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Posted on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Committee recommends proceeding with downtown Ann Arbor conference center proposal

By Ryan J. Stanton

This story has been updated multiple times with additional information.

The city of Ann Arbor's Library Lot RFP Advisory Committee met today and decided to move forward with exploring a hotel and conference center proposal for a city-owned site downtown.

The committee voted 5-0 in favor of entering into a letter of intent with New York-based Valiant Partners, which proposes to build an 87,000-square-foot hotel with 150 rooms and a 26,000-square-foot conference center along South Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William.


The Library Lot RFP Advisory Committee recommending proceeding with negotiations with the developer of this proposed hotel and conference center downtown.

The committee's recommendation is being forwarded to the Ann Arbor City Council for approval. A special council work session on the project is scheduled for Monday.

The letter of intent expresses the city's interest in Valiant's proposal — which has been under consideration more than a year — and lays the framework for negotiations leading to a more formal development agreement within four months.

Valiant's development would stand atop an underground parking structure being built by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. In addition to the hotel and conference center, it would feature a public plaza and 6,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, as well as up to 48,000 square feet of office space and 22,000 square feet of condos, according to the letter of intent.

The RFP Advisory Committee includes DDA board member John Splitt, City Council Members Stephen Rapundalo and Margie Teall, Planning Commissioner Eric Mahler and Park Advisory Commissioner Sam Offen.

They heard a detailed report today from David Di Rita, an attorney and real estate professional with the Detroit-based Roxbury Group, a firm hired by the city to evaluate two competing hotel and conference center proposals from Valiant Partners and Acquest Realty Advisors.

The Roxbury Group recommended late last year that the city narrow its consideration to the Valiant proposal, which was seen as the better of the two. But some skepticism of the project remains in the community, and some doubt its economic viability.

About 20 residents crammed into a small meeting room on the fourth floor of City Hall to hear Di Rita's report to the committee today. Most of them were against the project, including local attorney Tom Wieder, who submitted a statement to the committee claiming the Roxbury Group was unqualified to evaluate the proposals.

Wieder interrupted Rapundalo, chairman of the committee, multiple times at the start of today's meeting. That led to an unpleasant back-and-forth exchange between the two men, and caused City Administrator Roger Fraser to chime in to ask Wieder to please be quiet.

"Mr. Wieder, I'm trying to run a meeting here," Rapundalo said at one point.

Wieder said he was objecting to the fact that residents in attendance weren't allowed to speak at the meeting to voice their concerns.

"The public would like to participate," he said.

"I've told you what the rules are we have been following and I'm going to proceed with the agenda," Rapundalo said.

"The process is disgraceful," Wieder said afterward. "There's a lot of rubber-stamping without any transparency, specifically on the issue of the city being off the hook financially. And I think it's ridiculous to have a body come in, hear a one-sided presentation, and then act without having anybody else look at it."

Also in attendance were Alan Haber and Alice Ralph, two Ann Arbor residents who continue to plead for consideration of transforming the Library Lot into a green open space — which they've been calling the "community commons" — instead of vertical development.

"There's a good proposal out there they have — in a biased, undemocratic way — shelved," Haber said. "The council ultimately has the decision, and we need to see how do we bring the concept of a public space, a park, a commons, paradise — whatever we come to call it — back onto the council agenda as an alternative to this bad idea."

Ralph said she's not impressed with the public plaza space offered in Valiant's proposal.

"The most that we have seen of the plaza is so meager that it doesn't really accomplish the goals of a public plaza," she said. "Plus, about half of the area contributed to it is really vehicle pathway rather than a people place. So unless there's drastic change to that approach, there's just no way it can meet the requirements that are intended."

The letter of intent does not offer figures for what Valiant might pay for air rights above the parking deck, but says the developer will pay the city or DDA "a mutually agreed-upon sum," as well as an unspecified percentage of gross sales revenue on the residential condominiums. Additionally, the city or a nonprofit of its choosing would own the conference center.

