what’s the deal with the riverside arts center elevator?

We’ve talked about it here before – the Board of Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center wants to install an elevator so that the building’s upper floors can be accessible to the handicapped. It’s an admirable goal, but one that, I’ve been told, will cost between $600,000 and $700,000. As it was explained to me, of that cost, $336,500 would come from a State of Michigan grant (that had been redirected from the Water Street project when it stalled). The other half was to be raised by the Riverside Arts Center Board. Now, however, I see it being reported on Steve Pierce’s site that Ypsilanti City Council and DDA have committed “over $505,000 in taxpayer funding” to see the job carried out. My guess is that $336,500 of that is the State of Michigan grant mentioned above, but I’m curious as to where the other $168,500 in “taxpayer funding” is coming from. Could it be that the RAC Board has cut their fundraising goal, looking to the City to cover the remainder? And, if that’s the case, doesn’t that make the alternative we discussed last October even more attractive? Before we sink even one dollar of Ypsi’s all-too-scarce money into the project, shouldn’t we first make absolutely sure that the State’s money couldn’t be moved again, to another local project, like the rehabilitation of the Freighthouse, where no additional investment would be required?

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41 Comments

  1. egpenet
    Posted January 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    My opinion, to your question, is Yes … there are better ways to spend, if not BBNK, that money. The reader poll on Pierce’s website agreeeees with me on that … for what that’s worth.

    Arts are a BIG part of Ypsi’s story. And I am proud of what the R-A-C has accomplished. Given the economic forecasts at the time, and due to its limited seating, a group of friends and myself decided NOT to put a for-profit theatre in there and turned the challenge over to Tom Dodd and Barrier LaRue and Carolyn McKeever. Wowsa! They’ve done a fabulous job. And an elevator would solve so many issues with the R-A-C and the nmewly aquired Edison building.

    However … timing is everything. And money is such a sore issue now.

    The grant money can only be used for certain circumstances. It cannot buy firefighters or police. It cannot be used for tree lights downtown. It COULD be banked for Water Street or used for Riverside/Frog Island, perhaps. But it also needs to be spent (committed) soon or we lose it.

    As I understand it, the additional sum you question, Mark, was part of the original entire sum, which the city was holding back. The plan now is that entire grant is to be awarded to the R-A-C.

    Lord knows I’ve been wrong before, but that’s my take.

    If people are wondering what brings people downtown … what helps to increase traffic … pedestrians … activity … ONE answer is the R-A-C. I live next door and see what is going on. It would be MUCH busier if all three floors and the basement could be kept occupied and connected with the Edison building. A stairwell would suffice were it not for handicap accessibility.

    It’s a timing thing in my mind.

    And theree are several other grant-specific park-related needs in the city: Rutherford Pool, Senior Center, Frog Island, Riverside Park, Peninsular Park, plus the proposed cleanup and ddvelopment of the wild area behind the Ypsi Farmer’s Co-Op Grain elevators, which is on both sides of the tracks south of the river, north of Forest and along Huron River Drive.

    Anyhow … I weill gladly count tires and divide by four, legs and divide by two, and report the results. The R-A-C needs the elevator. The city parks need money. Hey … let’s have a vote! (Now I’m in for it!)

    G’night.

  2. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    The Michigan Economic Development Corporation $163,500 grant that was transferred from Water Street to the Riverside Arts elevator project required funds commitment in April 2008 and expenditure by the end of the year. City council determined that the elevator project had the best chance to use the grant money and be successful.

    The MEDC grant total is close to $500,000 with the remaining $166,300 to be raised by the RAC board by April 2008. The RAC board has already raised $55,000. No city general funds will be spent on the project. The YDDA (the RAC owner) has committed $5,000.

    In addition to plays and the art gallery, the RAC has a partnership with EMU that needs the elevator to provide classes in the arts for adults and youths.

    Paul Schreiber

  3. KT
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    From Steve’s post, it sounded like over half a million dollars in local Ypsi tax dollars were being spent on this project. The Mayor, however, is saying that no general funds are being spent on the project, only $5k from the DDA. I’m having a problem with the math. Is the state grant for $336,500, as Mark mentions, or “close to $500,000,” as the Mayor says? Can someone break it down dollar by dollar?

