Ann Arbor DDA takes two steps forward on Fifth Avenue underground parking structure project
The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is taking swift action to move forward with development of an underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue, despite a lawsuit filed last week in opposition to the project.
The DDA's governing board voted 9-0 at a special meeting today to approve two resolutions related to the project. The first authorizes spending $226,000 for new water mains under South Fifth Avenue, South Division Street and East William Street. The second approves selection of The Christman Co. of Lansing as the construction manager during the pre-construction phase of the parking structure project.
Tom Crawford, the city's chief financial officer, said the city also is moving forward on its end of the project as the bond issuer. He said the city closed on the sale of bonds for the project today, receiving a transfer of about $49.3 million, which the DDA will draw from to finance the project.
Crawford said the $49.3 million being borrowed is only part of the total project cost of nearly $59 million. The DDA will put up the remaining balance in cash.Â
The parking decks will be owned by the city and managed by the DDA.
There was no mention of the pending lawsuit against the city and the parking garage project at today's meeting.
"For obvious reasons, I can't discuss the lawsuit, but I can tell you that this is a really important project for the city," said Mayor John Hieftje, a DDA board member.
"Most folks aren't aware of the fact that we've already lost close to 200 parking spaces in the last few years just due to street changes, and we're slated to lose several hundred more in the upcoming years," Hieftje said. "I look at this structure as a replacement for spaces that are going to be lost, and we cannot afford to leave our downtown minus hundreds and hundreds of spaces."
Hieftje noted city tax dollars aren't paying for the underground parking structure.
"This is paid for by parking revenues, so it won't even be all Ann Arborites' money," he said. "It's the folks who come in from out of town, the commuters, people who come in for dinner, as well as everyone else in the city who uses the parking system."
DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said she couldn't speak to the lawsuit, but can say the DDA has made a commitment to see the project through.
She said the project is about a vision for the future of downtown that's more than an ocean of surface parking lots.
"It allows us to realize, as a community, an opportunity to see that southern edge of the core area as more than it looks today with a bunch of surface parking lots," she said. "Thank goodness for the library. It's an extraordinarily valuable community asset -Â over 600,000 people a year go to the library - but if you look at that block, it's a bunch of surface parking lots. If we're going to do anything in this community that's going to be better than where we are, we've got to put the infrastructure in."
Pollay noted that although the plans call for a parking structure with 677 spaces, it will replace an existing surface parking lot with about 200 spaces, so it's not a net addition of 677.
When planning for the project began several years ago, before the current economic crisis, Pollay said the DDA's parking system was operating most days with most structures filling up. She saidÂ though the project is being labeled a parking structure project, it's much more.
"We're also adding a new mid-block street, we're adding an alley, we're adding all new electrical capacity, we're adding new water mains, and we are designing the footprint of the library lot to bear something, whatever it is," she said. "Whatever the community comes up with on top, we're ready for it so our hands are not tied when that opportunity comes."
DDA officials said today they went with Christman as construction manager for the pre-construction phase because of its experience building a similar underground parking structure in downtown Grand Rapids. At the end of the pre-construction phase in early October, the DDA will consider entering a second contract with Christman as construction manager for the entire project.
The DDA's action today authorizes replacing two existing 6-inch water mains under the 300 block of South Fifth Avenue and South Division Street with new 12-inch water mains. To provide fire protection coverage to the block, an additional main between East William Street and Library Lane also is required.
DDA officials say the improvements will greatly enhance water flows to the center city area. Plans have been submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, with the work expected to be done this fall.
The DDA's design team for the parking structure project completed its work earlier this summer and distributed a request for qualifications in June, receiving 14 responses from construction firms. The Christman firm was one of four companies interviewed.
Christman's fees for the pre-construction period are not to exceed $40,000, according to the resolution approved today.