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December 10, 2008

Clark Hill hired to help raise money for transit center

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer


Birmingham, Troy approve cost sharing

agreement for month-to-month contract

BIRMINGHAM — During separate meetings Dec. 15, the Birmingham City Commission and Troy City Council agreed to execute a contract with Clark Hill to help secure funding for a transit center.

Although Birmingham is undertaking the initiative of hiring the firm, Birmingham Planning Director Jana Ecker said the cost — approximately $7,500 a month, on a month-to-month basis — would be evenly split between the two cities.

The idea of the transit center began in 2000 after development firm Grand Sakwa gave Troy approximately 3.5 acres of land — on what used to be the Ford Motor Tractor Plant in the area of Maple Road and Coolidge — to build a transit center as part of their consent agreement to build Midtown Square condominiums and Midtown Square shopping center. The property must be developed before 2010, or control of the parcel reverts back to Grand Sakwa.

“In reviewing the consent judgment, it appears that in order for Troy to acquire the property, they have to obtain funding for the project by June 2010, so obviously it becomes extremely crucial for us to go ahead and seek this funding,” Ecker said.

Birmingham and Troy began collaborating in 2005 to locate a multi-modal transit center where the two cities meet. This year, the communities agreed to embark on a joint planning process for both the transit center and the development of the surrounding area. Members from the Birmingham Planning Department, the Troy Planning Commission, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and the Troy Chamber of Commerce formed a Transit Center Working Group to guide the development and construction of the transit center prior to the 2010 deadline.

Communities that have mass transit will be better prepared for the future, Mayor Stuart Sherman said.

“This is our opportunity to get in line,” he said.

The transit center is estimated to cost a total of $6 million, the majority of which must come from state and federal dollars. City officials say the high cost is driven in large part by the need for an underground tunnel to connect the two communities.

Due to the aggressive timeline and current funding challenges, city officials in both communities agreed to hire Clark Hill as a project manager to take their plan through the state and federal legislative funding processes.

Clark Hill will be responsible for building relationships with key governmental officials to gain support for the transit center, as well as building a coalition of support through clear messages that go beyond the Legislature. Ecker said the firm will be required to secure state and federal funding and other money as available, including additional grants and private dollars for the start-up and construction of the transit center, within the required timeframe, and provide monthly activity reports to the Transit Center Working Group.

Another reason the two communities decided to move forward with securing funding, she said, was changes in the presidential office and the federal economic stimulus packages that will be coming out. Ecker also said the two cites are hoping to secure funding under U.S. House Bill H.R. 7110, which would potentially allow $3.6 billion for projects that are transit related.

“You have to get on a state list in order to qualify for those, but they are 100 percent federal funded, so we wouldn’t even have a match if we were able to get in under this type of a bill. We want to get our name in there and get on that list early on so that we can be one of those first projects,” she said.

SMART bus service, Amtrak train service, Black Sedan service, taxi service and connections to both the Troy Oakland Airport and Aerotropolis will be provided at the transit center.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.