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Posted on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10 p.m.

Downtown Ann Arbor hotel and conference center ideas resonate with Library Lot committee

By Ryan J. Stanton


Michael Bailkin, principal of the Arete Development Group of New York, presented the hotel and conference center proposal for Valiant Partners on Wednesday. It asks that the city front the money for the conference center portion of the project.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor officials have wrapped up two days of interviews with developers, leaving the city's Library Lot review committee to decide between five proposals - two that include visions for an urban park and three that call for a hotel.

A sixth proposal that included conceptual plans for a senior housing complex was withdrawn by the developer.


RFP review committee members said they liked the concept and business plan behind the Valiant Partners hotel and conference center proposal, but they could take or leave its contemporary design.

City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, chairman of the review committee, said the interviews were productive, and city officials now have tough choices to make. He said the committee will meet Thursday to narrow the pool and discuss bringing in a consultant to evaluate any proposals left standing.

Committee members appeared most impressed Wednesday with the last two presentations - both of which propose hotel and conference center concepts for the 1.2-acre lot owned by the city on South Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William streets. Both of the projects call for a public-private partnership that would have the city financing a large conference center downtown.

Representatives from Acquest Realty Advisors Inc. of Bloomfield Hills laid out plans for a project called @ Hotel and Retail Center. It would include a 190-room hotel with meeting spaces, restaurants and retail aspects. Acquest is asking the city to partner on the project by building a 40,000-square-foot conference center on the former YMCA site across the street.

A group of New York investors called Valiant Partners LLC is proposing a project called Ann Arbor Town Plaza Hotel and Conference Center. It tentatively includes plans for a 150-room hotel, 32,000-square-foot conference center, condos, restaurants and retail shops - all on the Library Lot.

Some city officials remain unsure about the contemporary design of the towering 15-story building, though.

"I'll agree it's an imaginative design, but I'm not sure I'm crazy about it," said Eric Mahler, a city planning commissioner and RFP review committee member. He likened the project's appearance to a "big glass slab" and a "big white column" and said it wasted precious air space above the conference center.

"If you're not willing to make some changes to this ... tell us now so we can start planning for that," Mahler said.

Review committee members heavily critiqued each of the five proposals that came through the door over the two-day span - to the point that some residents shook their heads.

"Every other city in the state would give their right arm to have a project of this magnitude," said Edward Surovell, an Ann Arbor library board member and local Realtor.

Michael Bailkin, principal of Arete Development Group of New York, did most of the talking for Valiant Partners.

Bailkin said his team is asking the city to issue bonds for $8 million to be paid back over 20 years. At the end, the city will own the conference center debt-free. He said it would be the equivalent of tax-increment financing.

"Most other cities that have conference centers finance them directly and they own them," he said. "Our variation is that we want the city to use its credit powers, which is the only way you get financing in today's environment, to arrange for the funds to build this. But we would pay back the debt service on that so the city won't really be paying for the center - we will be paying for it out of the proceeds of the hotel."

Members of the Valiant team said they've been studying the idea of building a hotel and conference center in Ann Arbor for the last two years, and the location makes sense. Bailkin called the Library Lot "the most important site in the city" and said an "iconic project" like the one his group is proposing is its most prudent use.

"Conference centers are one of the strongest generators of new jobs and new activity because they bring in new people," he said. "We think that there is a very strong demand for the conference center - both in the business community, in the academic community. And there's also a strong demand for events, private events - particularly Michigan alumni who are coming back to get married or to have other events in relation to this community. I think it's the nature of the community that creates such a strong loyalty that will create the brand for this conference center."


Acquest's proposal for a hotel on the Library Lot site.

A project called the Fifth a2 by Metro Detroit design firm Jarratt Architecture received less fanfare than the other two hotel proposals. That project proposes an 84-room hotel with meeting rooms, 50 to 60 condo units, affordable housing, an outdoor market and retail and restaurant spaces.

The other two proposals on the table include urban park concepts by Dahlmann Apartments Ltd. and a citizen-led group called the Ann Arbor Committee for the Commons. Both presented their ideas Tuesday, but it seems clear the city is looking for more than just park space on the site.

Rapundalo noted both hotel and conference center proposals call for a balance of open space and vertical development, which he said has been the city's vision for the property all along.

