Saline City Council met for a work session on Monday night to discuss a proposed parking analysis in the northwest quadrant of the downtown four corners area. Specifically, they were talking about the eastern half of the block encompassed by Michigan Avenue, North Ann Arbor Street, McKay Street and Lewis Street.
Downtown developer Bill Kinley originally proposed the study and obtained a bid from Beckett and Raeder, Inc. He was acting on ideas he has described previously.
Kinley has subsequently passed the project off to Saline Main Street who are also quite interested in maximizing the utilization of this space. The study will cost $5,000, of which Main Street will pay $2,000 and Kinley’s company $3,000.
Saline Main Street Director Riley Hollenbaugh promoted the project and answered questions posed by council members. Main Street, he said, believes the project will help create economic development downtown.
“We want your backing on this,” Hollenbaugh said. “The city needs to be in on this, because we won’t move forward with this project unless the city is onboard with it.”
Council member Linda TerHaar, who lives very near the project area had the most questions. She suggested that the study should include obtaining the opinions of residential neighbors and not just businesses.
Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads said he was glad to see that the study would not only be about parking.
“I’d like to see it retitled ‘property utilization study,’” he said.
Councilman Dean Girbach asked whether the creation of additional public parking space here would be accomplished by the city buying property or through a leasing arrangement. He said he would “not support any condemnation action.”
Hollenbaugh said he felt that it would probably be through the city buying property through an amicable arrangement with land owners. City Manager Todd Campbell said he preferred a leasing arrangement.
“I would advocate for leasing of property vs. purchasing so there is not a large capital outlay as we continue to struggle,” Campbell said.
Campbell felt that an arrangement could be made wherein the city agrees to maintain a private lot in exchange for use during off hours.
Rhoads reminded the council that such considerations are further down the road.
“This only a study,” Rhoads said. “It doesn’t commit the city to do anything at any particular time and I can’t think of any reason why we would not support someone else funding a study that will provide us more information.”
Kinley was present at the meeting and was invited to provide his thoughts. He spoke of the potential of this location.
“It seems like a large untapped resource in downtown for parking,” Kinley said. “It’s already paved and it’s just very underutilized.”
Mayor Brian Marl agreed. While Kinley referred to the area as a “sea of asphalt,” Marl called it a “concrete jungle.”
“This quadrant of our downtown is sort of the low hanging fruit if you will,” Marl said. “It is underutilized in many ways.”
Ultimately all of the council members said they could support the project, so Saline Main Street will continue to move forward with it.