Parking, Money and the Conference Center
The city took its first step in the RFP process for a development over the Library Lot parking structure today with the pre-proposal meeting. (Highlights of the RFP and a link to the full document are here.) The rest of the schedule for the RFP has slipped somewhat; though proposals are still due on November 13 and interviews for proposers are still on December 7, the city now expects evaluation to be complete on January 25, 2010, with a February 15 recommendation to the council and a March 1 council award to the winning proposal. The two committees that will review the proposals, a technical committee and an “oversight committee,” have not yet been appointed.
The council chambers had about 50 people, including journalists and “the public” as well as presumed developers and their staffs. Jayne Miller provided a set of written answers to questions already received. I’ve noticed in the past that developers in these meetings are very close-mouthed and don’t actually ask very many questions, and the same was true here. A couple of questions came from Alan Haber, who has long pleaded for a Community Commons. He responded with such a proposal to the original RFP for housing on the old Y lot. Unfortunately, part of Haber’s vision is often that the community or the city will provide the funds necessary for a commons, which was presumably behind his question about the weighting of criteria on the RFP. (Administrator Roger Fraser replied that financial return to the city was worth 10% of the score.)
Other questions were about the importance of A2D2 zoning and the design guidelines, both of which are not yet final. Miller responded that the A2D2 zoning would be (hopefully) passed by council on October 19, and the staff was also hoping to put the design guidelines on the agenda by then. Fraser made a point of saying that these are just guidelines (i.e. not fixed in stone) — “in order to achieve things desirable for our community,” he implied that there might be some flexibility and said that proposers could ask for interpretations. Alice Ralph, who was on the committee that produced the guidelines, sprang to the point to ask whether these interpretations would be available to the public as well. Fraser said yes, any general interpretations, but nothing that could reveal details of a specific proposal.
Money on the table
A revelation with potential cost implications was that the DDA was considering installing up to 190 geothermal wells and needed feedback early. (Susan Pollay, its executive director, explained that the DDA would be excavating in three phases and all design aspects would be fixed in place by early spring.) The announcement left people apparently a bit stunned; someone finally said, of course most developers would like to have geothermal capability (it would add significant value), but was that paid for by the DDA? Pollay said that it could be dealt with as part of the overall proposal; but Fraser jumped in to say that “we are willing to make that investment upfront” and then enlarged on the fact that the city and DDA are already improving the utilities, adding electric capacity and water in order to serve that part of 5th Avenue “and points south”. (Note that “south” is the Germantown neighborhood that is trying to avoid extensive development.) In addition, in answer to questions, Pollay said that the DDA would accommodate all stormwater retention on site plus maybe some more. (This would ordinarily be a cost of the above-ground development.) Fraser further enlarged in response to another question about the old Y lot, to say that the lot is a “blank slate—one that is available to write on” and that one motivation for developing the Library Lot is to support development on the Y lot. He said that the economy is such that “not a lot of energy” is around both sites but that it was hoped that what happens on the Library Lot will serve as a stimulus to develop the Y lot.
Parking and its uses
One of the continuing mysteries about the Fifth Avenue underground parking structure is that the parking spaces being created are being cited as solving many different problems, some of which are mutually exclusive. In a recent story in the Ann Arbor Chronicle, the mayor was quoted thus: “They’ll be losing at least 700 parking spaces in the coming years, he said, and the new underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue—a project which will be breaking ground next week— is only replacing the parking they’re losing.” But then he went on to reference Google and the benefit of (business) parking downtown. Comment threads on the Chronicle and elsewhere indicate that many hope these parking places will serve casual visitors to the downtown, shoppers and the like. In a written answer to one of the questions about the RFP, the city implied that up to 460 spaces might be reserved for use of the RFP project. Of 660 spaces below ground, the DDA had set forth the intention that 200 would be reserved for users of the library. “This can be done with signage that indicates where hourly parking and permit parking should take place.”
So whatever project does get the city’s nod—whether it is a conference center or not—looks to have utilities and parking in place. We’ll see whether the “financial benefit to the city” will match the cost of paying for all this development assistance.
SECOND UPDATE: The text and one attachment of the “clarifying questions” are attached.
THIRD UPDATE: AnnArbor.com interviewed Jayne Miller at the Library Lot. Caution: some of her statements are incorrect or not current (for example, she speaks as though the Library expansion is still on track, but it was postponed indefinitely nearly a year ago).
FIFTH UPDATE: The city has now established a web page for the RFP.
SIXTH UPDATE: A figure has been stated as the cost for the parking structure, but there is controversy over fees the city is charging the DDA.
SEVENTH UPDATE: The November 13 deadline has passed with six proposals being submitted. AnnArbor.com reports that they have a FOIA pending review by the city to see the proposals. It seems clear from here that the city is out of line trying to keep the substance of these proposals secret during review.
EIGHTH UPDATE: The AATA plans to rebuild its Blake Transit Center, according to AnnArbor.com. This could have an impact on the use of the Y lot.Explore posts in the same categories: Business, civic finance