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Posted on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

South Fifth Avenue could reopen to traffic in January, says Ann Arbor DDA director

By Ryan J. Stanton

Wondering when South Fifth Avenue is going to reopen to traffic between Liberty and William streets in downtown Ann Arbor?

It might be sooner than you think.

The final structural concrete pour for the underground parking structure project on Fifth Avenue is scheduled for Wednesday — weather permitting.

"After that, there is a 30-day cure time, followed by waterproofing and then pouring the concrete for the road," Susan Pollay, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, wrote in an e-mail.


These road closed signs could be removed in January.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"These last elements are temperature- and water/humidity-dependent, so we are still aiming to open the road in January, but need cooperation from Mother Nature," Pollay said.

Many downtown businesses — especially Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar, which are located on the closed section of Fifth — have been waiting anxiously for the street to reopen. The street has been closed to traffic since September 2010.

Owners of both restaurants have spoken out before the Ann Arbor City Council and said business is hurting because of the construction, and they think they deserve some form of compensation from the city or the DDA.

Mayor John Hieftje said in July he wasn't sure what more the city could do for the businesses, but he noted Fifth Avenue was expected at that time to reopen by Dec. 31.

The DDA is funding the $50 million underground parking structure, which will be owned by the city. Remaining work on the project is expected to continue into next spring.

DDA officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking to kick off the project in September 2009, though it was some months later before major work was under way.

The deck is expected to include somewhere around 700 parking spaces. It originally was expected to open in August 2011. But by late last year, due to a delayed start, project officials said it wouldn't be finished until December 2011 or January 2012.

The project manager for contractor Christman Co. offered an update on the timeline in July, saying the project would be finished in spring 2012.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 6:23 a.m.

Relax people: If the 500 added parking spaces for that property are not needed - they can easily be converted to 500 individual shelters for the homeless. The floor of each would have a slight cant but, with additional enhancements (like a 12" W x 6" high hole in each wall) careful aiming would transport bottles of whiskey from top to bottom very efficiently. It is a puzzle: $50 million was found to build this parking structure, while $22 million was "impossible to find" for the Stadium Bridge renovation. The need for the new bridge preceded that of the perceived need for additional parking in that area. What were they thinking?!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

$50 million was "found" for this project because the DDA has a nearly $12 million annual piggybank of fun money it controls and maybe, just maybe, they'll give some to the city if the city needs some. Gotta love an unelected and unaccountable group of businessmen who have $12 million of taxpayer money to play with every year. GN&GL

Silly Sally

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

"$22 million was "impossible to find" for the Stadium Bridge renovation..." I wonder if the BIG DIG would not have been built, and a less expensive, more affordable bridge over State Street would have been built instead, if no federal money had been available for the bridge? The DDA and the art fund and other pots of money are false walls that constrict city spending. Who among us would not pay to fix a broken window in the winter, but spend for movies, dining, and bars, all because one fund was depleted and the other was not? Only this city council.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.

Interesting that the DDA director is making this announcement and not the mayor or some other official of the City of A2. I guess the means that the DDA with its $11 million annual piggybank of play money has become the de facto city government? Time to disband the un-elected and unaccountable DDA. Good Night and Good Luck

Silly Sally

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

Hey, I agree with the ghost! An unelected governmental agency that spends MY taxpayer money as if it were its own private piggy bank needs to go. Hieftje's Hole (aka BIG DIG) is costing each citizen of Ann Arbor about $450, this is counting babies and UM students. Would a typical family of 4 choose to spend $1,800 on Hieftje's Hole, or something for their home? No -

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

To Brian Kuehn: I hope that you are just way behind the news rather than possessed of some special information. The hotel/conference center was killed by Council in April 2011 and I hope that it will stay that way. There was a major citizen effort to oppose it, some of which is documented on my blog page <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Talk about a blast from the past! But I agree with your point, that the structure was probably initiated to promote a development project, and most likely that one, since it had a secret life for a couple of years before it came to public notice. And it was definitely a hugely leveraged project that has added to the city's indebtedness.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

Your first sentence was &quot;Presumably the parking was built for the conference center/hotel that is supposed to be developed on top of the site. &quot; which made it sound as though it were a current plan.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

V, I keep up with the news. Do you really think after the structure is completed everyone is going to just sit on their hands? There will be a giant open spot available for some sort of development with 500 parking spots below. Just because the first round of proposals was shot down does not mean there will not be another attempt. Building this underground structure can only be justified if something large is built on top of it. Frankly, I would like to see something developed on the space. My only concern is that the City not allow itself to be roped into participating in the project through guarantees or a &quot;public/private&quot; partnership.