"I certainly believe that we can bring several elements together - that it need not be just development, that it need not be just open space," he said.

Rapundalo also said the two hotel proposals included solid business plans.

"Those two certainly went pretty far and you had to be impressed. They seemed to understand better what we were driving at and what we were hoping for," he said.

While the Valiant Partners proposal has been the subject of discussions among city officials for more than a year, it's likely Acquest's proposal will generate some talk now, too.

Members of the Acquest team showed up Wednesday surrounded by representatives from the Christman Co. and Carl Walker Inc., two firms that have been involved in the Downtown Development Authority's underground parking structure project. The winning development proposal selected by the city will go on top of the DDA's parking garage, and having the endorsement of two firms already involved in the project could go a long way.

Acquest representatives claim it's been to Ann Arbor's detriment that no new hotels have been developed downtown in more than 50 years. They see a hotel project as a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown and its businesses.

Acquest's proposal includes the development of a new public plaza at the southwest corner of the site, lined with cafes and restaurants. David Ong, president of Acquest, acknowledged the hotel market isn't the best right now.

"This is 2010, folks," he said. "The hotel investors have been through hell and they're not back yet."

Acquest representatives had no definitive answer to a question Wednesday on how much public investment the project would require, but said "all the cards are on the table." 

They said the conference center would be publicly owned - possibly by a city-county authority - and they've been in talks with County Administrator Bob Guenzel about the concept.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Mon, Jan 25, 2010 : 8:52 p.m.

As if getting better restaurants and bars is reason enough to saddle taxpayers with a 20+ year albatross. If you thought the Old Y was an eyesore... Get ready for "The Valiant" silver horizontal monolith at further taxpayer expense. The Giant Flat Screen that future generations will wonder what Valiant supporters were smoking.


Sun, Jan 24, 2010 : 11:18 p.m.

Thanks True.... I think that some of the other posts have offered hard facts as to why a convention center is not necessarily a good idea. As for Bourbon St., I was recently at a conference in New Orleans, and while the French Quarter can be a tourist drag, the fact is that cities like that have fabulous restaurants, many of them run by young imaginative chefs. The sad fact is that with a few notable exceptions we do not; indeed, the dirty secret is that Main St. has terrible restaurants by national standards and most people will not be interested in coming here again for evenings out on the town. On some nights there is music, but now that we do not have a jazz club, the choices for adults are not often many. It is a great place to live, but it is not a convention town. On the other hand, perhaps if we had more visitors, the restaurants might improve....

Alan Benard

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 10:11 p.m.

News from the Professional Conference Management Association: Amex Reports Corporate Travel Sales Stabilizing After Deep 2009 Drop | the depths reached by the corporate travel industry in 2009, American Express' global corporate travel sales shrunk 30 percent year over year to $14.6 billion, the company announced late yesterday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. ==Orlando hotels endure worst year in decades |'s hotel industry ended 2009 with another bad month in a string of bad months and, by many measures, its worst year on record. Hotels in the Orlando area were little more than 60 percent full on average in December. ==2009 airline revenue: Worst drop ever | More Room at the Inn | it may seem counterintuitive at a time when many hotels around the country are having trouble filling their rooms, nearly 100 hotels are scheduled to open in major American cities this year.==I'm no NIMBY -- I want downtown development. But I think a convention center isn't the way to go. These tea leaves indicate massive growth in supply nationwide, in larger, easier to get to cities, while demand has crashed and remains low. Add to that the fact that many fewer flights come to DTW than before Big Auto died and I don't see the upside.


Sat, Jan 23, 2010 : 12:29 a.m.

Is there a study that actually documents a consumer demand for this conference center? I have visited many cities that have half vacant downtown conference centers that the cities funded with good intentions, but which cost a lot to maintain, including increasing security in the area, paying back loans, and advertising and cutting special deals to try to fill it. A more logical location, if y'all really think A2 needs a conference center, would be by the medical center, to attract medical conferences. It is, by the way, the ugliest building I have ever seen. It may just tip over and solve this problem. Seriously, when is this city going to come to its senses and be financially responsible? The year 2010 is not the time for rampant development and million dollar sculptures. It is a time for regrouping and trying to save essential services. This whole idea of the city contributing to developers' pockets is a bit nauseating, in these times. Fiddle while Rome is burning.


