FarmingtonJuly 11, 2012
DDA buying restaurant to open up parking
By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — By the end of this month, the Downtown Development Authority will likely own Dimitri’s Restaurant, and more importantly, its parking lot.
For a long time, city leaders on the DDA and the City Council have grappled with supplying enough public parking downtown. Some argue that the lack of public parking hurts businesses and discourages new investment. Employees at downtown businesses have complained that there isn’t enough parking for them near their workplaces.
The city reached an agreement with the Masonic Hall at Grand River and Farmington last fall to allow parking in its lot. The City Council also voted last fall to change on-street parking on Liberty Street from the west side to the east side, which, due to fewer driveways, added a few parking spaces.
The Grove Street reconstruction, now planned for next spring, will transform the street into a boulevard, with a net gain of about 15 parking spaces. And the Dimitri’s purchase, should it go through, would make more than 30 spots available to the general public.
For some of the parking spaces downtown, as with Dimitri’s, a particular business owns the lot and keeps it private for its customers.
The DDA is under contract to close on the purchase of the building no later than July 31. The DDA still had some due diligence to complete last week, which Executive Director Annette Knowles said primarily comprised an environmental assessment.
“The DDA will be the purchaser of it,” said City Manager Vince Pastue. “The process is that we’re advancing them the money for a couple years to, at a minimum, secure the private parking lot for public purposes, but also look at other opportunities for either reoccupying the existing building and/or redeveloping the site.”
The cost is $430,000.
“The city can afford to advance the $430,000, and yeah, we’ve got some financial challenges. But rather than putting it in the bank and getting a low interest rate on our (certificates of deposit), I can loan it to the DDA at 1 percent and still do better. So from the city’s general fund standpoint, we are going to be earning more than what we’re currently earning on it now, but it gives the DDA time to figure out what the long-term plan is,” said Pastue.
“Ideally, what folks would like to see is the property redeveloped with a new building,” said Knowles.
She said the location lends itself to a restaurant, given its proximity to Riley Park and its ability to accommodate outdoor seating.
“Ideally, what we would do is split the property,” she said.
The DDA would keep the rear portion of the land for public parking and sell the part fronting Grand River, she said.
Independent of the DDA’s land purchase, the city planned to reconstruct Warner Street this budget year, which began July 1. Warner Street borders the east side of the Dimitri’s property.
“Because we have this property, we can actually put more parking, on-street parking, on Warner Street as part of the redo of that street,” said Pastue.
There have been multiple City Council agendas lately with closed sessions scheduled to discuss land acquisition. Pastue said that the council supports loaning the money to the DDA.
“We’re going to formalize it here shortly,” said Pastue.
Dimitri’s will cease operations once the DDA owns it, “but we’ll see what we can do to get the property shortly thereafter functioning in a quick manner,” said Pastue.
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