"It sounds too good to be true," Mahler remarked of the idea of the city owning the conference center without having to help finance it. "I'm leery of it."

The letter does state the developer would be solely responsible for the design, financing and development of the conference center. It also would be solely responsible for the operation and maintenance as long as it holds the management agreement.

The target date for the start of construction, as spelled out in the letter, is 15 months from the execution of a development agreement between the city and the DDA.

The city stipulates in the letter that the developer must reimburse the city and DDA up to $75,000 for costs of consultants and attorneys hired to help draft a development agreement. However, the developer doesn't have to pay that if construction financing isn't secured.

The letter spells out a shared vision for the site that includes "a public gathering space that could become a hub of activity for downtown Ann Arbor."

The letter stipulates that the DDA must initially reserve no less than 350 daytime and 250 nighttime parking spaces in the new underground structure for the hotel and conference center. That's roughly half the total spaces in the structure, officials said today.

The fact that the Roxbury Group did not complete a feasibility study of either proposal has been a point of contention. The firm originally was to determine if the projects submitted to the city were economically viable and make financial sense in the Ann Arbor marketplace.

"At some level, we had to take the reports at face value and evaluate them against a perhaps future establishing of feasibility," Di Rita explained of the process.

Valiant has done its own feasibility study showing its project makes sense, but a demand analysis being circulated around city circles by Ann Arbor-based hotel consultant Chuck Skelton seems to draw another conclusion.

Rapundalo said toward the end of today's meeting the project's feasibility will become a more important element as the city moves forward in discussions with Valiant. Di Rita said ultimate evidence of the project's feasibility will be its ability to secure financing.

Valiant reduced the size of the proposed conference center from 32,000 to 26,000 square feet in order to eliminate the need for city-backed bonds on the project. Di Rita revealed today it's possible the conference center could grow in the future, if and when the adjacent Ann Arbor District Library moves forward with an expansion project it has considered.

"They've unquestionably shrank the center," Di Rita said of Valiant's proposal. "They designed it in a way that, in theory, if they can form the kind of collaboration they're talking about with the library, it creates an opportunity to expand it in conjunction with the renovated library."

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



Sat, Mar 12, 2011 : 3:43 a.m.

I hope the DDA has extra bucks. Oh, and you might as well hire the bankruptcy lawyer when they start the project.

Joel Batterman

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

"The letter stipulates that the DDA must initially reserve no less than 350 daytime and 250 nighttime parking spaces in the new underground structure for the hotel and conference center. That's roughly half the total spaces in the structure, officials said today." In fact the conference center will account for more than half the daytime spaces (600 total, according to the DDA). How convenient that the multi-million-dollar parking garage was approved years before the conference center which it, apparently, will primarily serve. I favor new development downtown. I would like to see new housing on this site, as well as public space. But this fact alone raises serious questions about the democratic process in this city.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

"No environmental impact study?" A2 had a river covered in petroleum/etc from the hospital area to gallup. According to A2 Emergency Management it had "no evident environmental impact". I saw a river covered in pollution for hours, and whomever spilled it (in theory) could get away with it again as they would know where, when, how much, and how to spill it (is this not a major security concern?). The agencies involved were unable to solve it. That opened my eyes that not everything in A2 was ok and I started paying attention. People weren't willing to spend the resources to solve the spill, but they would spend $40 million on riverside parking lots, fire AAFD employees, and pass buildings without allowing public discussion. What is happening to our beloved A2? I don't know.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

btw... that spill reference is referenced in one line of this article on Forbes... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> &quot;It is of the 'commoner' in us, the 'Main Street' vs 'Wall Street', the 'worker-bee' vs. 'the insider seller', and the one with boldness that points out the naked emporer, or the unsolved politically-sensitive oil spill in their own city.&quot;


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

It seems city council has a meeting process... it is &quot;don't listen to the citizens&quot;, &quot;don't include the citizens&quot; and if money is involved &quot;don't tell the the citizens&quot;. Let's put the use of the library lot to a vote of the citizens of Ann Arbor. Also, why do we keep electing the same group of council members and mayor year after year after year? 60% are not happy with their leadership!!!