Fri, Jan 22, 2010 : 10:54 a.m.

Anecdotal remarks about the need for a conference center do not carry water. They should not be used as the basis for paying developers $1 million in fees to spend our money on speculative developments, with no risk to the developers themselves. A 1991 City-commissioned study of this site concluded that it should be a park, with buildings behind it, deeper in the lot. The report cited a number of potential uses for the developed part of the site. The only use they specifically ruled out was a conference/event center. This study is old and needs to be updated, but I present it in response to those who keep saying we've needed a conference center for 40-50 years. Where is your study?


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:33 p.m.

As someone who attends at least three conferences a year, I cannot imagine how one would succeed here. Most people would think twice about scheduling a conference from December to April because of the weather, and football weekends would also get in the way. Who would not prefer New Orleans? The idea that this should be funded by taxpayers when so many more important matters lack funds seems irresponsible. I was struck by the statement that the center would include restaurants and cafe's is a frightening prospect; do we not have enough of those? Why undercut existing establishments? But worst of all, I expect that most, if not all of these would be chains. We are already witnessing the ruin of State and Liberty, which are being made anonymous by chain restaurants and bars. This would make the conference center even less desirable. Who would want to fly in to Ann Arbor to open their window blinds and see the very same brand names and horrid chain designs that they see every day at home?


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

I think hotel rooms and a conference center are a great idea! It would bring people from out of town downtown who will visit our stores and restaurants and stimulate the downtown economy. Ann Arbor would hold a lot of appeal for conference planners if we had enough downtown hotel space to accommodate them and marketed it. These proposals should be given serious consideration.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 8:52 p.m.

The subconscious reason that the powers that be fear an open public square is because they fear people getting together in large groups and expressing their displeasure with the status quo. Tien An Men.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 7:13 p.m.

I was against building on the lot before I found out how much the City and taxpayers would be on the hook for it. Now I am furious! If we're laying out so much cash, taking risks, why not do so in support of something ALL Ann Arbor RESIDENTS will benefit from -- a downtown green space? Picture this: - families sharing a picnic before going to a movie at the Michigan; - Top of the Park in the city center instead of borrowing space from UM (I would guess the Main & Liberty Street merchants would be all for this!); - a place where downtown residents, from penthouse-dwellers to workers & students in nearby rental housing, can enjoy the seasons: build a snowman (and skate!), listen to birds courting, read beside a lovely cool fountain, take photos of fall colors. Someone suggested that the nature-starved just go to West Park or the Diag. West Park is not city-center. And the Diag is University turf. Don't suggest that townies have picnics there -- I for one would feel out of place. In my 10 years here, I have never been harrassed or asked for a handout by anyone in Liberty Plaza. But I am regularly approached for a handout on the corner of William & Main. I walk by both places on my way home from work. In Ashley Mews, where I live, my next door neighbor found a homeless person sleeping on her porch. Once I saw a couple of scruffy men drinking out of paper bags next to the penthouse entrance. And don't even get me started on all the drunks (wealthy and poor) that pass through, sometimes vandalizing our property. What I'm saying is -- we live in The Big City and this stuff happens. Foot & bike traffic, plus good lighting, will deter crime and bad behavior. The park would not become a Hooverville, though some would like to frighten us with that prospect. Using the bogeyman card is like telling us we do not own our town. We do own our town. If Liberty Plaza is so bad, why would developers consider building in the adjoining lot? Whichever plan is chosen is a huge leap of faith. There are no guarantees for any of these projects (and let no one tell you otherwise!). So go with something A2 residents would use and cherish for generations to come -- a green space in the middle of The Big City :-)


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 6:31 p.m.

Did I miss somewhere in this article how the Library Lot committee was selected?

Seasoned Cit

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 5:02 p.m.

