Planning Commission: City-owned Y Lot should be sold through RFP with special conditions
The Ann Arbor Planning Commission weighed in Tuesday night on the future of the downtown Y Lot, giving the City Council some guidance on a possible sale of the city-owned property.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The goal, according to commissioners, should be "to obtain a long-term, ongoing and growing economic benefit for the residents of the city."
The former YMCA site at the corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street — directly across from the downtown library — has been a surface parking lot for years.
The city bought the land in 2003. Now it has hired a commercial real estate broker as city officials give serious thought to selling the property for private redevelopment.
The Planning Commission laid out a list of recommendations, drawing inspiration from the Downtown Development Authority's recent Connecting William Street Plan.
Commissioners said they'd like to see the property sold with an RFP that contains some or all of the following conditions:
- A building that generates foot traffic, provides a human scale at the ground floor and creates visual appeal.
- A mixed-use development.
- Any vehicular access and parking be accessed via the city's Fifth Avenue underground parking garage.
- An entry plaza or open space that's scaled and located to be activated by adjacent building uses and to be maintained by the developer.
- Generous landscaping incorporated in the entry plaza or open space.
- Mandatory adherence to the city's design guidelines.
- A third-party certification for the building's energy and environmental performance (e.g. LEED Gold or LEED Platinum certification).
Commissioners expressed interest in seeing a building that creates the kind of active sidewalk experience that's lacking along William Street. There was talk about using the upper stories for large floor plate office or lodging and residential uses, with other active uses on the first floor.
They're discouraging any future surface parking on the site or any more curb cuts, instead encouraging all vehicular access via the nearby underground parking garage.
Ann Arbor DDA
Council Member Sabra Briere, who also serves on the Planning Commission, reported Tuesday night that council members seem to be getting conflicting recommendations.
She said the Planning Commission is telling them the Y Lot is a valuable community asset and how it gets developed should be handled with great care — and conditions should be imposed.
"I think council members would listen carefully to that recommendation," Briere said. "I will say that I don't think that's the recommendation they're getting from the broker. The broker is suggesting that council put as few stipulations on this land sale as possible."
She added, "The broker is not suggesting to council that there's a lot of revenue to be acquired through this land sale, and the more limitations and restrictions on property use and appearance, the more difficult it would be to generate the revenue that both pays for the debt and provides additional funding for affordable housing."
The city acquired the property in 2003 for about $3.5 million. The city eventually demolished the old YMCA building on the site, including 100 units of affordable housing.
The city has a $3.5 million balloon payment due on the property in December after years of interest-only payments. It's one of four sites that are now surface parking lots that the city is considering selling for redevelopment as part of the Connecting William Street initiative led by the DDA.
The Y Lot is about 0.82 acres or 35,879 square feet. Net proceeds from the eventual sale — after the city's debt is paid off — is expected to go toward an affordable housing fund.
Briere noted the council has directed the city administrator to issue RFPs for redevelopment of downtown properties in the past and they haven't been successful. She said the council never gave direction on what to include in those RFPs, and maybe it's time it did that.
She said council members who have discussed the Y Lot with her feel very strongly that there should be mixed-use development.
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 email newsletters.