Survey: Support for New Downtown Library

The Ann Arbor District Library board is continuing its consideration of a possible new or renovated downtown building. At its April 16, 2012 meeting, the group received a report of recent survey results that gauged support for a millage to fund such a project.

The survey showed that if a vote were taken now – on funding a $65 million renovation or new construction project with a property tax increase of 0.69 mills – 45% of survey respondents would vote yes, and another 15% would lean toward a yes vote. That compares with a total 37% who said they would either vote no or lean toward no. [.pdf of survey results]

The survey also asked about support if the project were scaled back, requiring an 0.51 mill increase or an 0.25 mill increase. In those cases, the project received favorable support (yes or leaning to yes) of 61% and 72%, respectively. Results from the survey also indicated an 82% positive rating of the current downtown facility (41% excellent and 42% pretty good). Those who indicated a negative perception of the downtown building, whichis located at 343 S. Fifth Ave., cited construction (20%), parking (20%) and “needs upgrades” (15%) as the main reasons for that perception.

The survey was conducted by the Lansing firm EPIC-MRA from March 3-5, 2012 and reflects a sample of 400 responses, with a margin of error of ±4.9%.

In commenting on the survey at the board meeting, AADL director Josie Parker stressed that no decision has been made about the downtown building. But she pointed to the library’s five-year strategic plan, adopted by the board in 2010, which includes this goal: ”Renovate or replace the downtown library with attention to the condition of the existing building; tax base; revenue stream; development of surrounding properties and demographics.”

Also at the April 16 meeting, the board formally appointed a special facilities committee to work on the project. The committee includes AADL board members Prue Rosenthal (chair), Ed Surovell and Nancy Kaplan. At the board’s March 19 meeting, Rosenthal reported that the group had already met informally with library staff.

By way of background, in November 2011, the board voted to provide $45,000 in funding for consultants to help resume the process of possibly redeveloping that downtown building. The building is located south of the city’s new underground parking structure, which is being built by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and is tentatively named the Library Lane parking structure.

In late 2008 the AADL board had voted to suspend redevelopment of the downtown building, citing the shaky economy. [See Chronicle coverage: "Citing Economy, Board Halts Library Project." The issue has been addressed at subsequent AADL board meetings as well: "New Downtown Library? If, When and Where," and "Board Renews Library Building Discussion"]

This brief was filed from the conference room of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building, located at 343 S. Fifth Ave. A more detailed report will follow: [link]