Officials: Proposed $12M Water Street recreation center could drive economic growth
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The proposed Eastside Recreation Center in Ypsilanti will not only serve as an anchor tenant for future developments but also as an economic growth driver, Washtenaw County officials said Thursday.
County officials and the University of Michigan design team behind the proposal gave two presentations Thursday discussing the project and its potential impact upon the local area. Nearly 70 people showed up for the 4 p.m. session.
The city is facing $31 million in Water Street debt and will make annual payments that will grow to $1.3 million through 2031. The city assembled the 38-acre Water Street property about 9 years ago with a plan to create a mixed-use residential project. But it hasn't been able to find developers for the property. Officials hope the center will attract more interested parties.
The center would occupy eight of the 38 acres on Water Street. The center is expected to be nearly 60,000 square feet and would be much like the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center that opened in 1991, officials have said.
County Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr. said the rec center would fulfill the needs of Ypsilanti residents and those of the surrounding communities as well. Sizemore said the economic impact could be significant.
"It's got to be a community thing," Sizemore said." Yes, it’s nice to have a rec center but what I’m about is the jobs it will create. People are starting to ask questions and get more involved."
U-M Architecture Professor Craig Borum, head of the design team, said the two designs were created with the hope of capturing some of the energy and momentum currently going on in downtown Ypsilanti.
"To capture that energy will then capture and trigger energy and interest for that site," Borum said.
Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Director Bob Tetens said the 60,000 to 65,000-square-foot building will cost roughly between $12 and $14 million. The center would most likely have a swimming pool along with various aquatics, a locker room, gym, fitness facility and other amenities. The center also would offer classes.
"There are going to be other costs and we don't have the resources to buy the land and operate the land but that's the beauty of the partnership," he said.
The partnership Tetens referred to will be between the city, the county's parks department and the Ann Arbor YMCA.
During initial discussions, officials said the parks and recreation department would purchase the land from the city and subsequently would own the land and building as well. The YMCA would oversee the day-to-day operations.
However, Sizemore said what will most likely now happen is the county would enter into a potential 99-year lease of some sort for the land. The YMCA would still oversee the day-to-day operations.
Tetens said over the next eight to 10 months, the City Council along with the parks and recreation will continue to hammer out the details.
"We're trying to keep this at a manageable size," Tetens said.
Some residents expressed concern regarding how the project would be paid for, and Tetens stressed the county has no plans to move forward until funds are secured. Tetens said the lack of funds is what has slowed the project down.
The Washtenaw Parks and Recreation is funded by a millage, and the project would partially be paid for with money from its fund balance.
The millage is set to expire in November 2014, and Tetens said parks and recreation will wait to move forward until it is assured of continued funding.
Tetens said if a millage renewal is approved, construction drawings will be completed, bids will be sent out and he will then approach the board of commissioners, and construction would start "immediately after."
"What it (the millage) does is give us 11 or 12 years of assured cash flow," he said.
City Planner Teresa Gillotti said public feedback will continue to be vital for the project.
"One of the reason we’re doing these sessions is we need to see how people are responding to them," Gillotti said. "We’ve spent so much time and have been so close to it that we need to make sure the community has a chance to say what’s wrong and what's not. So depending on what we hear it might be leaning in one direction and leaning in the other or it might be melding."