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Posted on Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Council members need more convincing on downtown Ann Arbor conference center proposal

By Ryan J. Stanton


Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, asked tough questions about a proposed hotel and conference center Monday night. He said he wants to make sure the city isn't on the hook financially if the facility doesn't turn a profit.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor City Council members will be asked in the coming months to make one of the most difficult decisions of their political careers.

That is whether to allow New York-based Valiant Partners to build a 150-room hotel and 26,000-square-foot conference center on the city-owned Library Lot site — a prime piece of downtown real estate along South Fifth Avenue between William and Liberty streets.

Council members discussed the firm's proposal in detail for the first time publicly during a special work session Monday night. They're being asked to enter into a letter of intent, which would mark the start of negotiations on a formal development agreement with Valiant.


The Valiant Partners proposal for a hotel and conference center on the Library Lot site in downtown Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

But it's apparent a number of council members have deep concerns.

Some still question whether the project is economically viable. Although Valiant no longer is asking the city to help finance the conference center, some council members fear the city will be left uncompensated for the property if the facility doesn't turn a profit.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said she thinks Valiant has been overly optimistic in its financial assumptions. She noted the developer assumed an average hotel occupancy rate of 75 percent in its original projections included in a report from late 2009.

Based on what she knows, Briere said, a best guess at the average hotel occupancy rate in the Ann Arbor area is closer to 60 percent. She concluded Valiant's revenue expectations could be $1.5 million too high for the second year after completion of construction.

"That's kind of scary to me," she said. "A million and a half less, which means that maybe their income stream is optimistic, and their ability to meet their obligations to the city, to their bills, to their creditors, might not be there. How can we evaluate this effectively?"

Council Members Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, and Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, expressed similar concerns about financial aspects of the proposal.

Both had several questions for David Di Rita, an attorney and real estate professional with the Detroit-based Roxbury Group, a firm hired by the city to vet two competing proposals for the site. The consultant recommended Valiant's proposal late last year.

Kunselman called the letter of intent brought to the city by Roxbury "quite disappointing." He expressed concerns it had not been reviewed by the city attorney's office.

Suggesting a downtown hotel and conference center could be a money-losing venture, Kunselman read from an Oct. 21 news report out of Trenton, New Jersey. It talked about the city's attempts to sell a downtown hotel as it struggled to make the debt payments.

Kunselman noted that a nonprofit board formed by Trenton to oversee hotel construction is supposed to pay yearly debt payments of around $2 million from money the hotel earns. As the guarantor for the corporation’s loan, the city is on the hook if the board can’t pay.

"I think that says a lot about what we're dealing with," Kunselman said. "No, I don't want to own a conference center. I don't want to own a hotel. I don't think this has anything to do with public health, safety or welfare. We've been through these experiences with the Y lot. We've been through this experience with 415 W. Washington. We continue to go out and send RFPs and fish, and we catch nothing but leeches that want to suck on the public dollar."

Kunselman received a round of applause from several of the 20-plus people sitting in the audience Monday night. A loosely organized coalition of Ann Arbor residents has been working to stop the Valiant project and continues to question its economic viability.

Anglin said he's sympathetic to the residents' concerns. He raised numerous questions Monday night that he's heard asked by members of the community.

"Why doesn't Valiant have to pay real estate tax on the hotel?" he said. "Will we be just giving them payments in lieu of taxes and, in effect, we're paying them? Are the institutions we support going to lose taxes? Our schools possibly? City taxes — will we lose city taxes?"

Anglin said he's looked at local hotel occupancy statistics going back to 1999 and "they're very flat, all the way through 2009." He concluded there's no need for a new hotel. He also said the University of Michigan — which Valiant assumes will drive use of the new facilities — has given no assurances that it would use either the hotel or the conference center.

A report submitted by Roxbury concluded — based on interviews with community stakeholders — that there is at least an anecdotal need for a conference center in downtown Ann Arbor to meet an unmet demand, and that U-M's decentralized conference scheduling system creates a significant opportunity for someone like Valiant to step into the market.

Di Rita characterized U-M as "an enormous potential base."

