Ann Arbor's underground parking deck moves forward

The underground parking structure next to the Ann Arbor Library's Main Branch continues its steady slog toward becoming a reality.

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority approved upgrading the 6-inch water mains along Fifth Avenue to 12-inch water mains and hired Lansing-based Christman to handle the pre-construction planning. It all means shovels will go in the ground for the water mains by October and the main hole for the parking deck will start going down by early winter.

"I think we may start excavating in November," says Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

The DDA is spending $38 million to build a 3-story underground parking garage under Fifth Avenue and the surface parking lot adjacent to the downtown library branch. The new structure, set to open by the 2011 Art Fair, will feature 677 parking spaces, replacing the 200 spaces on the surface lot.

The parking deck will feature a number of green features, including plentiful natural light, dimmers on the parking light and LED to save electricity. It will also feature power outlets for electric cars. The DDA is also looking into utilizing geothermal heating systems, solar panels and reusing gravel from the excavation in the cement for the structure.

"It's going to be as green as we can make it," Pollay says.

Happening separately but impacting the same project is the newly released request for proposals for a development above it. The city issued the RFP to solicit development projects for the space above the parking garage.

The perimeter of the large site could reach as high as 4-6 stories. The interior of the block could go as high as 18 stories and facilitate office, residential or hotel space or even a combination of those. Ideas bandied about for the space include an office tower and convention center.

A group of investors based locally and in New York have leaked details of building a hotel-convention center on the site, details of which can be found here. It's a project that has been floating via rumors for months. Business consultant Fritz Seyferth declined to discuss details for this story. He said in an email that
the project is "still under evaluation as to what is economically feasible, practical, and permissible. Way too many unknowns at this stage to guess."

Former Washtenaw County Commissioner Vivienne Armentrout thinks the fix is in for that plan between the developers and city officials. Those details can be seen here.

Source: Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Jon Zemke
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