided by SmithGroupJJR, the city's planning department and the DDA.

The analysis took into consideration what it would cost potential developers to build different projects and examined three different scenarios for each of the four properties. Two of the 12 scenarios modeled involved a hotel and conference center project.

Under the three scenarios for the 1.41-acre Y Lot, the land value ranges from $5 million to $17.5 million to $24 million.

The $17.5 million scenario envisions 8,500 square feet of retail and 144,800 square feet of office. The $24 million scenario increases retail to 9,900 square feet and office to 199,700 square feet.

The $5 million scenario, despite still having 9,000 square feet of retail, departs from the first two scenarios by eschewing office space for a 226,000-square-foot hotel and conference center, including 85 residential dwelling units. Though that brings a relatively low residual land value, the consultant's report noted "there are other important benefits associated with a conference center hotel in downtown Ann Arbor — increased tourism, retail purchases, and employment."

The city previously considered a hotel and conference center proposal for the Library Lot, but the City Council voted last year to reject it after questions were raised about its feasibility.

Under the three scenarios for the Library Lot in the 4ward Planning report, the land value ranges from $3.8 million to $4.7 million to $9.3 million.

The $9.3 million scenario proposes no residential units and a modest amount of retail (12,000 square feet) and office space (71,300 square feet). The $3.8 million scenario provides the same amount of retail, but no office space — instead a 127,000-square-foot hotel and conference center.

The $4.7 million scenario features a mix of residential (72 units), retail (39,000 square feet) and office space (96,480 square feet).

Under the three scenarios for the Kline Lot, the land value ranges from $7.8 million to $10 million to $15.5 million.

Under a scenario with modest density and residential-only development, the consultant projected the Kline Lot could sell for $7.8 million. That goes up to $15.5 million with a greater mix of land uses.


The Library Lot on Fifth Avenue could be worth as much as $9.3 million, according to a consultant's report.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The $10 million scenario greatly increases residential density on the Kline Lot and includes 192,000 square feet of office space and a 13,000-square-foot performance venue.

There's only one scenario shown for the Palio Lot where it would result in a financial return for the city and that's the $3.7 million it could get by allowing a developer to build on both the small corner lot, as well as take over the ground floor space of the adjacent Fourth and William parking garage.

That scenario includes 7,100 square feet of retail, 25,800 square feet of office space and 5,000 square feet of small business incubator space.

While the Kline Lot is the biggest undeveloped parcel among the four, the report notes, the relatively low intensity of development envisioned for the parcel (residential and commercial) has rendered the residual land value low on a per-acre or per-square-foot basis.

Hieftje said the city is in no rush to sell any of its properties. He said the Y Lot at Fifth and William where the old YMCA once stood is the only property where the city still has debt to pay off.

"I've always felt that the city would recoup its investment on that site or come close to it, and it may even make money," he said.

The city bought the Y Lot at 350 S. Fifth Ave. in December 2003 for about $3.5 million, plus $4,304 for a title policy and recording fees.

The city also spent an estimated $1.3 million to relocate residents who lived in the affordable housing units there. City officials said there are no ongoing costs related to that effort.

The parking lot there now generates about $250,000 annually in parking revenue. The city and the DDA have been making interest-only payments on the property for the last nine years, with the city spending $625,486 to date and the DDA spending $532,351 to date.

Tom Crawford, the city's chief financial officer, said the city will have paid $727,692 and the DDA will have paid $634,557 in total interest by the time the note matures in March 2013. That's when a principal payment will be due — nearly $2.1 million from the city and $1.4 million from the DDA.

The city's funding source for the expenses related to the property is the general fund. Crawford said the $3.5 million principal payment always was planned to be paid-off from the sale of the property. For financial planning purposes, he said, the city assumes continuation of interest-only payments.

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, has pushed the city to put the Y Lot up for sale before the balloon payment comes due, but his colleagues on council chose last month to let the DDA finish the Connecting William Street planning process before taking that step.

Kunselman believes the city could put its surface lots up for sale with deed restrictions on the area, height and mass and then let the free market take its course.

"You can't control use — so hotel versus housing," he said. "Politicians and bureaucrats and appointees have no special authority to control use, so the idea that they would restrict to a specific use would actually de-value the property because it makes it much more restrictive."

