DDA moves two projects from its waiting list

March 25, 2012
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A project that has been waiting in the wings for nearly three years is expected to finally get underway in early May and end by the time ArtPrize begins in September.

The reconstruction of downtown’s Lyon Square, which goes west from Monroe Avenue to the bank of the Grand River, is tentatively set to begin in about a month. The Downtown Development Authority, the Convention and Arena Authority, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the Windquest Group have partnered on the project. A cost-sharing agreement is expected to be released soon.

But the project’s design fees seem to have been taken care of, as the partners have agreed to pay Concept Design Group $200,000 for its work in the reconstruction effort, which promises to make the square more attractive and hopes to draw more people to the riverbank. Each partner will pick up a quarter of the total tab.

“Each of the four partners has agreed to that, and some have made deposits,” said Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong to the DDA.

The work involves making improvements to the street, the streetscape and the small amphitheater near the riverbank. The skywalk that stretches from DeVos Place to the Amway Grand Plaza will also get a new skin.

“There’s no statue planned at this point,” said Stephen Fry, president of Concept Design Group, “but there is a place to put one.”

Another project that has been hanging on the DDA’s to-do list for a while is about to begin. Dykema Excavators Inc. won the bid to manage the reconstruction of Oakes Street from Market to Ottawa avenues. It submitted the lowest bid — $773,597 — of the five firms that competed for the project. With contingencies and other costs, total expenditures are not to exceed $1.84 million. The DDA will pay for most of the work — $1.68 million — while the city’s water fund will spend $162,000 on the project.

Oakes will be reconstructed, the water main will be replaced, new lights will be installed and the street will be landscaped. In addition, Consumers Energy will bury the power lines. That last task is estimated to cost $650,000, which is included in the spending limit. City commissioners are likely to approve the work this week.

The DDA ratified another agreement with Consumers Energy, this time for the Urban Market project it is developing in conjunction with the Grand Acton Committee on 3.5 acres along Ionia Avenue SE. The contract calls for the utility to bury the power lines there, too. Consumers Energy’s charge for doing that is $914,582, higher than the $850,000 the DDA planned to pay for the work.

A $2.3 million bond from the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is financing the bulk of the infrastructure work scheduled for the site, and that revenue source is capped. So DeLong suggested that the DDA pay for the difference with the proceeds from a 2009 capital bond, and the board agreed to do that in order to keep the development on schedule. The market is set to open next year.

Also, DDA Treasurer Jana Wallace told board members that if the state eliminates the entire Personal Property Tax, including the utility portion, the agency would lose 6 percent of its revenue. “You would lose 6 percent of your revenue if all three were eliminated,” she said of the commercial, industrial and utility components of the tax that is on legislative life support. “Even without the PPT, you’ll be OK if you keep your expenditures in check.”

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said there are about 250 DDAs in the state and each one relies on that revenue source to a certain degree. He said about half of those boards belong to the Michigan Downtown Association, but he added that the MDA isn’t known as a strong political lobbying group for the state’s downtowns.

“The replacement (revenue) is going to be critical to the DDA,” said DeLong. “It has to be done perfectly; otherwise, it will put the critical quality-of-life improvements you make at risk.”

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