Behind the Scenes: Sports Illustrated Resorts

Jan 10, 2024 | City Council

In the last week, the City granted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and released more information about a proposed Sports Illustrated Resorts Hotel and Conference Center. The whole of FOIA 2330 includes correspondence from October 5 through December 11, 2023 and can be found here: (link)

This information adds to what was released in a FOIA filed last October.  The whole of FOIA 2209 includes correspondence from May 1 through October 5, 2023 and can be found here: (link)

A sports-themed hotel is proposed as a development on a City-owned property (the “Kline lot”) at William and Ashley. In 2019, a previous Council designated this lot for affordable housing and the Ann Arbor housing commission assessed it as ‘high priority’ for the development of affordable housing. A previous Council funded community engagement around the public’s preferred use of this site— a consultant’s report and public survey revealed strong support for maximizing the development of long-term housing on the site. I wrote about recent policy, assessment, and plans for the Kline lot in October 2023:
https://a2elnel.com/post/ann-arbor-for-sale-sports-illustrated-resorts/

The October 2023 FOIA revealed that the whole of City Council was invited to participate in private meetings with a developer. In September 2023, Council members saw renderings for a proposed 16-18 story Sports Illustrated Resorts hotel, conference center, food court, time-share condos, and parking garage. In advance of these meetings, City Administrator Dohoney explained:

“We would have to do two briefings because if they were all in one that would be viewed as a public meeting, and have to be on tv… Not everyone will come but I’d like to provide them two options to come see it if they choose too. Several of them have day jobs so it would be hit or miss…”

The new FOIA reveals that since early October 2023, City attorneys, consulting attorneys hired by the City, and other City staff under the direction of City Administrator Dohoney have been negotiating specific terms for a deal to develop the Kline lot. That deal would involve City-issued tax-exempt bonds, brownfield tax abatements, and other public subsidy of a Sports Illustrated Resorts development. Below is the proposed “Transaction Structure”:

Sports Illustrated Resorts Ann Arbor proposed structure dated November 9, 2023

On October 19, 2023, the developer’s original statement of “Project Purpose & Description” explained:

“The development of the Project at the Project Site will bring substantial economic benefits to the City, create jobs and employment opportunities and help it alleviate the burdens of government. The Project Site is currently used as a parking facility. The Project Site will be developed as a parking garage, and as a hotel and conference center facility, which is a benefit to the City.”

By November 7, 2023, the project purpose was amended to read:

“The Developer believes the development of the Project at the Project Site will bring substantial economic benefits to the City, create jobs and employment opportunities and help alleviate the burdens of government. The Project Site is currently used as a surface parking lot. The Project Site will be developed as a mixed-use development including a parking garage (the “Garage”), a hotel and conference center facility (the “Hotel”), which are both a benefit to the City and, depending on the market for same, a residential phase containing the Residences.” [emphasis added]

Details of this deal were revealed to Council in a closed session that occurred on November 18, 2023. In advance of that meeting City Council received an email from Mr Dohoney that explained, in part:

“The Project calls for a pad to be constructed on top of the hotel. From there up to 105 market rate condominiums are to be constructed. This portion of construction is to be led by Travel + Leisure based in Orlando, Florida. Each of these units will be $1M+ properties”

And

“We need to attract more people to Ann Arbor. We want to be a community that is attractive to a very diverse cadre of people. We need more people to consider doing business here. We want to densify our city and that includes downtown. Thriving downtowns are vibrant, and dynamic destinations exuding a sense of place.”

A local resident has organized the results of multiple FOIA requests and other relevant information about what’s proposed. I urge anyone interested in following this issue to visit the website below:
https://www.lineitupa2.com