He called the estimated $24 million potential land value for the Y Lot "outrageous." He also questioned whether the city could get more than $52 million for all four properties.

"That kind of money, first of all, is speculative, so I'm not going to start planning or hypothesizing what we could do if we have $50 million," he said. "That's going way beyond reality."

Kunselman said he doesn't think the numbers add up when the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church property sold for $610,200 this week. He said that's a prime near-downtown property on North Main Street, "and they're thinking the Y site is going to sell for millions?"

Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, is bringing forward a resolution next Monday to stipulate that a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of city properties goes toward affordable housing. Hieftje said that's a noble use, but he doesn't want to tie the city's hands too much.

"It seems appropriate to me that the city would have something in place to say that a percentage of land sales should go to affordable housing, but I'm not in agreement that all of that would go to affordable housing," he said. "You're talking about big dollars here and there's other needs."

Hieftje said he thinks the money could go to a number of causes, including paying down the city's long-term obligations for retiree health care and pensions. But he said it shouldn't be used to temporarily fund recurring operating expenses, so he wouldn't recommend using it to hire staff.

"One of the reasons we've been successful financially is we never spend our reserve funds on operating expenses," Hieftje said. "So it's not as if we would sell a property and then fund operating expenses from that. That's not a smart way to go."

Hieftje reiterated there's no urgency for the city to sell any of the four properties. If history repeats itself, he said, it could be a slow process.

"As far as I know, we've sold one property in decades and that's the one where you have the apartments going up on First and Washington," he said. "So if you look at the scale of things, for the city to sell one property per decade, that would probably keep pace."

4ward Planning looked at sale and list prices for other properties in the downtown area going back to 2008 to provide a point of comparison.

The analysis shows a 0.33-acre property at 600-606 E. Washington at $4.9 million ($14.8 million per acre), a 0.15-acre property at 209-211 S. State at $2.6 million ($17.1 million per acre), a 0.2-acre property at 202-212 S.Division at $1 million ($5 million per acre), and a 0.32-acre property at 500 E. William at $4.3 million ($13.3 million per acre).

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 email newsletters.


Jay Thomas

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

I should have been a city worker...


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

It took a paid consultant to figure this out?? Duh...

Seasoned Cit

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Don't see many comments about the potential real estate tax each of these sites represent when developed ! For the City's future those dollars will have a bigger impact than the dreamed of $52M. City owned property costs the city money... to maintain.. and each represents tax income that's not coming in. (How do the folks who are proposing a new park for the top of the parking structure..think the maintenance of that park will be paid? ) A commercial development will bring income..not expenses.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

The taxes will go to the DDA. Even the taxes that should be going to support millages like the solid waste millage (and yes, the greenbelt millage) will be paid to the DDA instead. All money that would have gone to pay for the services (including police and fire protection) that these new buildiings will require goes instead to the DDA, not to the general fund that has to fund these services. The DDA also gets the tax that would have been paid to the library, WCC, and the county. The DDA takes all "tax increment" income. When a new project is built, that is all the new taxable value. After one year, the city and other governments get to tax any increase in TV that is due to inflation. Of course, if the TV drops, they get nothing. While the DDA does some worthwhile things for the downtown, I question whether we should sell all our city-owned assets in order to provide an unelected body with a discretionary revenue source that our city council can only envy. Maybe if the DDA would negotiate a new charter that gives the city a sweeter deal, this would be a reasonable idea.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, has pushed the city to put the Y Lot up for sale before the balloon payment comes due....Are we that desparate for the pautry sum? Lighten up Kenselman - we don't have to sell just because we can. What is with these Philadephia consultants...aren't they the ones that wanted to change the face of North much did we pay for this BS report. Who is responsible for kicking this off.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

Hard to get upset over money we don't have. If the city does have more money at some point then paying down debt, funding essential services and maintaining a healthy reserve seem to be the best uses. I disagree that the city should act as a charity. While noble in mindset, it is not the best use of city funds.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

The question is why should that particular money - proceeds from the sale of taxpayer-owned property - be earmarked for that purpose? Is there supposed to be some kind of "linkage" that I'm missing? Is that the most pressing need of our city at this time? As far as people being "forced" to walk back to Ypsi, I suggest they use that fine taxpayer-subsidized bus service instead.

