There’s a meeting coming up next week to discuss the “future expectations” of Ypsilanti’s infamous Water Street development. I’m tempted to make a smart-assed remark, but, truth is, there isn’t much the City can do at this point. No one in their right mind is going to invest in new construction in Michigan right now. And all the well-intentioned visioning sessions in the world aren’t going to change that.
I’ve said it before, but the best thing we could do at this point is give a small, select number of parcels away to individuals who we feel confident would use them in some compelling way that would, perhaps, set the tone for future development. Toward that end, I’ve discussed two ideas here in the past. 1) We give half-acre lots to each of a half dozen builders and architects, with the stipulation that they construct inspired, aggressively green housing units. 2) We give some number of acres to an arts organization with the stipulation that they construct a temporary community built from shipping containers. I can go into length about both ideas if you want, but, for now, here’s the memo announcing the upcoming meeting.
City of Ypsilanti
City Manager’s Office
To: Mayor Schreiber and City Council Members
From: April L. McGrath, Director of Administrative Services
Date: October 19, 2009
Subject: Water Street Redevelopment Project Updates and Discussion
On October 6, 2009 staff was prepared to engage Council in a discussion framed around the future expectations of the Water Street Redevelopment Project, however we postponed the conversation until a special meeting could be organized. On October 19, 2009 at 7:00pm in the Council Chambers will be a meeting to begin that discussion. In an effort to prepare Council for this meeting the following points will be discussed in regard to how we advance re-development on the Water Street Redevelopment site:
• Return on Investment:
The likelihood of a redevelopment scenario resulting in enough revenue to pay off the bonds is not likely at this point, either due to it being too little development (not enough density in the form of taxable value), or that the development might be too late in the context of our bond payments and other likely expenses (i.e. infrastructure)
As we’re expecting incremental development over multiple years, infrastructure planning, as well the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality work plans, need to be flexible to accommodate a variety of development scenarios, both providing for the first round of development, as well as subsequent development
Initial development(s) on the Water Street site could easily range from catalytic development that will increase the marketability of the site to noxious uses that would discourage additional development
• Useability Similar to the elements under flexibility, as the site is platted, it is essential that remaining land segments are buildable and desirable for development
Some end uses and/or designs are more likely to receive private and/or public support. For example, state incentives favor multistory mixed use development for Michigan Avenue over single story strip malls.
Engaging City Council in many of these discussion points will aid staff in the continued direction of the Water Street and help with the vision that many Council Members have indicated is lacking. Staff will take this information received from Council and determine if we have enough information to update or create a new action plan for the Water Street Redevelopment Project.
Staff looks forward to having this discussion with City Council, please contact me with further questions.
Or, here’s another idea… We could just turn the entire Water Street parcel into one, massive fast food wasteland. I wonder how many KFCs and Taco Bells you can fit on 38 acres. I’m sure we could fit in at least 50, and still have enough land left over for a dialysis clinic. Just think of all the neon. It would be incredible.