  4. BrianR
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    In August of 2004, the City of Ypsilanti receives an MEDC grant for creating park space in the Water Street development.

    In January of 2006, City Council votes to reallocate $336,500 of the original $500K to the Riverside Arts Center elevator project.

    In October of 2007, City Staff, two RAC board members, as well as representatives from MEDC meet to discuss transferring the remaining $163,500 to the elevator project.

    In January of 2008, City Council votes 6-0 (with one member abstaining) to transfer the remaining money to the RAC.

    Mr. Pierce is big enough to defend himself, but from reading his site, he states “Ypsilanti City Council and DDA commit over $505,000 in taxpayer funding to build an elevator at Riverside Arts Center.”

    For the most part, that’s a true statement. The $500K in State grant money is taxpayer money. It didn’t come from City coffers, but one could reasonably argue that as taxpayers to the State, we contributed. The $5K from the DDA comes from tax capture. It’s taxpayer money as well, but it’s paid by the downtown property owners living within the DDA boundaries. Those taxes may only be used within the district.

    The biggest issue I have with all of this is that the money was decided to be transferred WITHOUT City Council input. In October of 2007, no one came to Council asking us where our priorities were. Had they, the result may have been dramatically different. Recall if you will, on this very site, I asked what kind of support there would be for taking the original $336,500 and putting it into the pool.

    Council never was asked for direction and never gave it until it was brought to us a week and a half ago.

  5. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Was the money originally granted for creating parks on Water Street redirected because of the pollution found at the site? If not, why was it redirected? Because a developer backed out? I was just wondering if using the money for Water Street would have made it more attractive to developers. Without a developer to use it, would the grant money have been taken back?

  6. BrianR
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    The money was redirected the first time around because Biltmore was jettisoned back in August of 2005. This loss of the developer delayed the construction of the park because it was unknown as to whether or not it would be part of a new developer’s plans.

    Shortly after Biltmore’s dismissal, the YDDA asked the MEDC to transfer $336,500 to the RAC elevator project.

    When Freed pulled out in December of 2006, the park was still delayed for the same reason mentioned above.

    In Spring of 2007, the Planning Dept was negotiating with the County to build our portion of the Border to Border trail along the river in Water Street.

    In July of 2007, representatives of the RAC meet with City Staff inquiring about the transfer of the remaining $163,500. City Staff declined at that time due to the talks with the County.

    In September of 2007, the County declines to build the Border to Border trail through Water Street. It is at this point talks with the RAC and MEDC renew regarding the transfer of the remaining $163,500.

    The City asked for several extensions of the grant because of the delays. It was presented to Council that if the funds were not committed by April of 2008, they would be lost. It was determine that the RAC elevator was the only project that could be completed in that time frame. Whether or not we had a developer for Water Street had nothing to do with the grant being rescinded.

    The problem was no other organization was ever approached about the money. The Freighthouse spent more than $50K on a condition assessment report and may have gotten a business plan together in time, but again, they were never approached.

    As soon as I received information about the money going to the RAC on November 19th of last year, I got that info to the Freighthouse people. A meeting occurred between them and two members for the RAC. It’s best to ask Linda French about the details of that meeting.

    The red herring in all of this is that MEDC funds could not be used to open a facility. That’s true, but at the January 17th Council meeting I asked Ms. Hart why the City couldn’t self-insure itself and just open the Freighthosue. She said the City was exploring that option.

    So that’s how we ended up where we are. A more detailed timeline for the MEDC grant can be found in the Jan 17th Council Packet located online at the City’s website.

  7. Posted January 29, 2008 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    The Americans with Disabilities Act is not just a good idea, it’s the law.

    There should reasonably be some question whether this particular elevator is the only or best way to meet its requirements, especially if money is an issue.

    Some people need assistive technologies to help them move around. Properly designed assistive technologies are good for everyone, not just those who qualify for ADA assistance. Consider, for instance, if the money could be used to build something that might double as something else for those without mobility needs, or to showcase the mobility issues that people have and make it awesome for someone to visit who couldn’t walk up stairs.

  8. Valerie
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Brian and Mayor Schrieber for your comments.

    Here are my take-aways from all of this.