"We're left to simply noodle on the rather noncontroversial notion that this massive university with no central conferencing facilities or capabilities of its own — which is routinely leaving Ann Arbor for events and is growing every year by some order of magnitude — might actually be able to use this place," he said. "I agree, it's vexing because you wish they would simply say it."


David Di Rita, a consultant with the Detroit-based Roxbury Group, gave a report to the City Council Monday night on the letter of intent.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Di Rita, a U-M alumnus, acknowledged he's actually trying to help organize an upcoming conference for about 300 alumni in Ann Arbor.

"We've had to make 15 phone calls to connect the dots," he said. "And what we're finding is everything's booked. So I think all of us have that anecdotal experience that suggests Ann Arbor is both a strong driver of demand, as well as a partial satisfier of that demand."

No action was taken at Monday's meeting. City Administrator Roger Fraser said the plan is to bring the letter of intent back to council on April 18.

Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward and chairman of the advisory committee that recommended the letter of intent, said he's requesting a public hearing prior to the vote due to the high level of interest in the community.

Kunselman said the letter of intent reads like a formal contract. He feared the city could be sued by the developer if it walked away from the project after signing it. Di Rita said the letter is non-binding, and he thinks Valiant would be willing to sign a clause holding the city harmless.

Valiant's development would stand atop an underground parking structure being built by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. In addition to the hotel and conference center, it would feature a public plaza and 6,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, as well as up to 48,000 square feet of office space and 22,000 square feet of condos.

The letter of intent does not offer figures for what Valiant might pay for air rights above the parking deck, but says the developer will pay the city or DDA "a mutually agreed-upon sum," as well as an unspecified percentage of gross sales revenue on the residential condominiums. Additionally, the city or a nonprofit of its choosing would own the conference center.

Revisions to Valiant's proposal, outlined in a report from Roxbury late last year, would increase the annual net cash flow to the city's general fund from $128,784 to $273,731.

The letter of intent states the developer would be solely responsible for the design, financing and development of the conference center. It also would be solely responsible for the operation and maintenance as long as it holds the management agreement.

Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, said it seems there's no financial downside for the city as long as the developer holds the management agreement.

"I guess I'm questioning what would break that management agreement?" she asked. "Is it because we don't like their performance of it? I mean, what is their intent on that?"

Di Rita responded that's an issue that needs to be fleshed out in more detail as the city and the developer negotiate a formal development agreement.

"This is an idea that started in their earlier proposal when the city was still, in theory, financing a portion of the center," he said.

Di Rita said the project has evolved into "something quite short" of a true public-private partnership, which would have the city taking both financing and operational risk.

"This developer is simply not asking that of the city and knows very well there's no stomach for that," he assured council members.

Di Rita said whether the city ends up owning the conference center is another issue that will be decided in the development agreement. In deals like this, he said, a lot of communities prefer to have the conference center under some kind of independent or nonprofit control.

Nine council members were present for Monday's discussion. Mayor John Hieftje and Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, were absent.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

I attend 4 to 5 conferences a year; some are held at university venues and others at conference centers or big hotels. But guess what? I rarely stay at the associated conference hotel even though it is covered by my employer. I don't like the boring $160 rooms so I'll stay at cheaper places - bed/breakfast, hostels, cheaper hotels, or even with friends/relatives in the conference venue. I am also involved with lots of events at the university. Our participants like to stay downtown, but there are enough choices for them. And, there are enough budget conference attendees who prefer to stay on the outskirts and stay in cheaper hotels. So, I don't see this demand for downtown hotels or else their occupancy rates wouldn't be hovering at that almost unsustainable level. University venues are far better for technology. Hotels charge and arm and a leg for any technology and are quickly out of date. Let's let Valiant pay the city for the land and all the associated costs. Then when this caper fails we'll have enough money to pay to raze it.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 10:55 a.m.

Agreed, we don't need this project. But to let a developer build and then have the project fail is not good. The Ann Arbor Inn (4th & Huron) took many years and lots of different owners to finally settle into it's current use as a low income senior building. Wouldn't allowing something like that to happen on our best property be unnecessarily painful?


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

@truthspeak "Input has been giving repeatedly by the same group of people. Their voice has been heard and considered. Now it would be nice if they let the rest of us get more detail so we can make an appropriate decision for ourselves" Well if there so many others like yourself that wish to be heard they sure are not voicing any pro conference center opinions here. It would appear that you are one of the few in town in favor of this!


