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  • By Lisa Brody

Next step approved on Woodward Bates project

Birmingham city commissioners on Monday, January 11, unanimously approved a non-binding pre-development agreement between the city and Walbridge/Woodward Bates Partners as well as an engagement and cost reimbursement agreement for design schematics for the parking deck and extension of Bates Street, for a cost of not more that $575,000.

In June 2018, following a request for proposal (RFP) process, the city commission chose Walbridge/Woodward Bates Partners to redevelop the N. Old Woodward parking lot with more parking, an extension of Bates Street, a liner of retail along the new street, a mixed use building comprising residential and office space, and a park. Walbridge/Woodward Bates Partners consists of Victor Saroki of Saroki Architecture in Birmingham; Paul Robertson of Robertson Brothers Homes in Bloomfield Hills; John Rakolta Jr., of Walbridge in Detroit, and Ron Boji of Boji Group.

On January 11, assistant city manager Tiffany Gunter said that following commission direction, the city had engaged in development counsel, done market validation, title search completion and went through two phases of environmental mitigation. “There was very minimal mitigation,” she said.

Joseph Fazio, development counsel with law firm Miller Canfield, informed commissioners at the meeting that the predevelopment agreement was “to negotiate a development agreement with the team, including ground lease agreement. It's merely an outline of the development agreement that will be negotiated at a later date. The predevelopment agreement allows both the city and the developer to be on the same page. Until and unless there is a development agreement, neither the city nor the developer is bound.”

He said unless both parties agree to an extension, a development agreement is expected by March 10.

He further assured commissioners that each phase of the development will be brought back to the commissioners for approval. In addition to the public portion, which initially includes rebuilding the N. Old Woodward parking structure and an extension of Bates Streets through to N. Old Woodward, there are four private components.

The goal for the parking structure is to begin construction in fall 2019.

“When the garage goes offline, we will have some 750 parking spaces that will be displaced,” Fazio said. “The parking mitigation plan needs to be a discussion. We have not yet figured that out. It will be in the development agreement.”

Fazio said the engagement and cost reimbursements, for no more than $575,000, are a binding agreement between the city and developer, which the city has the right to terminate at any point, with the city retaining its rights to any and all designs. The first design schematics will be for the parking deck and extension of the road, but not for the public plaza, although it will include budget numbers “for full-blown designs,” he said, but they will not be of construction drawings at this point.

Commissioners unanimously approved both the engagement and cost reimbursements, and for the predevelopment agreement.

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