    1. Ypsi News was being deliberately misleading when they implied that our local tax dollars were going toward this elevator project. (State tax dollars ‘do’ ultimately come from us the citizens, but the implication here was clearly that this was illustrative of local general fund mismanagement. It was not.)

    2. Somehow the Riverside Arts Center was given preference when these funds became available. Other organizations were not made aware of the opportunity and given a chance to respond.

    3. Judging from earlier discussions here it would appear that Ypsi citizens if given the choice might not have chosen to invest the funds in this way. As someone pointed out in an earlier thread, ‘the marginal value of opening the second floor of the RAC to handicapped visitors is not greater than that derived from having the Freight House opened to all.’

  9. KT
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Edward,

    I don’t think anyone disagrees with you. The RAC is already handicapped accessible (on the main level). If you read through the old threads you’ll see that a few people with disabled family members contributed to the conversation. They all ultimately agreed that a Freighthouse that was open and ADA accessible would be a better investment (for those with disabilities and those without) than ADA accessibility to the upper floors of the RAC. No one was arguing against ADA from what I could tell.

  10. egpenet
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    The Freighthouse is already ramped, but I am not sure if the bathroom is accessible.

    Having an elevator at thwe RAC not only allows individuals transportatrion to all levels of both facilities, but also, importantly, allows critical movement of art, equipment, tables, chairs, building materials, etc. throughout the facility.

    My personal vote would be for the Freighthouse. But I also love the RAC. Tough choice.

  11. mark
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Paul and Brian, it may have been mentioned somewhere in an earlier thread, but I was not aware that the entire grant was $500,000. I was under the impression that the whole thing totaled $336,500. I’m now considerably less confused.

    For what it’s worth, it also concerns me that other groups around town that could have benefited from these funds were not given the opportunity. I can understand the appeal of the Riverside Arts Center as a recipient, as it’s a stable, going concern with a track record, but I think that, if there were funds on the table, a group like Friends of the Freighthouse could have gotten their act together, created a business plan, and done whatever else would have been required…

    As for the $500k, may I ask why that full amount was not offered to RAC when this deal was first agreed to? Was there originally another purpose in mind for the remaining $163,500?

  12. Paul Schreiber
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    The $163,000 was to be directed to a riverfront path in Water Street in collaboration with Washtenaw County. The county decided to pull out of the path project, so the money was available for another project.

    I don’t know all of the requirements for the MEDC grant, but I do know that the money had to be committed by April 2008 and spent by the end of 2008.

    I look forward to heightened interest in restoring the historic Freight House by groups like the Ypsilanti Heritige Foundation.

    Paul Schreiber

  13. egpenet
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    The Friends of the Freighthouse did not know about the availability of the funds until they had been earmarked some weeks ago by the RAC.

    A list of required repairs is in-hand, other improvements have already been made and a new list generated, a business plan is being developed and a substantial grant application has been submitted to the state (copy went to city hall recently). Further a search is in progress for other grants. The Friends are very busy making “pitches” in the area.

    News is forthcoming, I hear, about a fundraiser with musical entertainment.

  14. BrianR
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    As for the $500k, may I ask why that full amount was not offered to RAC when this deal was first agreed to? Was there originally another purpose in mind for the remaining $163,500.

    It is my understanding that the original estimates on the construction costs for the elevator back in 2006 were lower. The full amount was not requested because the RAC did not expect to need that much. That should probably be confirmed by a RAC board member, but that’s my recollection of the matter.

    The Friends of the Freighthouse did not know about the availability of the funds until they had been earmarked some weeks ago by the RAC.

    In order to keep my 3rd Ward cred, I must point out that as soon as I knew about this new money (November 19th), Linda knew.

  15. egpenet
    Posted January 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Brian, true’nuf. However, try as Linda DID, including a meeting with Mr. LaRue and other involved people, the RAC deal appeared firm.

    You done your good deed, BR.

  16. John on Forest
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I’m totally surprised that an elevator running three stories could cost a million dollars. Shows what I know of construction costs.