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

Because we have effectively only a one-party system here in A2. Maybe the party system should be eliminated from City politics altogether...


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

This is the most hideous design imaginable. Looks like they just piled a bunch of blocks on top of one another. Definitely uninspiring, visually unbalanced, and not worth the money.

Michael Christie

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

try living behind it! the sun will be gone forever on my building.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

On the plus side, it's hideous looks are completely compatible with the new hideous Police Courts building.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

I think it is really sad that they want to build a conference center in a College Town. How have we been managing without thus far? Well, we have this huge college campus with many, many massive buildings that have hosted many a &quot;conferences&quot;. Some I have even attended! So, now we need a city based conference center which will only add costs to already stretched city budget??? I don't get it. I loved the ice skating rink/ park idea. Imagine, driving and parking downtown and taking the kids ice skating, visiting the library, and stopping for lunch at Seva? I know, most Republicans are probably gaging, but hey, I'm an original Ann Arborite!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

I'm about ready to move out of Ann Arbor. I can't believe an idea like this is even being considered. A hotel and conference center downtown? Really? Another solution looking for a problem. Is there REALLY demand for it? (Lord knows we've got the food court to support it) Is there a waiting list for Eagle Crest? I thought the downtown parking structure was for people going downtown and not to support (literally) some half-baked idea of a conference center. This has the odor of another &quot;Unity Studios&quot;-like fiasco that Allen Park is facing. I'm sure this boondoggle is rubber-stamped and ready to proceed. This will probably go like so many others; a couple of meetings &quot;for public comment&quot; after the back-room deals have been done and the ink on the contract is dry. It's time for Ann Arbor residents to DEMAND accountability from their elected officials. Oh wait, Ann Arbor isn't in debt, I just read that on a few days ago. Silly me! Spend baby spend! Nero just keeps fiddling...

Bertha Venation

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

They can build an ugly conference center that will not be used.... But they can't fill a freaking pot-hole.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

No independent feasibility study? No environmental impact study? Public input being squelched? City's finances in tatters, and our esteemed &quot;committee&quot; is ramming this project through? There has been plenty of time and info available about this proposed project for those who are interested in following it. What has happened--and is happening--to our beloved Ann Arbor?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

But it will be a gold plated toilet!

Bertha Venation

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

It's going down the toilet.... that's what's happening!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

No independent feasibility study? No environmental impact study? Public input being squelched? City's finances in tatters, and our esteemed &quot;committee&quot; is ramming this project through? There has been plenty of time and info available about this proposed project for those who are interested in following it. What has happened--and is happening--to our beloved Ann Arbor?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

No independent feasibility study? No environmental impact study? Public input being squelched? City's finances in tatters, and our esteemed &quot;committee&quot; is ramming this project through? There has been plenty of time and info available about this proposed project for those who are interested in following it. What has happened--and is happening--to our beloved Ann Arbor?

Michael Christie

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

So where is the impact assessment on the economic need for this activity? I understand the following from someone that was at this meeting. &quot;Please know that this committee hired an &quot;expert&quot; (The Roxbury Group) and did not even follow their own guidelines to get an economic analysis of a hotel/conference center for our city; and still they recommended that we contract for this large development. I will share with all of you that the committee even read these guidelines out loud today and still voted to recommend a letter of intent to do business with Valiant in spite of no economic analysis report.&quot; The city is forcing this down the citizens throats and the only thing I can think of is the nice kick back from the developers. Why else would someone in politics move forward with a project with no economic assessment?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Facts and reality never stopped politicians from making bad decisions. An economic impact study wouldn't agree with their predetermined outcome so they do it. They're far smarter than the experts. It's strange that this is one of the few cases in recent memory that politicians didn't want to spend some money on professional consultants.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

C'mon, let them build all this stuff, including the De Parry's ugly PUD, the giant tower by the Blind Pig etc. Then, when they all go into foreclosure, due to lack of interest, and sell for pennies per square foot, we can WalMart and Dollar Stores take over Ann Arbor as our property values continue to erode. What a great plan...


