2015: Projected start date of proposed $12M rec center in Ypsilanti
Courtesy Parks and Recreation
The proposed $12 million Water Street Eastside Recreation Center in Ypsilanti is moving forward after a design team from the University of Michigan created two possible concept designs.
A student design team, led by three professors from U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, have put together two unique designs after working throughout the summer, said Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Director Bob Tetens.
Although the project still is in the early stages of development, officials expect construction to begin in late 2014 or early 2015. The center would occupy eight of the 38 acres on Water Street.
Tetens said 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 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.
“We have to be assured we would have the cash flow to do this,” Tetens said. “We’ve got some (funds) set aside, but we would approach the board of commissioners to finance part two.
"We are looking for any and all funding sources.”
The city has long sought development possibilities for Water Street. In 2010, the City Council unanimously rejected a proposal from Indiana-based Bravokilo, which owns the Burger King on Michigan Avenue near Ecorse Road, to build a new restaurant on one acre of the 38-acre site.
Tetens said the center’s design would either be what is called a “Jeffersonian Design Grid” or a “Ribbon Form.”
Tetens said the Jeffersonian design would be similar to what a lot of the buildings in the city look like and would be a square building. The other design would be a “very long” building.
“ (The designs) would minimize our frontage on Michigan Avenue,” he said. “We want it to be compatible and respectful and not a barrier.”
Discussions have taken place throughout the years regarding the possibility of opening a new recreation center located on the east side of the county, Tetens said.
Courtesy of Parks and Recreation
“This was all very conceptual we still hadn’t set aside the resources,” he said. “When the economy tanked we kind of cooled discussions. A year and a half ago we tried to approach it and we started talking about the downtown Ypsilanti site.”
Tetens said if the project is approved, it would be a three-way partnership among the city, the county's parks department and the Ann Arbor YMCA.
Parks and Recreation 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.
“We were willing to take the responsibility of constructing the building and designing the building,” he said. "That was very attractive to us.”
Before construction actually can begin to take place on the site, a number of things must occur, said City Planner Teresa Gillotti.
Gillotti said Parks and Recreation would have to hire a design firm to create a site plan, a formal work agreement must be signed and the city would have to negotiate the purchase of the property.
Courtesy Parks and Recreation
Tetens said there has been slight reluctance from city council because of the Water Street debt, but Gillotti said council has “expressed interest” in the project.
Ypsilanti must pay $30 million on its Water Street bond debt and continue to make payments through 2031. Its annual payments will grow to $1.7 million annually by 2015, and AnnArbor.com previously reported the city currently has $2.6 million set aside to pay down the debt.
In May, voters rejected a proposed Water Street debt retirement millage and income tax by large margins.
Council Member Pete Murdock is serving as the council liaison for the project and Mayor Paul Schreiber is on the finance committee.
Tetens said council has given the project an 18-month timeline to work out the conceptual design for the site, which already is underway.
Schreiber said the recreation center project is very important and will set the pace for securing more potential businesses.
“The first project is the one that defines the whole project,” he said. “It will be positive for downtown and other businesses would certainly want to know what’s going to be on that corner and it will bring in businesses that can piggyback on that. It’s a good fit.”
Schreiber said the rec center will serve as an “anchor tenant” for future developments on the site and potentially raise the taxable value of area properties.
“I think that it’s not unusual when you have to offer a good deal for the first one. If you’re going to build a shopping center, you have to have an anchor tenant.”
Two presentations have been scheduled for public input regarding the project, both on Thursday, Sept. 27 at SPARK East, located at 215 W. Michigan. The first presentation will be at 4 p.m., and the second will begin at 7 p.m.
Officials also are seeking input from residents through a survey. Click here for the survey.