    Anyway. The elevator at RAC would conform with ADA for the RAC third floor (a ramp exists for the second floor) and the DTE building and provide much needed transportation of materials, as pointed out by Ed. IN ADDITION, the same structure built for the elevator would also house a stairwell, which is essential for fire egress from the third floor of RAC and the DTE building. Even without the elevator, the usability of those upper stories is questionable with out the fire egress stairwell.

    If the Friends of the Freight House can secure the grants they are applying for, then the spending of the MEDC grant on the RAC sounds like a good choice to me.

  17. MaryD
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    It seems to me as though the city made this decision with very little input from the taxpayers of Ypsilanti. Apparently this was always a done deal. While I too appreciate the RAC, those upper floors hold little interest for me when compared to our beloved freighthouse.
    Thank you Brian, for your stand.

  18. MaryD
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Re: Valerie’s statement; this is what I read on Ypsi News:
    “Ypsilanti City Council and DDA commit over $505,000 in taxpayer funding to build an elevator at Riverside Arts Center.”
    This statement does not say or imply local Ypsi taxes. Anyone following this story understands that this was grant money.

  19. Barry LaRue
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I’m not a regular visitor, so I’m hoping that jumping in is ok on this. No one at the Riverside intended to secretly highjack funds for the elevator and stair connector between the RAC and the DTE Off Center. We are faced with limited space to grow and the logical way is to go up!

    After completing the Cool Cities improvements to the DTE building Charles Boulard determined that the second floor was about five feet short of a code which requires two means of egress. There is only one central stairway. It was at that point that we formulated the idea of locating the connector in the alley between the two buildings. This serves many purposes. It allows fire egress to the third floor of RAC and the second floor of DTE. It provides for handicapped access to the art gallery, theatre, 2nd and 3rd floors of RAC and 2nd floor of DTE.

    It is true that the ramp on the north side of RAC allows for ADA access to the theatre level. However, the spirit of ADA is not to have patrons enter thru a secondary door. The gallery can be accessed via the back door, but again it is like having your guests enter thru the “servants entrance.”

    EMU is about to submit a grant application to the federal government which would fund classroom improvements to the RAC 3rd floor and some in DTE plus staffing for a period of time. This is predicated on having access to those spaces. Arts education is going to be what makes the Riverside both more sustainable plus increases the economic impact on downtown by bringing more people at more times.

    We envision a center that has activity from early morning til late at night.
    Some of the many ways we are trying to improve ourselves in by participating in the UM Ross School Non-profit Board Fellow program. Our current fellow is working on a comprehensive data base and looking at how to incorporate secure credit card purchases and such into our web site and add WIFI to the building. We also have a EMU intern creating our initial arts curriculum for a pilot arts education program which will launch in April. Yet another pair of EMU students just did a analysis of RACs internal communication and recommended steps to improve them.

    All this is to say that the elevator is one physical improvement that will really help increase our sustainability, improve our impact on downtown and depot town and make RAC even more of a home for people who make art and people who want to learn about art. We think that is a good thing.
    Please help us attain our goal by either contributing time or money or good will.

  20. On the Other Hand
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I applaud what’s being done at the Riverside Arts Center. Or, I would applaud it, if it were being done with funds that they had raised. The truth is the funds were secured by the Planning Department though and a decision as to where to spend them should have been made in public. Instead the funds, when they became free, were pipelined to Barry and the RAC. There’s no doubt that the RAC is an asset for the community, but is it truly a space that serves the public, like the community pool or the freight house?

    The following is a letter I just received about the pool:

    Dear Friends of Rutherford Pool,

    Two meetings have been scheduled to discuss the fate of Rutherford Pool as we know it. The meetings are:

    February 3 at 3:00pm in the Haab’s building on Huron Street just past Pearl Street. Not the restaurant.

    February 5 at 7:00pm at the Senior Center located on Congress Street-right next to the pool.

    At these meetings we will be explaining the plans as we see them to finish testing the pool and the possible repairs that will be made. We will also be taking a survey in which you will be able to indicate what you would like in a new pool facility, what talents you could bring in raising money and services that you could provide in building a new facility.

    This will be the last year of the Friends of Rutherford Pool operating this pool-assuming we can limp it along one more year. We have been saying for many years now that the end may be near-we believe it has now come. So, for all that have said that you enjoy the pool and want to know what you can do to keep it up-now is truly the time to step forward.

