Parking bond proposal goes down in landslide

August 7, 2019

Birmingham residents overwhelmingly rejected a parking structure bond proposal in the amount of $57.4 million in order to secure financing for demolition and rebuilding of a new parking structure to replace the N. Old Woodward structure and an extension of Bates Street, by a vote of 3,956 to 1,842.

With a total vote of 5,798 votes cast, 68 percent of voters voted against the parking structure bond, while almost 32 percent voted to approve the measure. Voters turned the proposal down in every city precinct.

The vote was to ask voters to approve the issuance of a general obligation bond to demolish the current N. Old Woodward structure and rebuild it, providing approximately 450 more needed parking spots in the downtown. State law requires all municipalities to obtain approval of its residents when going for a general obligation bond because the full faith and credit of the community is being pledged. It was to have been the first phase of the Woodward Bates project, which would have also added a public plaza, a bridge to Booth Park, a five-story building fronting Old Woodward which was slated to become an RH (Restoration Hardware) Gallery store with rooftop restaurant, a residential and commercial building on Willits Street, and a residential building along the rear of the four-acre parcel as part of a public-private partnership.

Birmingham had assured residents that the bonds would have been paid off with proceeds of the city's parking revenue fund, but concerns over the request for proposal, who the city commission awarded the project to, terms for the ground lease, that the city was leasing the property, even that RH would be in the center of downtown Birmingham eating up the parking, all planted seeds of doubt in enough voters' minds that they turned the proposal down.

The group backing the bond proposal, Birmingham YES, heavily outspent two citizen groups to the tune of about $121,000 in the failed effort to pass the parking proposal.

City officials have said the deal for the four-acre property, including providing more parking at this time in downtown Birmingham, would be dead if voters declined the bond proposal.

Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine thanked everyone who took the time to vote.

“The city is going to continue to address the growing parking demands, and we'll have to implement parking mitigation plans until additional capacity can be obtained,” Valentine said.

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