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

&quot;The letter of intent does not offer figures for what Valiant might pay for air rights above the parking deck, but says the developer will pay the city or DDA &quot;a mutually agreed-upon sum&quot; Why would the DDA receive the money, so they can continue to hold the city hostage? Why do a handful of appointed citizens have so much power in this town?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

The DDA board are appointed by the same people who refuse to step up and take responsibility for their actions because they fear voter backlash.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Poll needs third option: &quot;undecided - need more information&quot; Way too much information is missing to make an informed decision. Financials? Given the city's investment in the parking structure, the air rights payment should be upfront, not based on future profitablity. Also, the city should not be subsidizing one dime for the development and maintenance of this &quot;private&quot; development. This potential deal reminds me of the Fuller Garage fiasco, giveaway. Building parking gargages for other uses (UM or hotel) and receiving little in return, except for more long-term debt and maintenance costs.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Are White elephants good for every city? The small city where I grew up added a conference center near the downtown to help with growth. It was not viable, was vacant for a long time, and now it is low cost housing for seniors. Maybe Ann Arbor will have more low cost housing for seniors in about 20 years. More likely though, it will be turned into student housing.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Let city council know how you feel on this one. You can email the council with one click at this link: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> it's near the bottom of the page.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

The building pictured is clearly going to fall over in the slightest breeze.

Tony Livingston

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

This project terrifies me. Ann Arbor has a history of getting involved in business they should not be in and then dinging the property owner taxpayers for their folly. Anyone remember us paying for the Y residents to live in a motel for months on end because the city let the Y residential units fall into such disrepair that they were unlivable? The former Y is still a parking lot when it could/should have been a transit center. And where exactly are those housing units that our council demanded? Yet here we go again with the world's most expensive parking garage topped by a conference center that is predicted to fail.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

Rapundalo blithely dismisses all evidence to the contrary. No negotiation, no serious public discussion of the facts, just the regular back room dealing with your big business UM buddies. It is so typical of Republicans to make things up as they go along. Thanks to Mythbusters his dictum seems to be, &quot;I reject your reality and replace it with my own!&quot; The fix has been in for a couple of years and now they're trying to ram it thru.Typical Republican strategy.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

a conference center downtown would be a good idea. i doubt that a hotel needs to be part of it. also, this structure looks just plain, cheap and ugly. it is better placed in a former communist country. the only thing missing is a lenin statue. i wonder why the city is so eager to move on this proposal with no real independent studies having been done? i certainly do not want my tax dollars to be on the hook for this.

Chip Reed

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

EMU has a fine conference center, right off of I-94 with a golf course and a beautiful view of the lake. They aren't turning business away, and if they did, the eager beavers at WCC are pushing ahead with their big plans. When I was a boy, the old Allenel (sp?) Hotel downtown was torn down and the Ann Arbor Inn was built with greats hopes...

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 11:28 a.m.

Collaborating with the Library expansion???????????? More tens of millions of tax payer dollars to link these two projects and it sounds like the FIX is in for that already too, just like it was for Valiant, when this project was discussed secretly before it was presented to the public. Ex-Republican Rapundalo sounds like he got his lessons in Democracy from Governor Walker in Wisconsin. And I'm not surprised my Council Rep Teall is going along for the ride. I think of her every time I drive over the Stadium Bridges.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 10:45 a.m.