alan haber

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

While some people in Ann Arbor, and an apparent majority on the City Council, would sell their mother if the price were right and the market hot, ... most people in Ann Arbor would prefer a park, some actual green and public amenities on the lot by the Library, foregoing the glittering pots of gold promised by selling her for the profit of private developers and future taxes. The DDA and Connecting William Street studies and consultant work avoided any serious asking of the people of Ann Arbor. As many studies and much human experience has confirmed over and over, there is much benefit in downtown public space.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

No one is mentioning the obvious: Where are we going to PARK??? When we want to shop or eat down town, there is barely enough parking as it is. This will hurt all of the businesses in the area. What a bad idea


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

And that's where the Tomorrowland Monorail comes in ...


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

The new library lot is nearly empty every day. There is no parking crisis in AA if you're willing to walk a block in any direction.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

"I'm curious, since Council directed the DDA to conduct a "robust public process" in studying these publicly-owned parcels, why was it necessary for to file a Freedom of Information Act request for these documents?" This hits the nail on the head about the Mayor and his DDA. Why DID there have a be a FOIA request? Can we get the details of why that was required?


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 10:18 a.m.

Ann Arbor certainty seems to either have indecisive consultants or the reports all seem to have to be changed/made politically correct before they are "final". I've never seen so any "draft" reports.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 3:51 a.m.

sell 'em. sell all of them. and use the money to repair our pothole ridden crumbling streets. and to bring back city services like leaf pick up. do not put any money into affordable housing or anymore 'art.' we have had more of both of these than any taxpayer should ever have to swallow.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

More parks is a horrible idea. We can't even afford to take care of the neighborhood parks we've got. *And* you want to forgo the property taxes we could get from more buildings? So we'd be subsidizing a greenbelt in the townships and a greenbelt in the city? What version of reality do you live in?

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:16 a.m.

Might as well sell our property to fund the benefits of a few lucky city employees. They've already laid claim to our future, and our children's future and our children's children's future. There's not all that much left to take.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

They should also sell the airport and then let Pittsfield annex the property so it copuld be developed responsibly.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.

woo-hoo! clapboard affordable housing! "oh wait" says ann-arboreal ( I corrected the spelling mistake in your pseudonym, I hope you do not mind).

Jennifer Crooker

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

It is disgusting to me that the city is only seeking to use these properties for money making and commercial development. This is the block of the main branch of the public library, and as such this affects more than just Ann Arbor City residents, it affects all people from the townships who are part of the Ann Arbor school district and therefore use the Ann Arbor public library system. This area should be a HUB of space for the people by the people. I strongly support the idea of putting a park on the "library" lot and now that I see that there are other city-owned properties in the immediate area that the city is considering selling I'm even more concerned that the voters in the City of Ann Arbor speak out, especially for those of us who are township residents who have no say in the Ann Arbor City council elections but who have Ann Arbor schools and libraries and whose lives often nevertheless revolve around downtown Ann Arbor and the main library branch. One of my neighbors recently told me she thought that it was already decided that a park was being put on the lot above the underground parking structure! Clearly not enough is being done to communicate to ALL affected and interested parties what is going on here. Many people may be in fact making the assumption that these areas will be used for community purposes when in reality it looks like the powers that be have dollar signs in their eyes.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

This city gov't is the best batch of conservative republicans masquerading as thoughtful people as you can find anywhere. Nothing they do should surprise you.

Peter Eckstein

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Are they really serious about selling off all or part of the 4th and William parking structure? It ain't great, but it is a lot more appealing for someone wanting to shop on Main Street than the underground, more distant structure under the Library Lot. Let's not destroy downtown in an effort to save it.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

Don't take advice from city connected real estate agents who covet the real estate commissions.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.

Hey, if they make money, we all make money. If uou can afford the spicy Top Ramen! What are you complaining about!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

The City would blow this money like a sailor on shore leave.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Are your referring to "Go Navy"...perhaps.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

the question is, will you get a share in these?

Soulful Adrenaline

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:51 p.m.



Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

Prices in the real estate market market are rising. Selling now means using the money right now to restructure debt and have cash to invest in infrastructure when costs are low. Not selling now means waiting for a higher price when the market is hot, but by then the current low costs of investment and debt pay down will cost more. That said, these properties should serve the residents. And since any public development will be funded by taxpayers, it's USE should reflect what Ann Arbor values now and in the future. It's not an either/or or as simple as some commenters would like.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

I agree that a windfall like this shouldn't be used to pay operating expenses--but before we start thinking of nifty ways to spend money (which may turn out to be a pretty different amount than what is mentioned here), let's proceed cautiously and see what we'll forever lose once this land is gone. Wisdom in this situation could be one or more of the following: a) create a park downtown in some (or all?) of these spaces. See if it is used. If not sell these later. Think how 11 years ago, in cities all over the U.S. and the world, people spontaneously went to their cities' central squares and looked to each other for support and offered support to one another, in the wake of the attacks the day before. The diag is that for the U of M, but we need such a central space for the larger Ann Arbor community. b) Or think of the value ALL plots of land in downtown if we sew inviting green spaces into the fabric of the city. If ALL areas in the city become more desirable because we--like wise gardeners--thin the rows a bit and prevent the developed areas from choking each other, the overall tax base will be that much more and benefit not only with pleasant places to visit, but ALSO with enhanced revenues to the city's coffers. Think of the hotels and such that front on NYC's Central Park? Take away the park and they're just another hotel/apartment/etc., but with frontage on a park they're VASTLY more valuable--and more taxable. We have one chance to get this decision right. Building on those lots ends that chance, but keeping them open--in the form of parks, etc.--allows exploration of an option without the loss of later chances to develop them, if the parks turn out not to be popular.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Well put. I finally found a link to a substantial report recently issued by MSU's Land Policy Institute. They actually quantify the economic value of various "green" amenities. This is now an accepted thesis of "Placemaking". Worth reading. It is not a polemic.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

In a city where parking is nonexistent and parking rates already repel people, why is selling the development rights to parking lots and parking structures a good long-term idea? Think about this: most of the deficit is due to unfunded sweetheart deals that - in the past - have given city workers huge pensions for a modest number of year of service (City Administrator Neil Berlin - 5 years, etc., etc). How about addressing the real problem and renegotiate these contracts that were a mistake to begin with. How can the same people that will benefit from an agreement negotiate that agreement? Anyway...thinking about selling downtown parking lots to developers is basically like cutting your leg off.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

@whatsup - weren't you just talking about the "always desperate college students" about five posts earlier? So are they "desperate" or do they have "money to spend"? Or do you even know?


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:38 a.m.

This city is kinda unique, there are over 40k college kids in dorms, almost all from the top 10% earning families nationwide. These kids have money to spend, NO experience about return upon expenditure, and a city here who is happy to feed them (at a price). I do make fun of AA, but the situation here is a logical outcome given the situation. It is a city of remora, and you can't really fault this (unless you have morals and a grasp of the big picture outside of the inbred MidWest).


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Why does the city still own land? This land should be in the private sector and the money should be invested with the city getting interest. I hate the way these "Progressives" love to control things they shouldn't!


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Go Navy is living in a time warp. In 5 years what does he think this public property will be valued. He went to business school and didn't take any humanity classes.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

@Mixmaster - Come again? I was not aware of a hard-and-fast rule that suggests that "land values rise faster than inflation." Do you have data on this subject? PS If the land is "like an interest bearing account," then why not take the money and...put it into an interest-bearing account? Then, we could earn interest, in addition to the tax revenues thrown off by replacing a bare strip of pavement with a productive asset.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

It's like an interest bearing savings account. The value of the land rises far faster than inflation. Along with Obama, Dems, Libs and anyone else who disagrees with you, I see that you're now adding "Progressive" to your list of people to blame. You're on the wrong side of history and demographics.

the other guy

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Great idea!! Let's sell all the parking lots and develop more high rise residences. We can all move into them at $1M for 2,500 sq ft and park in the greenbelt the city has purchased. We'll take the mayor's new train into to town and walk wherever we need to go...since the taxi service in the Duece is absurd. Instead, let's sell the greenbelts and make more affordable parking and lower property taxes...or we can sell all the parks too!