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

I know if a conference center gets built it's going to be a wasteful, expensive, underutilized white elephant. But does it have to be a monumentally, sharp-stick-in-the-eye ugly wasteful underutilized white elephant? That way it seems to work is this -- if a private developer builds a downtown building, we get something ranging from innocuous (Ashley Terrace) to lovely (Ashley Mews). And if the University builds it, we have at least a chance of getting something beautiful (North Quad). But if the city is involved? Gack.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:09 p.m.

not my idea...but try the skatepark there. as a fail, it would the absolute easiest and cheapest thing to un do. it would serves as a park AND a destination. heck, put Top of the Park there and let the overflow spill into downtown a2 (more so than it already does). at the very least, i think most would welcome the surface parking lot again over a conference center.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:07 p.m.

Wow! We have cuts in spending at all levels of government. It's difficult to believe that anyone in Ann Arbor is still considering funding this albatross. Thanks to Mr. Kunselman for acting responsibly and questioning this project. I voted for him and will do so again. If it were to be built, I'd be afraid to go downtown on windy days. The whole thing looks pretty tippy to me.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

&quot;Anglin... said the University of Michigan — which Valiant assumes will drive use of the new facilities — has given no assurances that it would use either the hotel or the conference center.&quot; Maybe that is because U-M already has excellent conference facilities, making it unnecessary to leave campus. It's obvious that Valiant, Mr. Di Rita, nor any other proponents of this library lot pig-in-a-poke have considered these: -- Palmer Commons (<a href=";" rel='nofollow'>;</a> -- The Union &amp; League (<a href=";" rel='nofollow'>;</a> -- Rackham Auditorium (<a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> among other wonderful facilities (<a href=";" rel='nofollow'>;</a> -- all with free wireless, and good catering/dining options. Our community gem, the Michigan Theater, would work for large groups. Plus, conference rooms are available at within-walking-distance lodging: the Campus Inn, Bell Tower Inn, and the League Inn. Finally, U-M faculty and staff already pay plenty for parking passes in U-M lots close to their workplaces -- why would they want to pay to park at a downtown hotel? I wish the pro-hotel/conference center folks would stop trying to sell us something we do not need. And I wish our council would stop stringing them along.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 10:59 p.m.

totally against, there's so much empty real estate of all kinds in a2, why build more? but...and BIG but, if you DO do it - do it big and do it right. No Tally Hall - do it as a destination, do it huge - even epic...&quot;winning&quot; - or not at all. It would have to out-compete the new Cobo in the D and GR for conference dollars - it could happen, but it would have to be really, really, really good..SO much better than a2 City Hall (fail)...don't do it. But do something else, there ARE many other options. Discuss.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:26 p.m.

I agree - if you're going to do it then make it a destination. Get a great architect to design something otherworldly. Have a waterslide from the top through the hotel multiple times. If you're gonna swing, might as well swing for the fences.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

There will be zero interest in holding University-sponsored academic meetings anywhere but on campus, where there are ample meeting rooms more than suitable for these gatherings.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

We need another hotel like we need a hole in the head. Please put something there for the taxpaying public's benefit.

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

Does anyone care that the building, as proposed, is so out of place in the location and city, for that matter, that it looks really ridiculous? It's like the &quot;Emperor's New Clothes&quot; of architecture.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

The process has been very troubling. Perhaps it only seems that way, but the impression one gets is that a few people on Council have been steamrolling this through, wasting money on a report that everyone knew would support their point of view, without proper attention to other opinions. Some of us have good reason to think that Ann Arbor does not need a convention center, does not need another badly designed, ill-placed monstrosity downtown, nor that it can afford the conditions that are being proposed. This proposal would have been dead ages ago if it were not for shameful tactics to ram it through. There are many possible uses of the library lot space and there is no hurry to choose the best alternative. Therefore, community input and imaginative thinking could help council members come to a much better solution. It is gratifying to observe that not everyone has been fooled by this non-democratic charade and that some of our representatives are actually looking into the financial, practical, and aesthetic problems that this proposal has raised. We need to support those on Council who are not going along with the push and are thinking independently. Hopefully, voters will begin to see through the mumbo-jumbo and choose better representatives in the future, who are not blindly following the mantra of &quot;development&quot; at all costs and who would turn our city into an anonymous ugly concrete mass, pushing people to leave the immediate area, and thus obviating all attempts to move more people downtown.