Check the archives. During the 1950's there was a proposal for a Conference Center on a Central lot in downtown area. The proposal called for non-profits like the Ann Arbor Art Assoc. to have offices there as well. Once the organizations started trying to get space, and townies worried about the University using the center etc. and of course no one wanted to pay for it... the proposal died. Bill Martin proposed (in the '80's) a Conference Center and Hotel for the lot he owns and rents to the city at Huron and First/Ashley and once again townies who didn't want the added traffic downtown effectively caused Bill to say forget it when thinking about developing anything that might help down town. Then Council killed the plans for the "Sears Lot" parking.. as they wanted to force folks to park outside of town and ride the bus into town and not encourage otherwise by providing parking. I'm surprised the Affordable housing folks aren't demanding another facility on the Library Lot so that all the dishwashers and waiters who work in the downtown restaurants will be able to walk to work. Same old.. same old... same old... When will it end? Maybe it can be part of the Green Belt!


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 4:58 p.m.

I'm not an anti-change person, but I still question the rationale for a conference center - especially one that we, the city, are taking the risks for. Even risk free, it will still end up being an unused white elephant. I attend lots of conferences and because I'm affiliated with the university, not surprisingly some of them are just like conferences UM hosts - small enough to be hosted on another campus, where I stay in a local hotel/bed breakfast, etc. Others are larger (1,000 - 2,500) and these are almost always held at a large hotel, which has more than enough space for meeting rooms. We get a break on our hotel rooms because the conference is paying to book 25 meeting rooms. Not everyone stays at the convention hotel as the room numbers are limited. Finally, there are occasions where we have used a convention center. These venues are pretty much like the large convention hotels - the meetings rooms are pretty anonymous/nothing nice. I cannot imagine renting one of those rooms for a special family event (wedding, memorial service, bat mitzvah, etc.). I would use a local venue that had some charm to it. Thus, I cannot imagine that we would ever fill this convention center. To be really attractive you'd want to include wireless/overheads, etc., lots of hidden outlets for laptops to charge to, etc., but for that stuff to disappear for the wedding events. That's a lot of overhead for something that will be rented out 1 day a week if we're lucky. Finally, someone mentioned that there's a demand for one-day training. Call any hotel near Briarwood and they have unimaginative/functional space ready to rent. The university has space as well - not quite so available, but they rent space as well.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 3:26 p.m.

Wow, the anti-change NIMYs are really out in force.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

I'd like to back up lulugee's comment. During the question period, a Valiant member stated that Edward Surovell company would be the broker for the condominiums for that project. It's in my notes.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

If any one of our representatives (and I use that term lightly) vote to provide financial support for these developers, they should be removed from office. The developers will make their profit, and Ann Arbor taxpayers will be left holding the empty bag.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : noon

There's a very good reason why, after 40 years of talking, there's isn't a convention/conference center in Ann Arbor. It's a bad idea, that's why.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 11:20 a.m.

The last public/private partnership the City attempted was the City Apartments at First and Washington. As part of the deal, the City was to receive $3 million for the air rights. The financial wizards at the City promptly budgeted that $3 million to pay for the gigantic police/courts building (then sent 24 police officers home with early retirements). Now, the First/Washington developer can't come up with the financing to build their project and the City is not going to get that $3 million any time soon, or likely, never. Oops. The public/private project before that was for the YMCA lot, where the City is now being sued for millions over that failed deal. Oops. These conference center developers are just trying to keep up their cash flows using public money during hard times. Note how they get paid their "development fee" up front, while the City's debt is subordinate to the hotels and condos making a profit, AND the developer's private financiers being paid off first. This economic climate is not just another "slump." The nation has experienced a huge deflation in real estate due to excessive speculation. Michigan, with the near-death of the domestic auto industry will need to undergo a complete and fundamental restructuring of its economy that will take decades. Ann Arbor lost Pfizer and its jobs, then lost the property from the tax rolls, too. Why not believe the expert hotel consultant who says that hotel business is way down, companies are not sending people to conferences any more, and this conference center/hotel would add nothing new to the market, only more supply and duplication of existing facilities? Get your head out of the clouds and start dealing with reality City Council!


