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Posted on Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti council wants to move proposed Water Street rec center - and get paid for land

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti City Council members say they would prefer a proposed Water Street recreation center be more compact and on a different parcel.

Council also told City Planner Teresa Gillotti they would like to receive some compensation for the land and want the county to contribute financially to developing infrastructure. Gillotti is meeting with Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission officials to discuss the project on Wednesday.

The $10 million to $15 million development proposed by the commission would occupy up to 12 acres on the property’s northwest corner. Michigan Avenue and the Huron River would border the property to the north and west.

Preliminary drawings presented to council on Oct. 11 called for a parcel about 400 feet from east to west and 1,200 feet from north to south. A small park and greenspace wrapping around a two-story, 65,000-square-foot building would sit on the site’s north quarter closest to downtown. The building would be set back from the road about 40 feet.

A 250-space parking lot would occupy the quarter of the property directly south of the building. A trailhead to the Border to Border tail would be further south, and plans called for a park, some playground equipment and more green space on the southern end of the site where the river bends to the east.

Council members said they would like to see the project built on the property's east side or interior if the commission insists on a 12-acre development that includes a large parking lot, park space and green space.

“To me it just doesn’t fit on the west end with the downtown feel,” council member Lois Richardson said, but she added that she preferred having greenspace around the building.

Several other council members said they would like to see a more “urban” building if the center must go in the northwest corner. Council discussed a four to six acre footprint and eliminating of the extraneous park and greenspace.

Council Member Brian Robb said he would like to see a building like the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit, which is a multi-story complex directly on the corner of an intersection.

“I think that is the holy grail of what this development should look like,” he said.

Robb also said he imagined the property’s development moving from west to east because the northwest parcels are closest to downtown and the most desirable. Council Member Dan Vogt agreed that the building should be on the property’s east side because of the west side's proximity to downtown, though he was open to where on the east side it went.

“It leaves the other end for more lucrative development,” he said. “If we do this the county can have their purposes met in the back, right corner. I think in the long term (Water Street) has to generate a ton of money, or as much as we can squeeze out.”

Mayor Paul Schreiber asked if there was an assessment of each parcel's value. Gillotti said CBRE, the company marketing the property listed the 1.4 acre parcels on the site's northwest and northeast corners along Michigan Avenue slightly cheaper than those in the middle.

Schreiber said he agreed that a less compact project would work better on the east side.

“We want to have the rec center in the city and serve as a catalyst for residential development … and if the county is really set on having a more spread out plan, than that may go to the southeast corner,” he said. “If they’re willing to build more dense, then I think it’s acceptable (in the northwest corner) as long as the acreage is smaller. Then the question is ‘How much acreage?’”

One of the interior sites discussed on Tuesday is where Park Street dead ends toward the property’s south end. Several council members said the park and playground equipment could go in the property’s southeast corner, which is in a floodplain and not suitable for building.

Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission director Bob Tetons was adamant during the Oct. 11 presentation on the project that the center needs to be built on the northwest parcels. No commission members were present on Tuesday, but county Commissioner Conan Smith did speak to council after their discussion and said the county was flexible on plans.

He underscored that he wasn’t representing Teton's position when he said he thought the east side of the property would be a good location because the center’s economic benefits could bleed toward the east side of the city and Grove Road area.

Smith said the project is an investment that is "part of a broader development strategy" in the region.

One of the reasons the commission said they wanted to build in the northwest corner is because the Border to Border Trail will run along the Huron River, but council member Mike Bodary said the county isn’t yet sure where the trail will run through the property, and there’s a chance it might be built along Park Street.

Council also told staff they would like to receive some compensation for the property and/or contribute to building out the infrastructure.

Robb pointed out that Tetons said during his presentation that the county would “play a role” in developing infrastructure.

“We need to find out what the role is,” Robb said.

Council member Pete Murdock said the county likely will have to bond for the project, and those costs could be built into a bond.

“I think it’s key that we maximize the amount of infrastructure financed through this project for the site, even though some might not directly go to this project,” Murdock said.



Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

This is the best propsal I've heard since we first discussed this 15 or so years ago when I was on council. So the rec center will pay no what? No one's been paying taxes there for years. The center has the potential to bring in other businesses, like a health food store, juice bar, sports apparel and equipment, and so on. Fitness facilities are among the few businesses succeeding in this economy. It's a very positive first step. As someone who lives very close to this site, I would be thrilled with this new business. Council should jump at this opportunity.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

Just build a homeless camp, which is what a campground on Michigan Avenue would turn into. There's gonna be quite a few more homeless around town after we finish raising taxes to pay for the stupidity that got us into this situation.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

How about a campgound?

Ron Granger

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

How long until the city sells this whole space to Wal-Mart? Though I don't think even they would want it.

Ron Granger

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Rec center buildings should not be located on prime real estate. They need lots of parking, and convenient access by working people. They need to be located near where the people live, or where they work. When you are inside recreating, you have no appreciation or care for what is outside.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

Let's call the whole thing off. Let's save county funding for serious proposals with a reasonable chance of success and administrators with some ability to move the project forward. Ypsilanti can build its own project wherever it wants on its own dime.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

maybe the city council can join these city sit-in movements that are looking for debt absolution....oh, wait a minute, that might not work...