Seems odd that at the same time we're running around town closing off traffic lanes as though we fear the end of the automobile era is nigh -- Stadium, Packard, Division, Fifth are examples -- we're building a monstrosity like this aimed at getting thousands of conventioneers to rent cars and drive them into Ann Arbor to store in our big basement. And are we really interested in a building that looks like that? What is with that overhang? I thought City Hall was looking weird until I saw this. Well, I still think City Hall is kind of bad suburban Amsterdam, but that's just me...


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 5:46 a.m.

Sounds like the numbers and financial commitments are bad for the city. But I guarantee, it is a terrible looking building. There is Nothing welcoming and inviting about it. A bad civic defense fortress design out of the 1960s. The thing could cash flow hundred dollar bills every minute and book droves of guests and it will still make the surrounding area suffer under its aesthetics.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 5:19 a.m.

Does Madison, Wisconsin, or some other university town... have a conference center that is not located as a part of a university? If so, I would think that idea could help (or hurt) this idea?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

I was born and raised in Madision, back in the days it had a population of 48,00 - I can shed some light on the Monona Terrace, at least area from where it sprang. The corner where it's located used to have a brewery (Fauerbach CB), a railroad passenger station (Milwaukee Rd. and Chicago&amp;Northwestern), several dives, and what, as kids we used to call 'the old-man's home' - a flea-bitten flop house hotel that reeked of urine and alchohol. It also is close to BB Clarke beach. The train station became Madison Gas &amp; Electric offices, the bars, and flops disappeared to make room for the center. It took several years and several defeats at the polls before Mayor Soglin (radical UW student activist) pushed it through. Few people wanted it, but they got it. Personally, I've never seen the completed project except via Google street level, but it looks a lot better than that corner did before. Worth it? Who knows?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Monona Terrace is frequently unused but, on the other hand, it is the architectural genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is beautful with views of the lake. It is also much larger than what is being proposed here in A2 and has a connector to a nice Hilton hotel. It is in the heart of Madison, and within walking distance of the State capitol building.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

The Skelton report lists a number of comparable conference centers. One is Monona Terrace in Madison. It operates at a loss.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:29 a.m.

My apologies if this link was provided earlier, but I don't see it? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It highlights the project, the key players involved and how everyone is involved in the process.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:43 a.m.

&quot;Wieder said he was objecting to the fact that residents in attendance weren't allowed to speak at the meeting to voice their concerns.&quot; I don't know if this is a good project or a bad project -- I don't have an opinion on it, but... I am in favor of debates in a democracy. This is Ann Arbor, I believe we are a community of open-minded people. And so it would be nice to know the opposing sides to this issue, and show respect at listening to both sides -- even if you disagree. To silence someone without listening to their opinion, seems to be of poor sports(person)ship.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

What's worse is saying that the public and their opinions are important and ask for their input then blatantly ignoring them regardless of reality or the facts. This is a typical ruling class tactic. Tell people you want input. Structure the debate to limit input. Then ignore what is said.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

This plan has been a done deal for quite some time. There was never any interest in getting citizen input or having a study done by an unbiased firm. Everything is going according to plan...

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 4:45 a.m.

The plan is here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Page 16

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:45 a.m.

@David Cahill: Wieder's statement is quoted here. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Tony Livingston

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

Thanks. I read it. Frightening.

Will Warner

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

I just looked at the poll associated with this article. Seems 60% oppose the project. And most of the posters here do as well. How do people know so much about city planning? Where do you find the time to be informed enough to have such strong opinions? My feelings are uninformed, but I think the projected building, depicted above, is dramtic and exciting. I'd love to see something like that in Ann Arbor.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

Please read the links that are provided by posters. They are considered and well written. There is plenty of good info out there for people to think about and comment on. You don't have to be a city planner to have a learned opinion on this issue.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

There is plenty of background information to what is being proposed. The public discussion has been going on for close to two years. With the information presented, most people have a pretty good idea of what the developers want and the underhanded way that they are going about getting it.