John Floyd

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

I'm puzzled by the fact that although Valiant Partners will finance the conference center themselves, and want to manage the the center, they do not want to own it. If the conference center is such a good thing, what's up with that? Moving conferences from the UM to this conference center does not create new spending, it just moves existing spending from on-campus to off campus. Where is the economic development in that? The point of the conference center is to create economic value. Where is the &quot;Economic Viability&quot; study to confirm that the general idea has some legs? Didn't we contract with Roxbury Group to perform an Economic Viability study? Didn't we already pay them for it? Why are we even looking at a Letter of Intent before this study is in hand, throughly reviewed, and analyzed, to suggest the reasonable likelihood of success? Mr. Rapudalo thinks we cannot afford the health insurance packages of our police and fire departments. Absent a well-structured analysis demonstrating the likely economic viability of this center, how can we afford to be on the hook for conference center loses? Just because some people like the idea of a park for this space does not mean that a park is the only possible alternative. How 'bout putting the space up for bid to the highest bidder, to build whatever they want within current zoning? Such a bidder could assume all the benefits, and risks, of ownership. Seems like an obvious place for &quot;workforce housing&quot; to me. Still, the idea of a comprehensive plan for use of all city-owned land in the DDA zone seems pretty reasonable. Curiouser and curiouser.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

If money is the bottom line, then turn the conference center portion into a casino...


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

Something to consider from the demand side: we live in town with a monster size university (in case you haven't noticed). Many times a year most of those teaching at it leave to attend conferences in other cities. Why: because we don't have convenient, centrally located hotel rooms and conference facilities downtown. Sure, you can put a few people up at the Campus Inn and the Bell Tower, but after that nothing that doesn't require a shuttle bus. We lose out on conference bids all the time for this very reason. I'm not saying that this supports a project of the size proposed, but to say we have what it takes to competitively vie for and host a conference of anything more than a 100 folks is, well, silly.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

Two thoughts: The building drawing is probably the ugliest structure I have seen proposed for our town -- it is actually worse than the new city hall addition. I doubt the business need for a conference center. What we are probably building is the next homeless shelter/low cost housing building for Ann Arbor. We'll end up owning this &quot;thing&quot;. If Valiant was really serious about this project they would be offering to buy this site and not ask anything else of the city.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

Veracity: Thanks for that link. Some interesting info in the Skelton report: &quot;Hyatt Regency Hotel and Conference Center Flint, Michigan: This 16 story facility was developed in Flint in the early 1980's and contained 33,000 square feet of publicly-funded conference space. Today, after nearly thirty troubled years including a bankruptcy in the late 1980's, the facility is being used as dormitory space for University of Michigan-Flint.&quot; &quot;Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center Jackson, Michigan; Built with federal tax dollars and opened in 1976, this downtown, ten story facility closed in 1988 and remains vacant. Jackson City Council is considering demolition at the taxpayers' expense. The city is considering a public park in its place. &quot; Maybe UM does want this built . . . as site for future student housing . . . which it will buy for $.20 on the construction dollar . . . in a failure scenario. Now tax revenue for the city in this scenario . . . Or, we could follow the City of Jackson's lead . . . except, build the park now . . . and forego 35 years of financial heartache and drama . . . In an interesting twist, many proponents of the hotel are opponents of a park, due to homeless issues. The Valiant hotel could possibly become a great future shelter for homeless people . . . Avalon Housing, or a private housing operator, might want to buy the building for low income housing, much like fate of the former Ann Arbor Inn.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

All who are interested in a financial analysis of Valiant Partners' hotel/conference center proposal MUST read Charles Skelton's report, entitled &quot;DEMAND ANALYSIS AND MARKET OVERVIEW FOR A CONFERENCING FACILITY (November 15, 2010),&quot; which can be accessed through the following link along with Mr. Skelton's qualifications. Please compare Mr. Skelton's qualifications to those of Mr. Di Rita and the Roxbury Group which has provided, in my opinion, a relatively superficial and financially incomplete analysis by contract from City Council. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Unfortunately, Mr. Di Rita did not address the actual factual information in Mr. Skelton's report and its conclusion that the hotel/conference center would not be viable.

