Ypsilanti's Water Street site: Could a hotel be the next development?
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
The long-vacant Water Street property in Ypsilanti could be the site of a hotel and a senior care facility in the near future, a CBRE associate who oversees the marketing of the 38-acre site said Tuesday.
"We are talking to two other users," said CBRE representative Arthur Itkis. "One is hospitality and the other is senior care. These are preliminary discussions."
Itkis said the hotel chain and the other prospective business have not indicated how many acres of the site they would be interested in purchasing or any idea as to what the buildings would look like.
"This prospect has not explained what sort of (business) they want to open," he said. "We're going to follow up to see if they can set up a meeting."
Once those talks progress to the next level, Itkis told city council he will keep them informed.
Itkis declined to share the name of the hotel.
Aside from the two interested parties, Itkis said inquiries about the property have been relatively slow to come in.
"It's been minimal (interest), but that's what's going on in Michigan," Itkis said. "Land hasn't been moving."
The city started acquiring parcels of the Water Street property in 2001 with the expectation that it would quickly attract mixed-use development, but it hasn't been able to find developers for the property.
Eastside Recreation Center update:
Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission representatives said Tuesday they are ready to get the process rolling on the proposed Eastside Recreation Center which would encompass about eight acres of the Water Street property.
Bob Tetens, director of WCPRC, said his goal is to "hit the ground running" in early 2015 for construction of the center. Tetens appeared before council Tuesday to affirm their commitment to the project.
"We're at a point right now where I think we hit a pretty significant milestone in December," Tetens said referring to the initial designs. "Before we start doing all of the environment and engineering work, I wanted to meet with council."
City Council approved a resolution Tuesday affirming its partnership with the WCPRC and the Ann Arbor YMCA to design, build and operate a community recreation center on Water Street.
The project is still in the planning phases, but the YMCA will likely provide the management of the center, has formed a committee and has requested development of a marketing study.
The resolution does not supersede the letter of intent, which was approved Jan. 10, 2012.
The WCPRC's millage is up for renewal in November 2014 and if it's approved, the process will begin to move a bit faster, officials said.
"Hopefully by that date, we'll have all of the planning done and hopefully even a contractor," Tetens said.
Some of the council members expressed their support of the project.
"It's been a little over a year since the letter of intent was approved and I'm even more convinced now that this rec center is the right thing to do," said Mayor Paul Schreiber. "I think it can be a catalyst."
Council Member Daniel Vogt said he "loves the designs" that were presented a few months ago.
Family Dollar update:
City Planner Teresa Gillotti said Tuesday conversations have taken place with Family Dollar regarding possible design changes suggested by city council. While Family Dollar is open to changes, Gillotti warned council that changes could impact and possibly lower the purchase agreement amount.
The property is owned by the city and Core Resources, the company who does the development for Family Dollar, will pay $210,000 to purchase the land. The property was removed from the market for three months, after the development agreement was signed Dec. 10.
"Any improvements, it might affect the price and may decrease their purchase price," she said.
The following changes were requested:
- Windows along the Michigan Avenue frontage.
- Addition of street trees along Michigan Avenue and Park Street.
- Possible relocation of Dumpster enclosure.
- Consideration of the use of swales for stormwater management.
- The potential construction of the building to possibly support a second-story addition.
Council prioritized the suggested changes to lower the impact upon the agreement, but reiterated they want the building to be quality. For most of council, windows along the Michigan Avenue frontage are a key part to this project moving forward.
"I would like to see this building be a quality building," Schreiber said. "It needs to be a quality infrastructure and I would definitely negotiate toward quality."
Council Member Brian Robb said windows are a "deal breaker" for him as to whether the project could move forward.
"No windows, no Family Dollar," Robb said.
The city is moving forward to meet the letter of intent timeline to bring revised concept plans and a purchase agreement to council on March 5. At that time, a public hearing will be held and a decision is expected to be made by council.
The 90-day purchase agreement was set to expire March 10.
Dave Heikkinen, owner of Heikk's Decorated Apparel Studio, voiced his opposition to the Family Dollar and said it completely contradicts the vision of the Water Street property.
"I'm really against the Family Dollar," Heikkinen said. "On one corner, we're going to put a beautiful recreation center and on the other corner... we're going to put in the equivalent of a double-wide trailer. Family Dollar is the absolute worst thing you can put in that corner and I hope you can reconsider it."
Former Council Member Mike Bodary attended the meeting to also voice his concern regarding the Family Dollar being on the Water Street property.
"I understand the frustration you all are going through," Bodary said. "In our original vision, we envisioned a continuous line of storefronts similar to what we have on Michigan Avenue. That's beautiful and that's favorable for our town. With this type of construction, we're not going to get that. The Family Dollar is not what I envisioned." County Commissioner Rolland Sizemore said since the county plans to invest at least $10 million into the Water Street property, he thinks the county should be included in the discussions about the other possible developments.
"I think this is a two-edged sword. ... When we're getting ready to design, I think we should be able to look at (other possibilities,) Sizemore said.