Curbing the DDA
Council Republicans under then-mayor Lou Belcher created Ann Arbor's DDA in 1982. To finance it, they turned downtown into a tax increment financing (TIF) district. The DDA "captures" increased tax revenues from downtown redevelopment--money that otherwise would go to local taxing authorities--and uses it to finance public improvements.
Council had specific improvements in mind: beautifying downtown sidewalks and building parking structures. The DDA built the Ann-Ashley and Tally Hall structures, then took over management of the older structures as well. At the time, they were literally crumbling after decades of deferred maintenance, and costing the city's general fund $250,000 a year.
DDA executive director Susan Pollay recalls that when she was hired in 1996, the group's "first priority was fixing the parking structures and fixing them forever." That it did: the parking system--now including street spaces as well--will likely gross $19 million this year. The parking structures are 80 to 90 percent full at least half of weekdays, and a strict maintenance schedule keeps them in good repair.