When EMU privatized their parking, no one apparently considered how doing so might adversely affect local businesses along Cross Street

Remember how, a while back, we were discussing how Eastern Michigan University wanted to privatize their parking enforcement, selling off the rights to their 9,700 parking spaces to an out-of-state firm for a term of 35 years in exchange for a big up-front payment of $55 million? Well, as of yesterday, this new for-profit company has taken over, and, as I hear it, business owners along Cross Street, just opposite the University, are not too happy. You see, it would appear as though this new, for-profit parking enforcement company has decided not to honor the decades-old agreement that EMU had with the city to make their downtown parking spaces open to the public in the evening, and on weekends. So, last night, while people were dining out at Tower Inn, getting coffee at Sweetwaters, and drinking beer at the Wurst Bar, employees of this company were out ticketing all of their cars. And, right now, business owners aren’t sure what they’re going to do, as they’ve lost about 63 parking spots overnight, without any warning… Following is a message left for City Council member Pete Murdock by Tower Inn owner Rois Savvides.

Murdock responded to Savvides as follows. “This was not specifically discussed (at City Council),” Murdock said, “but the assumption was that there would be no changes to existing arrangements between the City and EMU.” He then went on to say that he’d already reached out to EMU to see if we could work something out. [As you might recall, given the structure of the deal between EMU and the corporate entities purchasing the parking concession, they had to have the blessing of City Council before they could finalize the bond funding at the heart of the deal. There was some debate, fueled in part by the fact that many on the EMU campus were against the privatization, but Ypsilanti City Council eventually voted in support of the arrangement.]

Hopefully I’m wrong, but my guess is that the out-of-state company that put this deal together won’t be terribly sympathetic to the desires of our local business community, especially when there’s money to be made issuing parking tickets… For the sake of everyone involved, though, I’m hopeful that a compromise can be reached. Because, without it, I’m afraid that we might loose local businesses along that block of Cross Street, and the jobs that they provide. And I know it’s probably not in EMU’s best interest to have boarded up storefronts across the street from their campus.

To give you a sense of how significant of an issue this is, check out the map above, which shows the two EMU lots in question, both of which have been open to the public for decades in the evenings, and over weekends… I didn’t do a detailed count, but, having talked with a few people who work in the area, I think there are about 50 metered spots in the vicinity of the block in question, and limited non-metered parking spots. So, I think it’s safe to say that the loss of 63 spots isn’t trivial.

update: Councilman Pete Murdock just shared the following in the comments section. It’s a letter from the parking company to EMU leadership.

I spoke with the owner of the Tower Inn yesterday and then again today. I told him that we were looking into the agreement and speaking internally to see if we can find a solution. In the meantime (until Monday at the earliest), we will only issue citations for permits in the lot between 6am and 5pm on weekdays. Our intention is to propose a long term solution that does not keep the general population from accessing these businesses. I will contact the owner of the Tower Inn today to let him know that we will continue to limit citations to the hours of 6am through 5pm until mid-June as we do our best to work toward a long term resolution.

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21 Comments

  1. jesse kranyak
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your diligence on behalf of local business, as always

  2. Anonymous
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I don’t doubt that EMU and the city, having not thought this through, are going to end up having to pay these companies to open the lots at night.

  3. Nick
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    A small point of correction about the city council thing, they didn’t need the blessing of city council to move forward with privatizing parking, they just needed the city council to sign off on issuing public bonds for the agreement. If the city council had voted no then the university would have moved forward with private bonds which would have cost EMU an additional $10 million.

    The council just voted on whether or not EMU got the higher amount, but had 0 say on the arrangement going through.

  4. Jcp2
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Affect vs effect?

  5. Facebook stalker
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    From EMU professor Mark Higbee:

    Other universities that have suddenly deprived their neighbors of features they value (like jogging on campus, or free parking for theater events) have, time and time again, alienated their neighbors, creating needless tensions. Why would EMU or any institution do this? Poor planning.

  6. Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Nick, I think that I have clarified the language.

  7. Demetrius
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Several years ago, when EMU was building its new Student Center, there was a tremendous opportunity for the college to work with City leaders to encourage students (and student-life) to become better integrated with the “regular” community – as is the case in most other college towns. Instead, EMU decided to build its new Student Center blocks away from Cross Street, deeper inside campus, and surrounded by surface parking lots.

