Delays with Fuller Road Station project in Ann Arbor put public art project on hold
The Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is putting an art project on hold after continued delays with the city's Fuller Road Station project.
Aaron Seagraves, the city's public art administrator, addressed the issue at Wednesday's meeting of the art commission.
The commission has been considering a $250,000 public art installation at the site of the project on Fuller Road. The first phase of the transit center project was expected to come before the City Council for approval months ago, but the city and the University of Michigan remain in negotiations on some of the final details of the project.
Fuller Road Station is a partnership between the University of Michigan and the city. Plans call for an intermodal transportation facility built around a new train and bus station.
A dominant element of the first phase is a large parking structure in front of the U-M medical campus, and that's where city officials are planning a public art installation.
Once Fuller Road Station moves further along, Seagraves said, the art commission can resume discussions about seeking an artist.
Mayor John Hieftje, who spoke with AnnArbor.com via phone after Wednesday's meeting, said he's hopeful the Fuller Road Station project will come back to council soon.
"We'll let the attorneys work on it, and two to three months would seem more reasonable to me than six to 12," he said.
The first phase of Fuller Road Station was approved by the city's Planning Commission more than 14 months ago in September 2010. There's been little communication since from city officials about why the project hasn't gone to council for approval.
Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, said Wednesday night the delay is mostly due to the fact that the city's attorneys remain in negotiations with U-M on a construction, operations and maintenance agreement for the first phase, which includes a five-level, 977-space parking structure expected to stand for the next 75 to 100 years.
"These are important and longstanding agreements and I'm sure there's reason for both parties to push back and forth," Cooper said.
Also included in the Phase I plans approved by the Planning Commissioner are five built-in bus bays and 103 bicycle parking spaces. The long-term vision is estimated to cost $121 million, inclusive of planning and engineering costs, and includes a new train station.
The city previously estimated the first phase would cost $43 million. The university agreed more than two years ago it would pay 78 percent of those costs, but now the two parties are working out some of the finer points, including how everything will work operationally.
Hieftje said the announcement earlier this year of $2.8 million in federal funding for preliminary work on Fuller Road Station means the city now has "another wrinkle" to work out. He said he's not complaining about that, but rather acknowledging that it's taking time.
"We have more partners to incorporate now," he said.
Cooper said the city also is working out a contractual agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation. The city applied for the federal funding through MDOT.
"We're going to be an agent on behalf of the state," Cooper said. "It's a multi-party project. The agreement between the city and the state will speak to our mutual obligations to the Federal Rail Administration. The state is an intermediary."
Cooper agreed with Hieftje that waiting another six months or more for the project to come back to council sounds unreasonable.
He acknowledged there have been unexpected delays, though.
"I'm waiting for a package from MDOT to take to council," Cooper said, noting MDOT previously told him it would be ready in September and it still hasn't arrived.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.