David Briegel

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

compare it to Rock Financial. Small, no parking, no amenities. Other than that, great idea!

Kai Petainen

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:57 a.m.

&quot;22,000 square feet of condos&quot; but that is for 6 condos? 6 condos get 22,000 feet? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> do i understand that correctly?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

Good question. Valiant did recently reduce the number of condo units from 12 to 6. I wonder if that has been reflected in the square footage cited in the letter of intent, though it is an &quot;up to&quot; 22,000 square feet.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

It is hardly a surprise that the committee came up with a proposal that supports a conference center--that was a foregone conclusion, since the whole idea was to support what had already been decided. A 150 room conference center is an even worse idea that a bigger one, since it has limited application in a limited market. As someone who attends conferences all the time I cannot imagine why anyone would want to come to Ann Arbor except in the fall, but then football weekends are also a problem, because of the crowding downtown, and football itself is not an attraction because of lack of tickets. By national standards, Main Street is terrible place to eat--most people wan to to to conventions to places where you can actually have good food. If his ever comes to pass, it will be a total failure...


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

Of course they did. Why would they possibly do something that would make sense, both financially and environmentally? Why wouldn't they consider putting another BUILDING in the space. Whew, we were running out of BUILDINGS. Those current EMPTY BUILDINGS aren't quite new enough. They've lost their luster...we need something NEW to not use or occupy. Thank goodness for this committee. Whew.

rusty shackelford

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

Seeing as a developer is proposing an (unsubsidized) hotel less than three blocks from this location, this just seems stupid now. Unfortunately, it will probably still pass. In the last five years, can anyone name a single stupid idea that council has had a chance to consider that it has rejected? That said, the opposition needs to come up with a better idea than a &quot;commons.&quot; A large open space between the bus station and the library would be a magnate for homeless and ruffians and make a large swath of downtown unappealing or dangerous for the average Ann Arborite. There is also a much larger commons a mere 5 blocks east. You may have heard of it; it is known as &quot;the Diag.&quot;

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

&quot;In the last five years, can anyone name a single stupid idea that council has had a chance to consider that it has rejected?&quot; City Place PUD, The Moravian, Heritage Row


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:56 a.m.

The Diag is U of M property.

say it plain

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

We'll all have to move lol if they build *that pictured monstrosity*, whatever its intended function, yikes, because the feng shui of the entire downtown will be permanently ruined. That structure begs the question &quot;why?&quot; in sooo many ways, it's scary...


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

I am very intrigued by the idea of having a a hotel and conference center downtown. My biggest concern is actually how small it is. 150 hotel rooms isn't really enough to attract interesting conferences or events I don't think. I host an event of 600 high school kids and we'd run out of space in the hotel. If we are going to go with such a bold proposal, I'd like to see us make sure its sustainable.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

Just what every hotel wants is 600 high school kids with ten chaperoene's ? Actually not every person attending any specific event would stay at this hotel. There is already plenty of hotel space in the A2 area, just ask Weber's and all the other hotels in this area.

David Cahill

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:23 a.m.

Tom Wieder's critique of the Roxbury Group says that in Roxbury's bid for the contract to do the evaluation of the Valiant proposal, Roxbury said that &quot;Neither the Roxbury Group nor its principals (or employees) have ever been the subject of any lawsuit.&quot; According to Wieder, court records show that David DiRite was named as a defendant in an Oakland County suit about environmental contamination involving Wixom airport. There are other critiques Wieder makes. Sorry I can't link to a copy of his 4-page critique; it's not available yet on any website. Wieder revealed the County Commissioners' per diem problems. His critique should be taken seriously.