    And lately, EMU has been busy building tall wrought-iron fences and stone walls around much of the campus and many of its parking lots – once again sending the message that the college seeks to be a self-contained “island,” completely separate from the local community.

    Now, in chasing after this one-time $55 million dollar “bonus,” they’ve once again snubbed the local community (and local business community).

    There is so much potential to develop mutually-beneficial relationships between EMU and the City … but there doesn’t seem to be much willingness, or vision.

  8. Kim
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    EMU can’t help but fuck themselves at every turn. Utter incompetence.

  9. Taco Farts
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Michigan is full of incompetent and/or evil politicians, and a population who mostly think their suffering is a source of pride.

  10. Lynne
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    If it makes anyone feel better I am going to use this as the reason I wont donate to the Alumni Foundation. It isnt true as I have never and will never make that donation but it will be fun to have something to tell them when they call.

  11. M
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I blame the Republican political appointees on the Board of Regents.

  12. site admin
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The offensive typo in the headline has been dealt with.

  13. Demetrius
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Remember – every dollar spent by students at local, independent businesses is a dollar NOT spent on EMU’s campus. I’m sure the university get a generous cut of the revenue from the sales at their many chain/franchise outlets in the Student Center.

  14. wobblie
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    M, you are absolutely right. Something else to thank Rick (the killer) Snyder for. Demetrius, it has everything to do with getting money into the hands of those who will make political donations to Republicans. I am sure EMU does not get any form of a cut from the sales at businesses located on campus. The Regents could care less about the finances of the University. It is all about enriching the donor class.
    The list of ways in which blue Ypsilanti has been screwed by Republicans is quit long. A quick example is the State Police post. We had one here in Ypsilanti for some thing like 70 years. Snyder killed it–but the Republican leaning township of Salem gets a post—you tell me there is some kind of law enforcement l0gic to that. The state killing the proposed low income housing development on Water St. is another example. If it means driving a few small businesses under, do you think they care?

  15. M
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s not only the businesses that are hurting. As I understand it, the EMU Theatre depended on public access to those lots for their performances. They have performances coming up this summer, and they aren’t sure what to do. But, hey, $55 Million!

  16. Janette Rook
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, I sincerely hope this can be fixed, it will really hurt the Cross St businesses. I was at the meeting & it didn’t come up as an issue. The speakers & crowd associated were understandably heated about outsourcing of jobs

  17. Pete Murdock
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    FROM THE PARKING FIRM AT EMU TO EMU

    “I spoke with the owner of the Tower Inn yesterday and then again today. I told him that we were looking into the agreement and speaking internally to see if we can find a solution. In the meantime (until Monday at the earliest), we will only issue citations for permits in the lot between 6am and 5pm on weekdays. Our intention is to propose a long term solution that does not keep the general population from accessing these businesses. I will contact the owner of the Tower Inn today to let him know that we will continue to limit citations to the hours of 6am through 5pm until mid-June as we do our best to work toward a long term resolution.”

  18. Jcp2
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Long term resolution 1: parking becomes metered between 6 pm – 5 am.
    Long term resolution 2: owners pay monthly fee to allow public access to lot between 6 pm – 5 am.
    Long term resolution 3: owners pay for vouchers for customers to put in car to avoid ticket.
    Long term resolution 4: person collects $5 per lot entry between 6 pm to 10 pm on weekends.

  19. Bike666
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    What’s the punishment for not paying a 3rd party parking ticket? It’s not the city or state issuing the tickets.

  20. Adam Gainsley
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Pete Murdock passed along this missive

    FROM THE PARKING FIRM AT EMU TO EMU

    “I spoke with the owner of the Tower Inn yesterday and then again today. I told him that we were looking into the agreement and speaking internally to see if we can find a solution. In the meantime (until Monday at the earliest), we will only issue citations for permits in the lot between 6am and 5pm on weekdays. Our intention is to propose a long term solution that does not keep the general population from accessing these businesses. I will contact the owner of the Tower Inn today to let him know that we will continue to limit citations to the hours of 6am through 5pm until mid-June as we do our best to work toward a long term resolution.”

  21. JM
    Posted June 30, 2018 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    “This was not specifically discussed (at City Council),” Murdock said, “but the assumption was that there would be no changes to existing arrangements between the City and EMU.”

    Fucking incompetence at its finest. Just another example of clueless, small-town City of Ypsilanti thinking getting hosed by a business deal.

    Make the city contract with some business development professional who must be consulted on any seven figure deal.

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