Rod Johnson

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

We don't actually own "the greenbelts"--almost all Greenbelt purchases are for development rights. Not really something you can liquidate easily.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

If you remember the 60's-- you weren't there.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

I've lived and worked here since the 60's and nobody I know really calls Ann Arbor, "The Deuce", even when misspelled.

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

"As far as I know, we've sold one property in decades and that's the one where you have the apartments going up on First and Washington," [Heiftje] said. Actually, the City just sold a 792-square-foot strip of the Y Lot to AATA for $90,000, or $114 per square foot/$4.96 million per acre. According to the City, this was based on an independent appraisal, but of course, since it was a simple exchange between two public entities, the final price was not subject to any free market forces, competitive bidding, or the deep market and location analysis a private developer would do before making an offer. If the City were able to sell the remaining 1.41 acre lot at this same rate, it would go for about $7 million. Other recent transactions: The .75 acre site on Huron, next to Sloan Plaza, just sold for $4.5 million, or $138 per square foot/$6 million per acre (and included a building). The .58 acre site for the Varsity on E. Washington sold for $3.2 million, or $126 per square foot/$5.49 million per acre (and included a building).

Terry Redding

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

I'm curious, when we build a capital asset we set aside a 1% bucket fee for art. Since we are decreasing our capital assets with these proposed sales would we then claw back the 1% out of this special bucket and into the general fund. ;-)


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Interesting. Sell assets to pay for retiree health care and pension liabilities. Selling assets is a one time revenue, isn't it? Building more affordable housing sure helps our group in power now in DC as our personal wealth drops and our standard of living moves closer to needing government handouts and assistance. AA leadership is in tune with the ruin of Ann Arbor as we now know it.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

@whatsupwithMI: That's not really true. Blue states have high state income and corporation tax rates WHICH THEY CAN DEDUCT from Federal taxes. When you include that you find that the red states are subsidizing the blue.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:55 a.m.

"they" just want your women, I've seen _Blazing Saddles_.... You are correct to mistrust "them".


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

mixmaster: I think the answer is (via data) YES. The conservative states are the ones sucking up all the revenue from the Democratic states.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

If your gloom and doom scenario gets as bad as you intimate, would you take the check and the food stamps?


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

What a marvelously short-sighted idea it would be to sell public assets for a one-time infusion of cash which will no doubt be misspent by city officials and their cronies. Hopefully this doesn't come to pass.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

I am confused about your reference, are you referring to drug use (huffing?) I don't know anything useful about that, I'll concede to your expertise.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

whatsup: Please, save it for the HuffPo.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

GoNav: Another service industry employer, skirting health benefit regulations by hiring part-time always-desperate college students- and older or uneducated folks- will make a lot of revenue for business-owners and overseas, USA-tax-hidden banks frequented by Patriots, but nothing for this state or nation.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

You mean a public, non-revenue-producing asset? The replacements, though not owned by the city, would be positive contributors to the city's overall revenue and tax base, among other things. They would certainly employ more people than, say, the Palio lot does.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

57 mil...I bet the mayor and the DDA are just wringing their hands with glee.....another bomb shelter and more tongue depressors...can't beat that ..says they....


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

"Hieftje said he thinks the money could go to a number of causes, including paying down the city's long-term obligations for retiree health care and pensions" In other words, to a significant extent -- due to overly generous, unfunded promises -- Neil Berlin and the other ex-employees already own the place..this proposal is just starting to make that reality more visible.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:45 a.m.

Can you remind us who the dramatis personae on Council were at the time?


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

I'd say to the city council members of that time, that some of us warned them before it was too later, but unfortunately it won't change anything now. Neil Berlin was the culprit. Others were playing by the rules at that time. The rationale for such early retirement was that by having the senior, higher paid employees retire early, the city would save money by hiring employees at lower wages and also by having fewer employees. It was obvious then that having all these retirees would be expensive, exacerbated by the fact that we'd be paying early retirees AND employees.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

Could make the documents available? That would be a valuable service. I had hoped the link in the first sentence might bring them up, but it seems to be a circular link back to this story. I'm glad that the mayor and some council members are expressing caution.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

Ryan- While we certainly appreciate the executive summary, "the devil is in the details," so to speak. Since it's practically costless to make available to the general public 200 pages of "nitty gritty data," why not go ahead and indulge us? PS I understand you find the documents incomplete, but they are complete enough to have generated an executive summary.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.