    It is our hope that the repairs that may need to be made to get us through one more year can be done this Spring. These repairs will likely use up our “rainy day” reserves. If we want a new pool facility for next year we need to start planning and raising money now. We will need to start a Capital Campaign. Most of the “Friends” committee readily admit that we know pool programming but are not “money” people. We need help!

    Please come to the meeting so we can explain what the problems appear to be at this point. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and volunteer.

    We pride ourselves on having working meetings and using our volunteers. We need people who are committed to keeping swimming alive and well in the Ypsilanti Area.

    Thank you for your time and talents in advance.

    Cathy

  21. Posted January 30, 2008 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Barry raises some excellent points.

    The question in my view isn’t how much it costs, particularly if the money (or most of it) can’t be used for other things. The question is one of value. Will the investment pay off for Ypsi residents? How much risk is involved? What increased or enhanced role will the RAC play in our future if we contribute to this capital investment? $500K, if used wisely, can be a valuable investment in this already-valuable community asset. Used unwisely, we may as well tear up the bills and flush them down the toilet (like we did with that other capital project currently sitting vacant and polluted while costing us a boatload of money in interest for the debt, for which no return on the investment in the foreseeable future is evident).

    It would seem that whatever can be done to fill any community arts vacuum ought to be done, if at all possible. If we are unwilling to spend money for capital improvements to support the arts, then we will have nobody to blame but ourselves for our own pound foolishness.

    Given recent history and its complexity, I can certainly see why some are outraged at what they perceive as yet another costly boondoggle, yet I can see why others think it would be idiotic not to put the elevator in.

    It’s all about priorities, and for us right now, most of our priorities are competing with each other for increasingly scarce funding.

  22. egpenet
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Cameron is thinking.

    Investing in the arts IS a way to get into the new economy, promote youth education … the future … “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera” … (The King and I)

    I think taht an equally important part of Ypsilanti’s future is its PAST … its heritage. I give you architectural beauty, tourism, preservation education, improved neighborhoods, and a revitalized Freighthouse Plaza, complete with renovated Caboose, is a centerpiece! “Botta-boom, botta-bing” … (“Sopranos”)

    Obviously, the choice has been made to invest in the RAC’s infrastructure … to build. Very cool.

    I challenge all of us to face an equally demanding need … to raise the funds needed to renovate the Ypsilanti Freighthouse. I urage every reader to make the effort to contact a member of the Friends of the Freighthouse and lay a big fat check on him or her. If GWBush sends you some money … give it to the Freighthouse. If you can spare a dime, brother, give it to the Freighthouse. If you can panhandle one extra hour on Michigan Avenue, give it to the Freighthouse.

    The RAC is in good hands. The Freighthouse, also in good hands and with a plan, is NEXT!

    (I know the list of needs doesn’t end here, but BOTH of these facilities are TOO important to the future growth of Ypsilanti to lay fallow or let die.)

  23. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Yup. I’ve felt a little like someone who has to choose between “save the wetlands” or “invest in solar” on this one.

    My personal bias runs to the freighthouse, but I’m glad to see RAC getting funding and hope it can become even more of a community center.

    For freighthouse lovers, I hear a meager fundraiser is currently in the works. I’m sure the organizers would be glad for anyone who would drop by with open checkbooks.

  24. egpenet
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, OEC! Yowza!

  25. Ypsi Dad
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    If the pool closes can we flood the Riverside Arts Center in the summer?

  26. Posted January 31, 2008 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    How much money is needed to re-open the Freighthouse? How much money has been raised? Is there contact information for members of the committee? Can anyone provide a receipt for charitable gifts to the Freighthouse?

    It seems easier to give $$ to contribute to Solar Panels on City Hall than to know where a gift to the Freighthouse would end up.

  27. egpenet
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse is a 501(c)(3) organization. Send your donations payable to: Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse … c/o Bonnie Penet, Co-Chair, 108 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

    Membership/emails … suggested $20.00. Any amount will be gratefully accepted and acknowledged. If you can offer services … rehab, docent, guide, host/hostess for future events, let us know.

    And keep April 5th on your calendar … 5PM to ? … wild music from Black Jake & The Carnies and good friends at the Corner Brewery to benefit the Ypsilanti Freighthouse … $5.00 at the door (or more) … music free … all proceeds at the door to the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse … YOWZA!

