Comments (2) 12:00 AM posted by admin |
Okay. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Exhale.
We’ve now had an entire weekend to digest the latest set-back for Ypsilanti’s infamous Water Street Project. There is an large part of the communtity that wants to run around and shout, “We told you so!” That’s cool. Do it. But humor me for a second, tell me. It’s important that we get this out of our system before moving on, and the easiest way to do that is to say it to me. If you’re looking for someone to blame too, you can also blame me. If the City is too nameless and faceless for you, allow me to provide the name and face.
Whether or not you liked the idea of Water Street from the beginning, we are where we are, and we have to move on and find a new solution. Take the rest of the week to get things off your chest. If you like, I’ll even sit at one of the local establishments a couple nights this week so you can personally come in and yell at me. I’m not asking you to stop being dissenters. Far from it. I’m only asking you to move past Water Street v2.0 and begin picking sides over Water Street Vista.
I think we need a little perspective too. As someone recently pointed out to me, two months ago we had no signed developer’s agreement and a debt payment of $378K due in November of 2009. As of this morning, we have no signed developer’s agreement and a debt payment of $378K. I’m not trying to convince you it’s all rainbows and puppy dogs, but we were in just as a precarious situation then as we are now. Said another way, if you spent the weekend worrying about Water Street, you should have been worrying for the past five years.
I should make this disclaimer sooner or later. Just because I am on City Council does not mean I speak for the City or the rest of Council. I’m just some guy with some information that you don’t have trying to get my point across.
The first thing you should do is download THIS FILE. It’s the most important document you will ever need in trying to figure out what has to happen.
There are two columns in the spreadsheet you need to be concerned with, and those are B and D. You would input the amount of homestead and commercial development from any given plan in these cells. You’re not going to want to enter anything in before 2008, so cells B4, B6, D4, and D6 should remain empty. Then you need a development schedule. Even with Freed, it wasn’t development every single year for five or six years. Once you fill in that information, then you know when the project will start to make money, and most importantly, the amount of supplemental funding needed to cover the existing debt.
That’s the most important information you can possiby have in all of this. Now, I’m not suggesting the type of development required for Water Street will be dictated by the debt, but it will rule out a lot of types of development. For example, we can’t put public facilities there like a new jail or a Salvation Army youth center because they won’t pay taxes. It might be difficult to put manufacturing there when you consider the ACH LLC facility (formerly Visteon, formerly Ford Motor Company) on Factory Street is over 50 acres and generates less than $1M annually in tax revenue. An Arborland-type of development might do the trick, but besides being a difficult sell to investors, it would probably upset a lot of people in the community. That means the site needs to be some kind of mixed-use housing and business community.
Oh, wow. I really was hoping this discussion wouldn’t go there, so let’s put a pin in that for a moment.
There is a lot of public outcry saying we need to stop spending money. I’m not totally against that idea, but you have to remember the land as it stands today is still a brownfield filled with buildings. I’m not a developer, but believe me when I tell you that’s not the most marketable scenario. If we don’t completely remediate the site, we need to at least knock down all of the buildings and get it closer to being development-ready than it is today. Think back to the downtown forum on community business when we heard from small-business owners saying there is a lack of white-box space there presently, and there needs to be significant work done prior to being able to open. Look at the work Jennifer Albaum of Henrietta Fahrenheit needed to do before opening her doors. Look at the work the folks from VG Kids are putting into their space. Same goes for Paul Balcom and The Rocket.
We can’t completely stop now. Even if you favor the idea of dividing the parcel and selling individual pieces, you have to admit the most attractive plots have no buildings on them now.
As previously reported, the City has grant and loan money it can spend to continue clean-up. I could see your argument when it comes to the loan monies. I could even see your argument if you tried to play the whole “Grants are taxpayer money too.”
The most recent plan called for the City to clean up the site and build infrastructure like roads and sewers. Usually the developer does that, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, we are not in the strongest position for negotiating. We could still do all of that. It would cost money and would upset the people clamoring for us to close the checkbook, but it’s still an option. I’m not ready to take any options off of the table just yet unless they don’t lead to a plan that will pay back. Anyway. The Downtown DDA supposedly still has bonding capacity and could issue bonds to cover all of the clean up and building of infrastructure (hopefully) to the tune of $8M. We could even increase the surcharge on your water bill from 87% to something a lot higher in order to pay for those water mains.
I’m not pissing down your back and trying to tell you it’s raining, but it’s not hopeless. If the pressure hasn’t been on Council and City Staff up until now, it’s show time. We either have to bring you something brilliant in the next couple of months, or we’ll have to hide out in our homes for the next decade or so.
Until then, I’ll be hanging out in Depot Town all week. Just come up to me and yell for a while. I won’t be there until this afternoon. I have to go find out if I still have a job.