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

If it is built, some or all of the building should be on supports hurricane style, withparking underneath building. That maximizes space and also is a benefit to the people using the facility. One other thing though, there are two parks north of this parcel ,that really don't get a ton of use except a few days out of the year. Perhaps, the County could put the building in Frog Island or Riverside, park, dedicated park space already that won't be coming off the tax rolls and will bring traffic to the area.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Ok, maybe I am missing something. But didn't the county say they would build the thing on that parcel of land and then give it to the city as a gift? What is the hang up and hold up? Take the cash cow and run. My word folks, lets do something with that empty space.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

They are not giving the rec center to the city. The county would run the rec center on city land. Since they are non-profit, they wouldn't pay taxes, which the city desperately needs. The pro to all of this is that they would get the ball rolling on developing the site, the con is that they aren't paying for the land or bringing in tax revenue. The site is not likely to attract developers without someone to bring attention/activity/interest there, but every acre the is given away to a non-tax payer means more money out of ypsi tax payer pockets to cover the cost of that acre. Therefore, if the rec center can be built on less acres, and in such a way that the other acres are more desirable to tax-paying developers, then tax payers will have less deficit to make up on the cost of the property.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

Beware! Is it a cash cow or a trojan horse?

Andrew Jason Clock

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

When are people going to realize that all of Water Street is equally worthless until there is a demand for it, and Washtenaw County is going to try to help us create that demand. Meanwhile, they give a city with no recreation department at all a beautiful new facility and new and refurbished parks all along the river. Oh yea, and they are willing to pony up for some of the streets and utilities on the property, and may be willing to work out some sort of lease payment. Seems like they are offering us an awful lot in return for a piece of property no one else wants. Lets not forget, they also requested the piece of Michigan Ave frontage that the city's own reports deem the least valuable and most difficult to build on. As to no fitting in with a downtown theme, I guess that's right. Currently a whole lot, if not majority, of our downtown district is vacant. So I suppose to fit in the rec center would have to be at least partially vacant, too. It was all I could do during this presentation to laugh at each member of council who talked about the value of the parcels. They have none, and the only chance we have to change that is to get this Recreation center deal done. No, we can't guarentee that building it and Water Street infrastructure will bring more development, but continuing to do nothing will continue to bring nothing. Wake up, council, and realize Washtenaw county isn't trying to rip you off, they are trying to give you a gift. If you fail to accept it, you may as well call up the governor and tell him to send his EFM, because this is the only realistic chance to get something going over there we have. What we loose future tax revenue, but we have no prospect of capturing that anyway, at this point. There is zero commercial interest. This deal at least gives us an attraction, and maybe, just maybe, it leads to more good things. We've been on a cut, tax, and pretend plan for long enough. Its time to get real and take a chance at improving our chances.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

Why should the county pay anything for the land? There's tons of property that exists at no cost to the county taxpayers. Sure the city is in terrible financial shape, but it's their own fault. The county shouldn't be bailing them out from the mistakes of their elected officials. The county commissioners should look out for the interests of all the county residents and should not spend our county funds buying land when it is not necessary.

Chase Ingersoll

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

IS there anyone else out there who shares the perspective that this is like a story about a family with a house in foreclosure and they are out applying for a home equity loan so that they can remodel their kitchen?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Or rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:08 p.m.

Given Ypsi's current financial state, it would be giving up an awful lot by letting an entity that won't pay taxes build something on even a small portion of the land. Council needs to make absolutely certain we are getting a lot back in return. This is precisely what city council should be doing, and I am glad to see this kind of active approach.

joe golder

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

Give the county Waterworks park and have them pay for a bridge connecting to water street! They can turn it into a county park.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

Washtenaw County is acting in the same way as the men who troll East Michigan Avenue seeking entertainment. They prey upon young women who are addicted, seeking a quick "fix". These ladies of the evening have lost their self-esteem and are willing to do anything for a fast buck. The future is not their concern. The City Council (Ypsilanti) is like the ladies who "walk the Ave.", seeking a quick "fix" for its money pit addiction. It is apparently willing now to do anything for a fast buck. "Pay us for the land and do what you want". The future is not its concern. Who is going to absorb the ongoing cost of another parcel of land removed from the tax rolls, and the ongoing support (police, fire, etc) costs? Today's cash flow problems may be solved by this "solution", but when the sun rises tomorrow does the City "go back on the Ave."? "You sell twelve acres today and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt Saint Peter don't you call me cause I can't go I sold my soul and I'm nothing but a w***e" Where is Dr. Kevorkian when we need him?


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

Buried under Waters Street. Trying to hook up his machine.


Mon, Oct 24, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

Full support for insisting that the project be built on the east end of the property. We cannot afford to give them the prime west side by the bridge and river. I think the City Council is right on target here. One question though, what is the real estate company doing with respect to marketing this property? Anything at all?