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

I like the idea of a conference center + hotel. As a former employee of a conference center tied with a michigan university, the lack of a hotel as part of our building was a HUGE drawback to visitors. Most of our patrons were commuters from the local area or training sessions that were 1 day. One of the popular questions was "can you house people in your hotel..." I've been to Columbus where they have a conference center and it does seem to have activity around it. Columbus is larger than Ann Arbor so I would expect there to be differences but conference centers work. I liked the idea of tying the old YMCA lot in - but I think it would be a good option for growth if the conference center ends up working out good. Let's start with a 30ksq/ft conference center, and a hotel and condos with retail on street level. If the conference center takes off, build a walkway over to the YMCA lot and add another 40k sq/ft conference wing there and maybe more hotel rooms on top if the hotel is making money. In other words, start modest with a growth option in mind. And yes, I could leave the contemporary design too - they can do better than that. Even the tower plaza looks better than that.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

While I certainly can't speak to how much additional demand a combined hotel / conference center would create, I can say it would create some. For example, I work for a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor. We regularly arrange academic conferences all around the US and the world. These conferences bring people in (via plane) to a city, and boost the economy through rental cars, taxis, hotel rooms, food, tourism, etc. We *never* have these academic conferences in Ann Arbor, even though we could easily do so for some of them and doing so would lower our costs (since we wouldn't have to fly our staff elsewhere). Why? There's no decent facilities here. If there was a nice downtown hotel attached to a nice, good-sized conference center, Ann Arbor would be an excellent choice.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

If you wonder about specifics of who pays for what, go to and examine the cost proposals. Valiant Partners are only valiant in that they are ready to take the City's cash in a profound and unabashed manner.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:22 a.m.

In the story covering the Tuesday interviews, Rapundalo was quoted as saying of the Commons proposal that, "The bottom line is, it has to pay for itself." Any such statements made about these proposals? He may have misspoken, in which case it would be good for all proposers to get clarification.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

@plhjr they can't divert traffic through adjacent streets running parallel with main because they are decrease the number of lanes for auto traffic for bicycles


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

as A2grateful points out downtown Ann Arbor had a third hotel at one time...that failed. Maybe the Dahlman hotels (Campus Inn & Bell Tower) could offer lower rates if the city issued a bond for them.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

they should focus on making main st between williams and huron a walking mall like Boulder, CO ( and divert traffic through adjacent streets running parallel with main....


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:48 a.m.

Are they kidding? In this economy? I'm all for forward thinking but does the city actually have spare money sitting around to finance a large conference center? And what impact will this have on our current hotel industry (Bell Tower, Campus Inn)? Don't come asking this voter for additional taxes to be used to open up a new hotel! The University and surrounding area hotels have plenty of places for conferences and weddings as it is. This City Council of ours needs to slow down and reconsider the priorities of the day.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

How about Valiant Partners showing a CPA audited report of an instance where they entered a depressed economic area and created "demand" to the benefit of local economy? The Valiant statement sounds quite similar to the casino promises expressed in Detroit... You know... job creation... tourist attraction... area prosperity... These properties are now in bankruptcy, along with many hotels in Detroit. While you are waiting for Valiant's non existent "demand creation" report (possibly while being angry at a monopoly?), consider the Ann Arbor hotel market with a third hotel. This scenario existed most recently. Anyone recall the Ann Arbor Inn? Located at 100 South Fourth Avenue, an eleven-story hotel containing 189 guest rooms in approximately 148,000 square feet on.48 acre. Purchased from Vyquest, Inc. by Ann Arbor Inn Partners, Ltd for about $9,000,000, in the mid-to-late 1980s, during a time of gushing S&L cash. Purchase was followed by mortgage default, owner bankruptcy, tax auction, etc. Not a rosy picture for one of downtown Ann Arbor's largest hotels. Alas, the Ann Arbor Inn sat vacant while being vandalized, looted, and stripped. It was later redeveloped as senior housing. The current operators are trying to sell the property, encountering great operational difficulty, and little profit. Did Ann Arbor economics support the Ann Arbor Inn? No. Is the economic climate supportive now? Your emotion might say yes. The numbers shout no.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

Thank you, Paula Gardner, for the informed, cogent info' in your bullets. It's dispiriting how sensible communication feels like so much like whistling in the wind amid often intolerant voices.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

@Jerff. You can't build parks after you've plopped two giant buildings down on the last two empty parcels of land downtown.

Jeff Punch

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:10 a.m.