Thanks, Ryan. That was considerate.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

I scanned the summary report and posted it here: There's another 200-plus pages of nitty gritty data, including development cost projections for the different scenarios, but that appears incomplete. Will wait for finished report.

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

I'm curious, since Council directed the DDA to conduct a "robust public process" in studying these publicly-owned parcels, why was it necessary for to file a Freedom of Information Act request for these documents? Shouldn't everything be up on the DDA website for the public to view, or at a minimum, be made available for viewing by the public and the press in the DDA office?

Joe Dohm

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

Is this a legitimate study, or just an effort to make dense development the only possible decision on every property?


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

You mean is it like the DDA questionnaire that slanted the questions toward---some density, more density and the very most density possible?

Ryon owens

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

Put it to vote!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

Many many people need to be well educated on these subjects before we could vote intelligently on how to use these properties which we as taxpayers now own. Education is possible, it takes time, and it requires that information be presented in an unbiased way. Talk to your council members and members of the DDA. Ask for real information. Ever hopeful.............

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

"It seems appropriate to me that the city would have something in place to say that a percentage of land sales should go to affordable housing, but I'm not in agreement that all of that would go to affordable housing," he said. "You're talking about big dollars here and there's other needs." Like no bid multi-million dollar contracts to political friends Mr. Mayor? Ala Recycle Ann Arbor?


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

Flying bike tubes.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Selling anything to pay down pensions is sad. How about adjusting the pay level of the employee's and use the offset to make the pension contributions. The properties are owned by the citizens on Ann Arbor, and should not be sold to benefit the employees of the city. As in, trying to maintain salary and benefit levels that are outrageous. Selling these assets so people like Neil Berlin can keeps his retirement benefits is sad.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

Have lawyers gone over the contract that Neil Berlin got the city to approve in case there are illegalities there? For those who don't remember, Neil Berlin was a city manager who some say rigged the pension system so he would get a lucrative pension after just a few years as Ann Arbor city manager. Trying to find a way to cut or discontinue his pension might be acceptable to the taxpayers of Ann Arbor, but I don't think that current employees should get their pay cut if former employees (other than the city manager) took advantage of early retirement opportunities established by Neil Berlin (which I believe was) approved by the city council (of that year).


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Did I miss where it said how much the consultant cost?


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

PS I guess we have no professional consultant around here. Could have fooled me.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

" It's not important how much the consultant cost" Maybe not to someone on a government pension that probably retired at 30.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

You're asking the wrong question. It's not important how much the consultant cost; rather, the relevant question is "does the consultant have a financial stake in the ultimate outcome of the analysis?" PS If you think hiring a professional firm is expensive, just wait to see what hiring an amateur costs.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

If the City and DDA have any future vision they would preserve the Y-Lot for future expansion of the Blake Trasit Center.

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

AATA wanted to buy the whole lot, but the City refused. I believe at that time, they were holding out for the idea of rebuilding some kind of supportive, low-income housing on the site. However, now attitudes about locating low-income housing downtown appear to be changing among city officials. Meanwhile, AATA is going to go ahead with a multi-million dollar replacement for Blake on more or less the same small lot it currently occupies, with the more-or-less the same spillover of buses onto Fourth Ave.

Joe Dohm

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

A good point. If I remember correctly, the new transit center is being designed with the ability to add an extra story if more space is needed, so I don't know how realistic the idea of expanding into the Y lot will be.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

Please tell us why any of that money should be earmarked for affordable housing. Other than that the DDA thinks it's a good idea.

Basic Bob

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

The true voice of a progressive. Government should take care of all of us, except the poor who should be forced to walk back to Ypsilanti every night.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Income Diversity? Is that a new euphemism for unemployed?


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

Or heck, based upon the upvotes, as long as they *cook* the low-income folks properly- just call it 'long pork' and ask no questions......


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

15 upvotes on Brad's post at this time is just disappointing.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

Because income diversity is a healthy thing for a city.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:30 a.m.

I agree, we should use the serfs as an organic biofilm to coat the roads with in winter.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Yah, they can truck the service workers in from Arizona. As long as they cook my steak right.