David Briegel

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

Roadman, And that has what to do with this discussion? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. What is DR Ouimet's position on this? I would love to see a conference center in our communtiy. On about 40 acres of land! With lots of parking! Compare the Farm Council with the Rock Financial!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

Wieder made an &quot;October Sunrise&quot; attack on Mark Ouimet that backfired against his candidate Chris Green.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

The City isn't on the hook? Didn't we just have an article on the $49 million in bonds for this 'critical' parking structure? Oh, and by the way, now half of those spaces are taken by this proposal. Sounds like the City is on the hook for $24.5 million to me. And why do we need a conference center again?


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

The Hieftjeite boondogglers in Hieftje Hall never met a boondoggle they didn't want &quot;move forward&quot; with. Don't confuse them with the facts - they've already made-up their minds. Why do Ann Arborites keep re-electing these boondoggling bozos.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

The City (taxpayers) will end up holding the debt bag after getting slickered by the out of town developers. The City has a terrible reputation for &quot;negotiating&quot; developments. Just look at the old Y, Lowertown, Village Green and the financial condition of Ashley Terrace and other developments that weren't built because of lack of financing. Three years later, we still haven't seen a dime of the &quot;air rights&quot; for Village Green and new the developer wants to change the design after getting a couple of free extensions. We're getting really tired of the smoke and mirrors and exaggerated benefits getting rammed down our collective throats. What makes any of us believe that this expensive scenario will be any different, except that the developers and their buddy elected buddy cheerleaders are telling us being told that it will be?

Chris Taylor

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:17 p.m.

I love how the main objection to a park space is because some people are bothered by the &quot;untouchables&quot;

Michael Christie

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

The 'untouchables' are the same people harrassing women, breaking the law (as they stay in the park all night), and are rude when asking for change. The city turns the other cheek on this activitiy and that is why I refuse to ever vote for an incumbant in the City of Ann Arbor, to include the Mayor.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

When they say it's not about the homeless... it's about the homeless. And frankly I think we should be subjected daily to look at those less fortunate around us. Maybe we'll help them instead of turning them into &quot;untouchables&quot;


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

Hello Dave! I was afraid you had moved to Portland Oregon or something. I have missed your post. But then all I have to do is look at any in the past year and I am brought up to date on your views.

David Briegel

Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

jcj, maybe all the OLD TeaPublicans could have their meetings and it could become the NEW Muehlig's waiting room!!


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 12:15 a.m.

Why even bother calling it &quot;park space&quot; call it what it would be! This may not be &quot;politically correct&quot; but it would be a homeless hangout. Nothing more and nothing less. If that's what the city wants then fine, but call it what it would be.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

@Ben: Please take a look at these two sites for in-depth critiques of this proposal. I'm not sure why is refusing to cover the other side of this story, but fortunately we have citizen watchdogs who have done more research than the committee could apparently be bothered to undertake: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Within these pages, you will also find links to an unsolicited, independent study of the proposal by national hospitality consultant Charles Skelton. Mr. Skelton provides objective data on a number of similar facilities around the country that have enormous operating deficits, even before debt load is taken into account. This proposal would make the City entirely responsible for operating a money-losing conference center. Worse, payments to the City for the air rights would be subordinated to the developer's profits and private debt. In other words, taxpayers will be on the hook if this hotel/condo/office building does not earn a large profit. Mr. Skelton's report confirms that Valiant's room rate and occupancy projections for the hotel are wildly optimistic. Bad idea. Bad policy. Bad process.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

I am glad something is going to be built on top of the parking structure. I am especially glad that it is not going to be turned into a park. We do not need a park in this location, it would just end up being a homeless shelter. I think the design could be better however and done in a more attractive way.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

I hope that you're still living here to pay the debt.

Ben Connor Barrie

Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

I hate to say it, but I have not seen enough information to convince me that this project is a good idea or a bad one.


Wed, Mar 9, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

Read the links provided by .com and other posters. There is plenty of information out there. The only problem is that Rapundalo and city hall want it really really really bad and do everything possible to minimize and denigrate the facts. It's the &quot;Move along. Nothing to see here&quot;, strategy.