I think the key issue is the liklihood that a conference center would draw enough conferences to give a return on the city's investment. If so, I think it would be great. The state of the economy today is irrelevent as long as we recover. The city needs revenue if it is going to provide the sort of services everyone would love to have. Money buys things. Think parks and social services. Think property tax revenue to better fund schools. It all hinges on whether it would be empty or full. I could see it going either way. Would it draw from outside of Michigan? The Michigan winter would certainly be a negative there, even though we are close to an airport that almost everyone can get to without connecting twice. I see a need for a lot of due dilligence.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

Ryan, why was the senior housing project withdrawn by the developer? It seems we've heard very little about this option.

Jeremy Peters

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

Perhaps the inclusion of a private insurance policy against the funding that is based on city bonds or that is projected to be needed to maintain the project (in order to be fair and to cover the open space proposals) to be covered by the group which is proposing the project would be in order to protect the financial interests of the city. In this case, if the group which proposes the project defaults or does not come even close to meeting payment needs/projections on funding, there is protection for city taxpayers.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

Looks like somebody stuck their old cd storage rack in the middle of the parking lot.

Mike D.

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 7:58 a.m.

1. So we're in a slump for a few years. That doesn't change the fact that Ann Arbor is the best place to have conferences in Michigan. (Or would be, if there was a viable alternative to the costly, inflexible, and bureaucratic U.) We are known for the U, our cultural and restaurant scene, and our diversity. 2. By the time any of these proposals comes to fruition, we likely will be on our way OUT of the slump. The projects in jeopardy are the ones that were planned 5-10 years ago and are opening now. 3. Most conference centers are municipally backed. That's how it works. I'm looking forward to my trip to Chicago in a few weeks. I'm going to be staying at the Hyatt at the McCormick Center. I'll note that this is a modern hotel adjoining a municipally funded convention hall. 4. Most tax-free (high-yield) bonds are issued for capital public works projects like this. Issuing bonds to fund operations is bad policy, and it often is far costlier because of tax ramifications. It isn't like it's a choice between this and paying for a year of firefighters. 5. Ann Arbor desperately needs competition in the downtown hotel market. The two Dahlmann properties downtown constitute a monopoly, and they are (predictably, in the case of a monopoly) so old, overpriced, and out of date that I am embarrassed to put people up there. 1985 bedspreads? Really? For $200 a night? I wind up hosting people at the Marriott in Ypsi or, if they have to be in Ann Arbor, the Holiday Inn, which is nice enough, but everyone hates it because it's far from downtown. How ridiculous is it that when I host people from out of town there isn't a single decent downtown hotel at which they can stay? 6. I like the clean, modern aesthetic of the Valiant proposal. Architecture doesn't have to be a cheap ripoff of Versailles or Monticello to be good.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 7:42 a.m.

A2 Staff, could you publish trends in hotel room saturation rates for the past year? Other than the 12 or so home games for the football teams, I've never encountered any problems finding a dirt-cheap room on for visiting guests - apparently that hasn't created the 'induced demand' that they are stating will result from this project? There is plenty of meeting space across the City, including that which can be rented from the University of Michigan. Until the City can adequately maintain the most basic services like street maintenance, police and fire, trash and water, it is ludicrous that they would even consider floating a dime for something like this. What's next - bailing out Borders?


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 7:18 a.m.

Ann Arbor has been talking about a convention center for over 40 years. This piece of property is the most centrally located that connects Main street,State street and Kerrytown. I think a hotel/convention center would be what is missing to help the community grow. We have great walkablity in this town already. Acquests proposal to included the old YMCA lot would make good use of that site. Let's create something really nice for downtown,not more surface lots. I really don't want to talk about this for 40 MORE years.


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 6:25 a.m.

Ryan J. Stanton: "Valiant Partners claims a new conference center will generate increased demand for hotel stays in Ann Arbor..." It's the old real estate developer's snake oil claim... you know... if we build it, they will come... Right... so amidst record hotel, office, industrial, and residential vacancy, we need to build more to attract more people... Can you believe that the developer doesn't know the difference between supply and demand? An amendment to the statement above follows... one based in reality... "Valiant Partners (in an honest and forthright admission) claims a new conference center will generate increased SUPPLY for hotel stays in Ann Arbor..." What a bag of goods, Ann Arbor : ( They don't have the money to build it (or pay it back)... They will need taxpayer funds from now until the City sells the completed project to someone for $1 and payment of back taxes. So, for those that don't wish to see green on the library site, get used to seeing red!


Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 5:51 a.m.

