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  • By Lisa Brody

Darakjian lawsuit against Birmingham dismissed

A federal lawsuit filed by TIR Equities, a real estate development company, and its principal, Ara Darakjian, against the city of Birmingham, and two city officials, city manager Joe Valentine and city commissioner Mark Nickita, after its bid was rejected for the N. Old Woodward Bates project, was dismissed on Monday, July 29, by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts. Birmingham, joined by Woodward Bates Partners, comprising Victor Saroki of Saroki Architecture in Birmingham; Paul Robertson of Robertson Brothers Homes in Bloomfield Hills; and John Rakolta Jr. of Walbridge in Detroit and Ron Boji of Boji of Boji Group in Lansing, responded to the lawsuit denying TIR's allegations and requesting a jury trial, attorney costs and denial of damages to Darakjian. In its order, the court stated it was granting Woodward Bates' motion to dismiss and the city of Birmingham's motion of judgment on the pleadings with prejudice. Judge Roberts stated that Darakjian does not have standing as an individual or as a municipal taxpayer to bring a claim, and TIR fails legal the standing issue because “disappointed bidder ” does not give it legal standing. In the order, the court agreed with the defendants who noted that “Darakjian lacks standing as an individual because TIR submitted the bid – not him.” It also concurred that the city has the right, “at its sole discretion” to rejedt “any and all submittals, when, in its opinion, it is determined to be in the public interest to do so.” Roberts ruled that Darakjian had not established “a claim which relief can be granted.” Darakjian, representing TIR, filed the lawsuit in May 2019, asserting that by the city choosing Woodward Bates Partners they have been deprived of their constitutional right to due process. TIR Equities was one of two finalists, along with 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. Following a lengthy process, in January 2018, both TIR Equities and Woodward Bates Partners submitted bids to the city's ad hoc parking development committee in response to an RFP. The committee recommended Woodward Bates Partners to the city commission, and the commission approved the recommendation on June 25, 2018. After the court decision, Birmingham issued reaction from both the current mayor and the city manager. Birmingham Mayor Patty Bordman responded to the dismissal of the lawsuit by stating: “The City was confident from the outset that there would be a favorable outcome in this matter. In fact, the court's dismissal of every aspect of this lawsuit shows that the city of Birmingham engaged in no wrongdoing, whatsoever.” “I’m glad that this case has been decided and that the city can move forward. The city of Birmingham has always run a fair and transparent competitive bidding process,” said city manager Joseph A. Valentine. The Woodward Bates group, through a spokesperson, put out a statement on the court decision and characterized the TIR Equities proposal as “a non-conforming and dis-proportionate sized building for the neighboring developments and proposed 2,000 underground parking spaces, which are both cost-prohibitive and unfeasible. City officials said the project didn’t meet the requirements laid out in the RFP.” “We’ve been confident in the fairness of the process from the beginning and have worked hard to ensure our project was best choice for the city of Birmingham, its downtown businesses and residents,” said Woodward Bates spokesman John Truscott. “The decision today confirms that this process was transparent and fair. In the course of this campaign opponents have made it their mission to mislead and confuse Birmingham voters by spreading misinformation. Hopefully this ruling today will help voters see through the deception and make an informed decision on August 6.”

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