Proposed $12M Eastside Recreation Center: Officials may revisit location and size
Courtesy Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation
The location, size and feasibility of the proposed $12 million Water Street Eastside Recreation Center project in Ypsilanti are being re-examined as the project moves forward, yet city and county officials are optimistic the Water Street development will occur.
"Right now we're watching the city go through its master planning process," said Bob Tetens, the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation director. "We don't know what that's going to do to our proposal. ... Right now we've got an agreement to work on a certain amount of land on the northwest corner. ... Some things I've seen have been in conflict with our proposal."
During the city's master plan process, planning consultants have discussed potentially moving the recreation center development farther back on the Water Street property.
However, Tetens said the county reached an agreement with the city several months ago regarding the location of the center and that's what he hopes to continue move forward with.
"Any other site has other issues associated with it," Tetens said. "We want to be on the busiest road in the community. We want to be adjacent to the trail and adjacent to the river and that's what the northwest site gives.
"We have already come to an agreement that we'll be at the northwest corner. That's what we proposed and that's what the city agreed to. To talk about any other site is counterproductive and speculation at this point."
However, Tetens said he's confident the project will continue to move forward.
"I'm confident we're going to be able to construct a facility on the northwest corner," Tetens said. "I'm confident we're heading toward that conclusion. I certainly hope so because we've invested a lot of time and energy into the project."
The county's parks and recreation department entered into a partnership last year with the city of Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor YMCA. Parks and Recreation would enter into a lease agreement with the city for the land and the YMCA would oversee the day-to-day operations.
The center would be nearly 60,000 square feet and would be much like the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center that opened in 1991. The center would be equipped with a swimming pool along with various aquatics, a locker room, gym, fitness facility and other amenities. The center also would offer classes.
Officials still expect construction to begin in 2015. It would occupy between eight to 10 of the 38 acres on the Water Street at the northwest corner of the property off of Michigan Avenue.
Should the location and size change?
Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said at this point, he believes everything is still in the negotiation stage, although he acknowledged the city is aware the county would like to move forward with the initial plan.
"The Ypsilanti City Council, we didn't really have a plan for the site," Schreiber said. "I wish we could have had a plan sooner, but we have to deal with the reality opposed to what we wish. I still think it's a great use and idea, but we have to figure out what is best for the city and best for the county parks and recreation and the residents on the east side of Washtenaw County. I hope that we can actually negotiate both on the city's side and the parks and rec side. I think it's going to take a little more time."
Schreiber said he met with planning consultant Ian Lockwood, City Planner Teresa Gillotti and Tetens about a week ago to discuss the recreation center and present some of the ideas that have come up during the master plan process.
"The county parks and rec want to do a project now and rightfully so," Schreiber said.
However, one of the ideas being proposed is conforming the site to a grid structure and running River Street through the property to Factory Street.
"That would be a pretty large recreation center," Schreiber said. "There's a possibility of having a smaller recreation center that would be on the Water Street property that could fit in with the grid structure that's being discussed with the master plan. I think that's a smaller design than what the county was thinking."
Schreiber said there are three possible options moving forward.
The first could be to keep the location as orignally proposed, have a smaller recreation center that would fit in with the grid structure or potentially move the recreation center entirely off of the Water Street property.
"I haven't made up my mind on what I want," Schreiber said. "I want to get more information and get the marketing study back and I also want to see what the county's parks and rec is interested in doing."
Katrease Stafford | AnnArbor.com
The YMCA is conducting a market study to determine the feasibility and the impact of the recreation center. The market study should be done within the next two weeks. Tetens said the study is something the YMCA conducts across the country as it looks at potential sites for development or management.
The study also will examine and determine the appropriate size of the property.
"Hopefully that will also provide some direction," Schreiber said. "I see this as being a good thing that the county wants to put a rec on the east side and I just want to make sure it's going to be a good thing that goes in the Water Street property."
Council Member Pete Murdock said when the city first started discussing the recreation center in 2011 with the county, council initially expressed interest in having the property located elsewhere. Murdock said it's too late to go back and change the location now.
"We had a big discussion," Murdock said. "I think the location has already been decided and if we want to renege on that we can do that, but the parks people have basically said that's a deal breaker with them going back there. ... Extending River Street is a very expensive project, which is not likely to happen. I think it may be a nice plan, but it's not very viable."
Murdock said moving where the rec center would be located isn't a "realistic option." Murdock noted that the project was supposed to begin construction this year.
"We don't have the funds to develop the plan," Murdock said. "If we're talking about having a rec center, I think we need to be talking about what we already agreed to instead of reneging. We can't keep changing the rules as we go through the process."
What's next for the project?
The results of the marketing study will be completed in two weeks, officials said.
Courtesy Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation
Tetens said over the next three years, the county will be focusing on three aspects:
- Completing the pedestrian bridge that will run through a portion of the Fischer Honda property in 2013.
- Completing the border to border trail in 2014.
- Beginning the construction of the recreation center in 2015.
"Late this summer, activity will probably start to occur on all of this project," Tetens said.
Tetens said the external look of the recreation center will also change over time. Tetens said the structure will not be comprised of just steel and glass and he hopes to add some sort of color texture to it.
"Once we have a good idea and everyone is in agreement, we can send it out for construction bids," Tetens said. "It depends, we have a lot of cooks in the kitchen on this one. We want everyone to have input and to feel good about the final project."
Tetens said the parks and recreation's millage renewal will take place in November 2014 and until that happens, he said it's unlikely any construction contracts will be signed. Tetens said the parks may also have to bond to cover part of the costs.
However other parts of the project can move forward, he said.
Schreiber said every project has a period of "heartburn" where those involved may not agree, but he doesn't think it will impede the project.
"I hope everybody takes this slow and deliberate and I think with any project there's heartburn involved," Schreiber said. "This is part of the project and I'm in it for the long haul."
"We’re still proceeding and think it’s a great project," Tetens said. "The city has been a partner with this."