This sounds like the same overblown vision we got with Google. It is too big for a midsize, midwest city in a bad economy and it is ugly.

Ann Arbor Resident

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 3:23 a.m.

I would like to see what data Edward Survoll has to back his statement "Every other city in the state would give their right arm to have a project of this magnitude," If I recall correctly, a hotel/conference center that required public financing was recently proposed for downtown Kalamazoo. This proposal was not able to obtain the needed citizen and local government support.

Ann Arbor Resident

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 3:15 a.m.

I can't believe that the city council and others in city govt are seriously considering public financing this project. The city can barely pay for basic services like sidewalk repair, street plowing, education, fire protection, police protection, etc., yet, if this moves forward, they will want us to approve a bond to pay for this. The bond will be a risk investment: if the convention center does not work out (and I do not see a guaranteed ROI (return on investment)) we will not see a return on our investment but will probably be saddled with tax payments to pay off the bond and to maintain the facility. I do not support the notion that a city government is a speculative real estate investor. At the same time, the city is probably going to be looking for other means to raise money to pay for education, fire protection, police protection, etc. within the next few years. There is no indication city revenue through the current tax base/rate will increase in the next few years and there is no indication we will receive increased support from Lansing. The latter will probably continue to decrease for several years until (if) new industries become established in the state and when the stimulus package support from the Federal Government ends next year. I cannot support any plan that proposes the use of public money in a speculative real estate deal. It might be time for me to seriously look at the out-of-state career opportunities that are being presented to me on a regular basis.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 1:36 a.m.

@Concerned Citizen Where the Valiant proposal is first mentioned in the story, there's a link to a searchable copy of the proposal. You can type in "site plan" and "Library Lane" to quickly get to drawings of what I think it is you want to see. Hope that helps.

John Floyd

Thu, Jan 21, 2010 : 12:04 a.m.

The need for public backing of the bonds, and of public support for the convention center, make this project sound, at first glance, like a dog and a loser. What am I missing? It appears that the city will be left holding the bag should financial projections prove rosy. Is there some other mechanism by which Valient proposes to hold the city (i.e. residents and other taxpayers) harmless?

Concerned Citizen

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 11:52 p.m.

In the Valiant Partners rendering it is not clear what is "happening" in the "Library Lane" area and what the Division St. approach would look like.... any information on either of these issues?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 11:41 p.m.

More on the Acquest proposal... Acquest is proposing to partner with White Lodging Services Corp., one of the largest hotel developers in the nation. They say the goal is to attract a major hotel flag such as Hotel Indigo. Also on Acquest's team is Neumann/Smith Architecture, whose experience includes the new Ann Arbor YMCA, projects at the University of Michigan and the First Martin Depot Street office building. Acquest representatives said they have more than 30 years of experience specializing in public-private partnerships and have developed several large multi-use complexes, including hotels and conference centers. Review committee members, however, said they weren't impressed with the Acquest's public plaza design and that it seemed like an afterthought to the hotel. Rapundalo said it's still an interesting concept and it sounds like there's room to talk more about some of the site design elements of the project.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 11:25 p.m.

Valiant Partners claims a new conference center will generate increased demand for hotel stays in Ann Arbor by drawing people from outside the area -- or induced demand. Its proposal claims the hotel that will be built as part of the project will be able to accommodate only a portion of that demand (in part because of compliance with the city's height limits) and that will result in immediate increased occupancies in other hotels and in the development of additional hotels in Ann Arbor.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:55 p.m.

I actually like this project and the idea of a conference center. The concept of a park that can't self-sustain itself financially only looks good on paper (but not on a spreadsheet). This project actually looks similar to the new city hall, like it or not, so at least it is consistent.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:35 p.m.

Rapundollar wins! Who made this guy King? Now it appears we could be getting BOTH a new hotel AND a conference center across the street. The destruction of this town continues.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:34 p.m.

Can you believe the Valiant Partners is absolutely horrible.....if that is beauty why don't we just level the OWS and build 5 more just like it...

Tom Joad

Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:16 p.m.

Are they serious? A hotel...who is going to stay there in the Obama Depression.


Wed, Jan 20, 2010 : 10:15 p.m.

And if the hotel does not make money? Then the taxpayers are on the hook. Again. No thanks.