Fake news is rearing its ugly head in Ferndale, threatening to derail the city’s attempt to follow through on its plans to build a mixed-use parking deck to alleviate parking shortages in the downtown business district.
At issue is the mixed-use part of the proposed structure, which would be located on the site of a surface parking lot at Allen and West Troy streets — not the structure itself.
Residents, egged on by downtown business owners and a largely sympathetic piece in a neighborhood mailer called Ferndale Friends, are urging the city to scrap its original plan to build a parking deck that includes ground-flour storefronts and the potential to add office space on top further down the line. Instead, they want a plain old pre-cast parking garage, hold the frills.
Seriously. In Fabulous Ferndale.
From Oakland County 115:
The swell of business concern came after a letter was distributed and signed by 45 businesses opposing the mixed use design. The letter inaccurately stated that a simple deck could be done in six months, and mixed use would take 1.5-2 years. In reality a single use would take 9-12 months and a mixed use would take 12-15.
The letter also called for a two-three story deck instead of the four-story deck that is proposed. “We respectfully request that the plan for Ferndale’s future, solve our parking problem, refrain from creating additional demands for parking, not overshadow the historic character of our community and not threaten current businesses,” the letter stated.
Now, residents are arming themselves with petitions, citing the business owners’ concerns. Plenty of residents are also telling people that the reported $20 million bond (it would be up to $20 million) would be paid by taxpayers; in reality, it would be paid off by revenue from parking, traffic tickets and from storefront leases.
Ferndale’s parking pickle
If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, it’s because you have.
Two years ago, city officials threw in the towel on a proposed public-private partnership that would have added two new mixed-use parking decks in downtown Ferndale after a tide of opposition from residents and business owners essentially tarred the project.
Then, as now, business owners objected to the threat to their bottom lines from parking disruptions.
I am not insensitive to that issue, and I don’t think the city is, either. I don’t doubt that a lot of downtown businesses face narrow margins for survival without a parking lot taken away. But the city has been grappling with its parking shortage for at least a decade, and it has made clear its intent to work on temporary parking solutions during construction.
The city has also said it wants to attract more office development as a way to generate more daytime traffic for business owners.
That downtown business owners are pleading for the city not to “create additional demands for parking” sends a very mixed message. Are they afraid of more competition? Of bigger crowds plying Nine Mile? Of change itself?
Ferndale is in the midst of a growth spurt. Frankly, it needs it. As I recently wrote, there’s plenty of room to grow.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to feel passionate about a parking deck. But Detroit has demonstrated the potential of mixed-use parking decks with projects like the Z Garage, which has filled with vibrant street-level businesses that integrate more or less seamlessly with the urban fabric — storefronts, pedestrian activity, murals and the like — than a hulking structure that exists only to house cars.
Ferndale, we should be better than this.
Update: Oakland County Times (formerly Oakland County 115) has an story on petitioners spreading false information to gather signatures in an effort to force the issue to go to a public vote.
Photo by soupstance