mike gatti

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

Imaginary conversation between imaginary mayor and imaginary business owners. Any relation to anything is not intentional or is satire or otherwise not real. Mayor: I don't know what else we could do for the businesses, we fought like tigers for you. We put up that sign and I think we ordered take out a couple times. Business owners: Mr. Mayor, how about not running over by a year and a half? We worked hard to build our businesses. Mayor: You saw the sign right? I don't know what else we could have done. Hey we did what we could. We put up a sign next to a giant hole saying you're open during construction. What else to you want? You saw the sign. It is a great sign. We did what we could. Have you seen our sign? I mean that was quite a sign. It was right there with the road closed signs and the warning signs and the scaffolding and the fencing. It really fit in. I think it was great job site feng shui.

Berda Green

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 12:02 a.m.


Brian Kuehn

Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

Presumably the parking was built for the conference center/hotel that is supposed to be developed on top of the site. I find it hard to believe such a development will be successful or is really needed. Unless there is some significant development, however, the parking will be seen as a total waste. Expect a major push to capture some development in order to justify the parking structure and be prepared to fight any attempt to hook the City into a partnership (i.e. guarantee a loan or build a conference center as part of the hotel development).

Jon Saalberg

Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

Ah, once again, we have the words of one who was integrally involved in the development of an unneeded parking deck, rationalized by... So to say that something is ahead of schedule when it is actually months and months behind schedule is par for the course.

toothless wonder

Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

Sorry, Here ya go youngsters who never heard of the movie made about this actual and very plausible scourge: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. (And pay the scowling lady at the top of the page something ferchrissake!)


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

Hieftje's Hole is a colossal waste, and flies in the face of his talk about commitment to mass transit. When added to the unneeded city hall annex, that's over $100 million in mis-directed spending on his watch.

toothless wonder

Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

Canibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller or, CHUD = what we will have to contend with when Hefty's Hole finally opens. A new slant on the Zombie Apocalypse, so be careful out there, AnnArborites!!


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

This entire article's premise is an oxymoron: How can a project that was supposed to be finished by August 2011 wrapping up (maybe) in January 2012 be considered being open &quot;sooner than you think&quot;? I also, will believe it when I see it. August 2012 is probably most likely...if that with this shoddy poorly timed and badly executed project.

David Frye

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Kind of obvious, really. If you think it will be opening in August 2012, then opening at any earlier date will be &quot;sooner than you think.&quot; QED.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

Yeah. Right. I'm thinking you mean January, 2013.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

The above-ground lot held maybe 200 spaces. That's just a guess. It would be full on rare occasions which suggests that there wasn't a demand for more parking in that location. Certainly not another 500 spaces, particularly mugger-friendly underground space. I doubt that any extra parking revenue will ever come close to equalling the loss in revenue to the businesses affected by the street closure, let alone the millions spent in construction. This project was a terrible decision.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

The surface lot was my favorite place to park downtown. I found that it was often crowded, but rarely completely full. However, would I feel safe parking underground there? No. I agree with Goofus' comment below that it's pretty hard to get excited about Fifth Ave reopening when it's five months later than was originally promised (and for a project that wasn't needed). And now, traffic on Fifth Ave may continue to be slowed by the ongoing defacement of the Germantown neighborhood that CIty Council has aided and abetted one block south of the new parking structure.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Used to drive down there and park all the time. That lot was often full with cars lined up waiting to enter. Not sure what time you were down there, but saying the spots aren't needed is a stretch.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 9 p.m.

ya think? Wiliiam and Fourth is always parking available with the exception of Art Fair...and this year...there were metered parking spaces on Washington west of Main during the days of AF available off and on...but what were they gonna do with that $50 mil? Hire a couple of Public Art Admins?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

The Big Dig: a serious waste of taxpayer money! $50 million poured into the ground and wasted.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 : 4:06 a.m.

from a business perspective, i have a hard time understanding how the $50 million was a good positive NPV project.... (unless it was for a different motive -- a big building on top of it). someone made a bad business decision.


Tue, Nov 29, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

I'll believe it when I see it. The rebar looks all ready to pour over, but I have my doubts about the weather. Then they still have to lay up and pour all the walls, and finish the road, each step hinging on cooperation of the weather. January seems like a rather optimistic outlook, even if everything went perfectly fine.