Joel Batterman

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

You don't have to oppose the idea of a conference center to marvel at the foolishness of the undemocratic process that's been used to push it. Backers should have known better.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

This is a truly scary proposal. Everything I have read (and I have read a lot on the subject lately) points to the fact that convention centers are LOSERS! Nearby hotels and small shops may profit from a convention center, but the center itself is all too often a loss leader. If you need documentation, I can provide that from experts in the field. Please consider Ann Arbor's future and withdraw from this ill-conceived, money-losing plan.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

does anyone else notice what's missing in that drawing? THE REST OF DOWNTOWN ANN ARBOR. Not once in their design of this horrendous building did they consider the surrounding aesthetics. Not to mention the condos that back up to the lot, everyone on that side of the building is about to see their property value drop because their view is no longer of the city, but instead the backside of this ridiculous looking building.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

At the very first meeting I attended, Joan Lowenstein reported that the land was worth much and would pretty much &quot;go to the highest bidder.&quot; There has been no need for citizen input as this has been a done-deal from the beginning.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

The Valiant offer seems like a low bid. It looks as though Valiant doesn't plan on paying much at all. The fact that the decision process creates the appearance of having been wired from the beginning doesn't mean that the city will do well financially. I think it's more likely that if this goes through it will be a large loss for the city.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

I am glad something will be built on top of the parking structure. We don't need another park there. If people don't want a conference center, what would they prefer to be built there? More condos? An office building? I prefer thinking out of the box and allowing something different that we don't already have to be built. It is a progressive way of thinking. It is a forward way of thinking. I wish the pro-park contingent would realize that their fight for a park is dead for this location and then maybe we could have real discussions about what the right development should be for this area. I like the conference center idea and believe it could work if the right agreement is drawn up. What hinders a good agreement though is a lot of the misinformation and animosity that is spread by people who have their own personal and political agendas. ( the pro-park contingent). I would like to see the letter of intent get approved so that we can see what is actually possible for this area.


Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 1:05 a.m.

You are wrong that there is &quot;plenty of time&quot; to discuss this matter. The letter of intent was already approved by a city council committee. It was at a meeting where the public was not allowed to speak.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

@LocoCit I agree with you that we need to have real discussions. However, those discussions are prevented from taking place because the pro-park contingent are hijacking the conversations all the time screaming conspiracy and corruption. I do not believe anything they say at this point because they have their own agenda and will claim anything and say anything to get their way. They point to a web site that is created by them that is filled with their own talking points and call that evidence. Ha...the public is not that naive. I am fine with how the discussions have gone because it is only the beginning of the process. There is plenty of time to decide whether to build a conference center. We have plenty of time to change the design and I think in a previous article it was suggested that the design will be changed. They have had their say repeatedly, I just wish the rest of us can now have ours.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

I agree with you that it is time to have real discussions on this. That means discussion of valid economic studies which currently do not favor this, discussion regarding the effect on taxpayers for this, discussion regarding potential legal issues in rushing this, discussion on the appearance of how this entire process has gone to date and discussion with the biggest stakeholders in all of this which are caring citizens who may or may not be in the &quot;park contingent.&quot;


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Input has been giving repeatedly by the same group of people. Their voice has been heard and considered. Now it would be nice if they let the rest of us get more detail so we can make an appropriate decision for ourselves. Just because the committee did not follow their demands does not mean they were not heard. I find this group to be obstructive to the process and very bully-like, for lack of a better term.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

And would you like your input included in the decision? That's all people are asking for.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

Whether you like the idea of a conference center or not, it's difficult to approve the way Councilman Rapundalo, (he is the head of the committee appointed by city council to evaluate the proposals for the library lot) handled his obligation to provide the necessary due diligence in evaluating this project. Whether to build this or not is an important matter for Ann Arbor and Mr. Rapundalo did just about everything within his power to suppress public input and to attempt to sell city council and the public a bad project. I believe Mr. Rapundalo should be censured by the city council for his waste of city resources and his attempt to deceive the residents of Ann Arbor.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

