The proposed budget for Ann Arbor does not include funding for Voter-approved Central Park

ANN ARBOR, MI – Two and a half years since Ann Arbor voters endorsed the concept of a downtown central hub and civic communities known as the center of the city, the city has yet to begin designing or implementing it.

Whether the city should provide funding for this is now up to the city council, and there are some disagreements on this issue that create the conditions for a possible split vote on May 17th.

The annual budget recommendations recently presented to the council by city administrator Tom Crawford do not include funds for planning or implementing the city park center and community over the next two years. Crawford suggests, however, that city officials support a new, citizen-led lower house council and broadcast the group’s meetings.

The group of 13 appointed by the city council is helping the city plan the future park and commons on the downtown library block to implement in phases that may begin this year. However, Crawford does not recommend providing funding for the group or including placeholders for the initiative in the city’s annual budget of $ 470 million.

With a few exceptions, boards and commissions do not have their own budget, and the Council of the Commons is still in the organizational phase, Crawford said.

The city council will hold a public hearing on the proposed city budget on May 3rd before voting on its adoption on May 17th.

The proposed budget for Ann Arbor includes police cuts and restoration of the deer culling program

Councilor Kathy Griswold, D-2nd Ward, said she plans to propose a budget change to include funding for the city center’s initiative. When voters approved the proposal in 2018, it had no funding attached to it.

“I firmly believe that for matching purposes we need funding in order to be able to plan something,” said Griswold. “And I also believe we need at least one trailer with toilets similar to the ones in downtown Detroit.”

Frank Wilhelme, a member of the Council of the Commons, recently said he and the nonprofit Library Green Conservancy have raised about $ 35,000 so far for the Center of the City initiative, and he wants the city to raise funds of $ 35,000 privately Raises up to $ 50,000. He said he would like the Downtown Development Authority to make a contribution.

“In terms of funding for design, and possibly funding, it would be $ 50,000 to $ 100,000, and I didn’t price the portable bathroom tag,” Griswold said of how much money she might be looking for in the budget over the next month.

Councilor Ali Ramlawi, D-5th Ward, has endorsed the effort but expressed doubts about funding after Mayor Christopher Taylor and his allies regain control of the Control Council.

The mayor has made it clear that he will not provide general funding for the center of the city, Ramlawi said.

“Without the mayor’s support and his majority on the council, it makes any effort by the minority council at this point in vain,” he said, hoping this doesn’t stop the Library Green Conservancy and other community partners from continuing to raise funds thinks it makes things incredibly difficult for her.

The Ann Arbor planning group begins by unveiling Central Park downtown

Taylor still criticizes the Center of the City initiative. When voters approved it in 2018, it halted plans for a high-rise and developer-funded space that Taylor and his allies supported on Library Lot, the municipal parking lot next to the downtown library. The city planned to sell the property on Fifth Avenue for $ 10 million to Chicago developer Core Spaces and use half of the proceeds for affordable housing.

The proposal to give up developer-funded space, hundreds of housing units, and millions of tax dollars, and to waste millions of dollars already spent on underground infrastructure to support development, came in part because of the promise of private funding to the Voters are selling for a park / commons, Taylor said.

“It will take millions of dollars to design, plan, build, and program the Park and Commons site worthy of the name, and of course no such private funding has come about,” he said. “If so, then I look forward to talking to you about the extent to which we are diverting scarce public dollars into the effort.”

Stimulus funding is uncertain as Ann Arbor officials grapple with the budget deficit

Will Hathaway, a director of Central Park’s 2018 campaign, said his group never promised to pay the park / commons in full through private fundraisers. Speaking at a public forum ahead of the 2018 vote, he said it could be funded with a mix of public and private funding, including DDA funding.

Alan Haber, another Central Park campaign leader who is now on the Council of the Commons, said the park / commons could be funded in 2018 in a manner that is neutral in terms of the impact on the city’s general fund is by using DDA funds and donations from businesses and individuals, foundation grants, state and federal funds, volunteer workers / materials, online fundraisers, and “Bake Sales and Love”.

Maura Thomson, DDA interim director, recently said it was her understanding that the Council of the Commons would make recommendations to city officials and that the DDA would work with the city as the group progresses.

Griswold said she was still investigating the idea of ​​a land swap that would allow the Ann Arbor District Library to build a new downtown library in the Library Lot parking lot while creating the park / commons next door to house the The downtown library is now on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and William Street.

“I’m not exactly for it, but I think this is the time we all have to consider our options,” she said of a land swap. “Because in five years it may be too late.”

Griswold also notes that the city is planning an affordable high-rise development across the street.

“So these people are going to need some space just to walk around and have picnic tables,” she said. “I think what’s going on down in Kerrytown is working very well and I’d love to see something like that.”

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