    I do NOT have the budget figures in front of me, but a very detailed assessment was done and estimates gathered for floor repair and refinishing, wall stabilization and regrading to control standing water around the building which is threatening the foundation. Other things are on the list. My memory tells me $300K for the major stuff and another $150K for odds and ends. Some money is in the bank, but I’m not privy.

    As far as flooding the RAC basement goes … why do that, when we have the inviting Huron River right there?

    Thanks for asking!

  28. John on Forest
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Right on!!!

    Now this is the kind of information sharing that we need.

    Of course, both the RAC and the Freight House are important bricks in the foundations of what Ypsilanti has been, is, and will be.

    It appears that the RAC has most of the funding needed to make a major upgrade that will significantly enhance their ability to service our community, both culturally and economically. As I understand it they are still trying to raise about $40,000.

    Now that RAC is close to having the money needed, let’s also get behind the Freight House renovation, too.

    But, let’s not get into a pissing contest over who should have gotten the first set of money. How unproductive is that?

  29. Posted January 31, 2008 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Egpenet,
    I will send a $50 check to the address you indicate tomorrow. If 5 people also indicate here they will send a $50 check to the Freighthouse, I will send in a second check for another $50. I’d give more, but don’t have more and, yes, will go on the honor system.

  30. mark
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Very cool, Ms. Spout!

    When I get my tax money back, I might just join you.

  31. egpenet
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Dear Ms. Spout:

    Thank you so very much. If The Friends can garner those extra five $50 donations and you send a second $50 … I will donate $100 to match your $100. (My wife, Bonnie, knows none of this, but she will be pleased that interest has been roused locally.

    It is up to the MM readers at this point. I will keep us all appraised.

    Thank you once again.

    And thanks, Mark.

  32. John Gawlas
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    The freighthouse restoration costs that Ed referred to are outlined in the Condition Assessment Report. This is available from the city’s website —

    http://cityofypsilanti.com/services/recreation/recfh/CAR

  33. John Gawlas
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I also wanted to acknowledge the remarks by trusty getto, egpenet, OEC and John on Forest. We should not be pitting one resource or constituency against another in these circumstances. We can certainly discuss how we arrived at given decisions on positioning our available funding, but let’s be mindful of the facts. In comparing the RAC and Freighthouse, let’s remember that the council approved the original diversion of MEDC funds to RAC before the Freighthouse had even awarded the contract for the assessment report. So at that time, the Freighthouse was not adequately qualified by MEDC’s criteria and would likely have not been acceptable. Rutherford Pool still does not have a complete assessment in terms of engineering costs and the like. So to simply throw it in and say why wasn’t the pool given a chance fails to account for the upfront work that must be completed before a project is considered eligible.

  34. egpenet
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    We KNEW all that, John. The RAC elevator is a DONE deal. It’s important.

    With Riverside Park and Frog Island Park in the hands of the Depot Town DDA/CDC for the time being, the Ypsilanti Freighthouse is now at the top of the list, followed closely by Rutherford Pool, and the Senior Center. And the list goes on.

    I’d suggest that the Neighborhood Associations surrounding/bordering each site on the to-do list can get together and work within their neighborhoods and with the city to gather ideas, voluneers, and fundraising ideas to help these affected city resources.

    The Riverside Neighborhood Association is planning several such activities … beginning with the Community Garden in Frog Island Park, to flower planting, to trash party pickups and more.

    Shovelling sidewalks would help every senior and school-aged child. From that simple neioghborhood team effort other ideas will grow. In some cities, neighbors reward each other who shovel snow with hot chocolate or a mailbox thank you.

    Let’s pull together … to pull through.

  35. MaryD
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the info and Teaspout’s challenge-$50 to the: Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse is a 501(c)(3) organization. Send your donations payable to: Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse … c/o Bonnie Penet, Co-Chair, 108 N. Huron, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

    As for pitting one need against another, it is all a matter of priorities.
    And may RAC’s plans reach fruition…

  36. Posted February 1, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I just came across the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2008 Report, which states:

    “The arts, humanities, and museums are critical to the quality of life and livability of America’s cities. It has been shown that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates over $166 billion in economic activity annually, supports over 5.7 million full time jobs, and returns over $12 billion in federal income taxes annually. Governments which support the arts on average see a return on investment of over $7 in taxes for every $1 that the government appropriates.”