I am an Ann Arbor citizen that is part of a growing group that are very frustrated with the way council and its committees have excluded two critical components in making a wise decision regarding the Library Lot: citizen input and economic analysis. From the first meeting I attended on this project (DDA Open House to present the development) to the last meeting I attended (Library Lot Advisory Committee) I, along with many others have attempted to voice concerns about not only the development itself; but the convoluted process that somehow always supports a hotel conference center in spite of all citizen opposition and economic logic. Why haven't the citizens been a part of setting up the original process guidelines to determine the best choice, why hasn't there been a clear explanation by council on how to weigh citizen input into the final choice, why were people at the DDA open house told that it was not an appropriate time to provide input, why were citizens not interviewed as part of the Roxbury report and why were citizens not allowed to present concerns at the latest advisory committee meeting on this. It is exhausting to chase all these meetings, be told &quot;we want your input,&quot; try to give your input, observe many others who have similar input and then watch this process just keep moving down the tracks. As for economic analysis, there have been no official studies done by the council or by the recent consultant group Roxbury to even waste another minute on this risky and unwanted development. The rfp setup to hire a consultant for protective advice even states the firm must be experienced in economic analysis, yet they didn't do one for this advisory committee. Why would the advisory committee then unanimously vote to recommend a letter of intent on this? All I have read regarding this choice of development says council should start from scratch on both the process and the final selection. Then citizen input and wise analysis can be included

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

UM hotel/conference center? It is called the Michigan League!!! We do not need this silly project in Ann Arbor.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

I know this is a shallow comment, but that drawing......oy. If that conference center is built, it is going to be the tackiest thing in town. It's just awful!


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

I dunno - the new City Hall is pretty hideous.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

@Brad, touche!


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.

You might want to re-check the new city hall before bestowing &quot;tackiest&quot; elsewhere. Just sayin'.

Chip Reed

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

None of this makes any sense. Did Mr Di Rita call EMU or WCC for his event? Maybe people in Ann Arbor think they're too cool to go to Ypsilanti for stuff. Eagle Crest is really NICE. &quot;If you build it, he will come&quot; is a good philosophy for baseball fields in Iowa, but this isn't &quot;heaven&quot;...


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 11:25 a.m.

Ten points to consider regarding a hotel/conference center: 1) If UM needed a hotel/conference center they would build it, or co-venture with the city. 2) If the private development market believed in the viability of a hotel/conference center they would build it. 3) The city has declining revenue from residents and state. They cannot support current debt levels as evidenced by unfunded pensions. The city is in no position risk subsidizing a hotel/conference center. The state cannot help &quot;bail&quot; the city out. 4) There is no grass roots citizen movement to support a hotel/conference center. 5) There is no local business initiative to support a hotel/conference center. 6) The city and DDA have no proven development record other than municipal buildings and parking structures. They are currently proposing ending support for pools, senior centers, while poorly maintaining many streets. They have surpassed their level of wisdom, experience, and credibility as they contemplate a hotel/conference center. 7) The city had a third downtown hotel that failed and bankrupted: The Ann Arbor Inn. 8) Much personal and business conferencing is conducted electronically. As energy and transportation costs increase, bricks and mortar centers become less viable. 9) The city population is less than 125,000. Few cities of this size could support this hotel and conference center. 10) Existing hotels and conference centers in the region are superadequate for demand. Adding supply to this dynamic hurts the overall economy.

Bob Martel

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

If this project goes forward, I fear that it will rank among the biggest municipal fiascos Ann Arbor has ever seen. From what I've read, the data does not support either another downtown hotel or the conference center. If the project fails for the developer, make no mistake, the City will be on the hook for something, the demolition costs at a minimum. All this risk for what? Just what is the upside to the City in all this?


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

Point #1 says it all! U-M traditionally hosts all conferences on Campus, furthermore; why would the Alumni Association hold anything off Campus? The design of this red haring replicates a box fan that someone has just placed in their basement for the Winter. I feel that the figures represented in the presentation are OVERLY optimistic.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

Amen. And No. 11: It's hideous.