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