    The entire report is here.

  37. Posted February 1, 2008 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    While I’m commenting on this subject, I should also mention that the RAC and the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra are having a joint fundraiser on Sunday, February 10, 2008 from 4-6 at the RAC. For just $20, you can visit with other supporters of the arts, have a glass of wine, all while listening to the YSO’s music director play cocktail piano.

    For more information, visit the RAC’s website.

  38. Paul Schreiber
    Posted February 18, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    The Ypsilanti city manager council information letters (CIL) are now online at (http://cityofypsilanti.com/bd_city-council/Council%20Information%20Letters). Pages four and five of the February 8 CIL (http://cityofypsilanti.com/bd_city-council/Council%20Information%20Letters/2008/02-08-08_council_information_letter) pasted below have information on the qualifying expenditures for the Water Street MEDC funds:

    Michigan Economic Development Corporation Core Community Funds: City Council recently approved the transfer of MEDC Core Community grant funds from the Water Street project to the Riverside Arts Center (RAC) elevator project. The basis for recommending a transfer was that the funds had to be committed before the end of April 2008 and they would not be used for the Water Street project. A question has been raised whether other projects could have been eligible for the Core Communities funds that were transferred to the RAC elevator project from Water Street. Ms. Hart received information from MEDC entitled, “Michigan Strategic Fund.” To summarize relevant sections:

    1. The funds are for local economic development projects as defined by Sec. 430 of the act that set up the fund. Priority is given to projects which are integrated with existing economic development programs and to projects in proportion to the amount that local matching rates exceed the minimum requirement of 10%.

    2. Funds can be used only for land and property acquisition and assembly, demolition, site development, utility modifications and improvements, street and road improvements, telecommunication infrastructure, site location and relocation, infrastructure improvements, and costs related to any of these.

    3. Awards are based on project impact, project marketability, lack of adequate infrastructure or land assembly financing sources, local administrative capacity, and the level of local matching funds.

    4. Funds can’t be used for land sited for use as, or support for, a gaming facility or as a stadium or arena for use by a professional sports team; land or other facilities owned or operated by a gaming facility or by a stadium or arena for use by a professional sports team; or publicly owned land or facilities which may directly or indirectly support a gaming facility or a stadium or arena by a professional sports team.

    It is the understanding of Ms. Hart that the grant was awarded to Ypsilanti – competing against other communities — originally for the park in Water Street because it was part of a larger economic development strategy and the local match was substantially greater than 10%. The local match was counted as the $100,000 Cool Cities grant and the streetscape project in the YDDA, so any other project would have needed to be related to those criteria. Thus, a project outside the YDDA likely wouldn’t be eligible. The RAC elevator project, which grew out of the previous Hyett-Palma study of downtown, is. The MEDC representative specifically told Ms. Hart that improvements to a public swimming pool or other existing public recreational facility likely would not qualify. Therefore, the list of potentially eligible projects, regardless of the tight time frame imposed by MEDC, was minimal.

    Paul Schreiber

  39. Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    The DDA a couple of weeks back committed up to $120,000 in no interest loan for the elevator project. I think it was a 5 or 10 year note.

    The RAC secured the loan by saying at the DDA meeting, if they don’t pay the loan back, the DDA can have the building.

    Uh, doesn’t the DDA already owns the building?

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    – Steve

  40. BT
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Has anyone ridden in it yet? I’d love to know what it’s like to be in a million dollar elevator.

  41. volunteer opp
    Posted March 20, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Coordinator. The Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti (RAC)

    RAC is seeking persons interested in volunteering to serve as coordinator of theatre activities. The responsibilities include serving as the liaison to various theatre groups, creating theater schedules for the calendar year, maintaining theatre rental contracts, and communicating theatre maintenance needs to the facilities manager. Organizational skills are required and an interest in theatre activities is preferred. For more information, contact Riverside Arts Center at 734-480-2787 or leave a message on the contact tab of the website: riversidearts.org

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