If approved, a parking structure project that will be proposed on the August ballot will include an extension of Bates Street.

If approved, a parking structure project that will be proposed on the August ballot will include an extension of Bates Street.

File photo by Tiffany Esshaki


Voters to decide $57.4M bond for parking structure

Approval would fund structure with parking fees

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 14, 2019

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BIRMINGHAM — There’s been a lot of hubbub over the past year about the proposed development at North Old Woodward Avenue and Bates Street, which would replace the existing parking deck, create retail and residential spaces, and highlight the natural spaces downtown, particularly access to the Rouge River.

It’s a lot. But at the end of the day, the plan was to bring more parking to downtown Birmingham. Funding for that structure and street extension is what voters will decide on this year’s August ballot.

On May 6, the Birmingham City Commission voted 6-1 to approve putting a $57.4 million bond proposal on the ballot that, if passed, would pay to demolish the current North Old Woodward parking structure, 333 N. Old Woodward Ave., and replace it with an updated structure that houses a little more than 400 additional parking spaces, at a guaranteed maximum price. The project was a recommendation of the Ad Hoc Parking Development Committee in 2017 after a parking demand study.

Commissioner Carroll DeWeese voted against the resolution.

The bond wouldn’t be repaid in tax dollars, but instead by revenues from the parking system, which derives a maximum of $10 per individual car, with different rates for monthly passes.

The commission stressed during the meeting that replacing the current structure, which has reached its life expectancy, is the first step in moving forward with a potential multimillion-dollar public/private partnership at the location, with developers Woodward Bates Partners footing the bill for the private portions of the site plan. The city would own the structure and the public park space surrounding it, and Woodward Bates would lease the land for the mixed-use buildings.

“I think we’re hopeful to get a replacement for our garage, which is in sore need of replacement, and with that we’re hoping to put a building in front of the garage, so it’s not just an ugly garage in front of (people’s view). But that’s an entirely different expense than what the city is committing to,” said Mayor Patty Bordman.

While the commission doesn’t plan to take on the commercial and residential portions of the potential development at this phase of the project, that doesn’t mean there isn’t interest from retailers to get into the new space. During the meeting, David Stanchak, of RH, formerly Restoration Hardware, announced the company’s intention to build a state-of-the-art, five-story gallery store on the site. Similar galleries have been built around the country, including in Napa Valley and New York City.

The gallery would include a rooftop café, and it would replace the existing RH store in Troy’s Somerset Collection; the lease with the mall for that space expires in 2021.

“I think Detroit is doing wonderful things, and we’ve considered Detroit. But we like the master plan of what you’ve done (in Birmingham),” Stanchak said. “We just see it as a really nice opportunity in a controlled environment.”

He added that, logistically, a Birmingham location makes more sense than Detroit, since data shows most of RH’s Michigan customers reside in the area.

The idea of the high-end retailer coming to Birmingham — and potentially drawing other brands in the same vein to do the same — had the commission excited.

“This is a must for the parking, but now I’m eating the cake and the icing on it because we have the best suitable anchor for the structure,” said Mayor Pro Tem Pierre Boutros.

While on board with the plan overall, DeWeese wasn’t keen on the proposal going on the August ballot. He said he would have voted in favor of the move if the proposal were part of the November election.

“I feel if we had more time, we could shift the perspective in the city and get more of a consensus and agreement,” he explained. “I hope I’m wrong. I hope the bond passes, but I’m uncertain about it.”

If the bond does fail, the project overall would dissolve, as the private developments can’t move forward without the new public structure, which needs approval from voters.

To learn more about the project, including documents from every phase of the planning, visit bhamgov.org.

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