Prices to Get Tweaked as Parking Deck Opens

Hieftje: Planning new deck top needs context of other new parks

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (May 2, 2012): The one action item on the board’s agenda was a resolution directing its operations committee to start applying demand-management principles to the pricing for permits in Ann Arbor’s public parking system. The resolution, which passed unanimously, notes that the goal of the pricing strategy is to attract patrons to those structures that are located farther away from the University of Michigan campus.

Roger Hewitt and Keith Orr

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board members Roger Hewitt (left) and Keith Orr. They're examining a Girl Scout badge created for assisting in the Downtown Blooms event. The car on the wall in the background is a mockup of the planned wayfinding system for the levels of the new underground parking structure, anticipated to open by mid-July. (Photos by the writer.)

One of those structures farther west of the campus is the new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue, which is nearing completion. The garage, which the DDA is currently calling the “Library Lane” parking structure, is now expected to open by the time the art fairs begin, which this year fall on July 18–21. South Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William is expected to re-open by Memorial Day.

A characterization of that timing as “on schedule” was disputed during public commentary by Ali Ramlawi, owner of the Jerusalem Garden restaurant. Jerusalem Garden is adjacent to the construction site. Ramlawi noted that the structure was originally due to be completed by August 2011.

The future use of the top of the underground garage was the subject of public commentary from advocates who’d like to see it used as a green plaza. That suggestion was met with remarks from mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board, with a description of his expectation that three major parcels would soon be incorporated into the city’s park system – 721 N. Main, 415 W. Washington, and the MichCon property (located between the Amtrak rail station and the Huron River near the Broadway bridges). Hieftje’s point was that the additional financial burden for the maintenance of those parcels as parks might impact the city’s ability to add a downtown green plaza to the park system.

Requests for better information about the parking system and suggestions for disseminating information about the availability of open parking spaces were topics of additional public commentary.

Although it was not an action item, the board discussed a draft policy on supporting “brownfield” projects – a policy prompted by discussions at the board’s partnerships committee over the last few months. [.pdf of draft DDA brownfield policy]

The committee has been discussing a proposal by Dan Ketelaar for support of a proposed development at 618 S. Main, which received a positive recommendation from the Ann Arbor planning commission on Jan. 19, 2012. If the project moves forward, the 7-story building would include 190 units for 231 bedrooms, plus two levels of parking for 121 vehicles. Ketelaar has estimated that the tax on the increment between the current valuation of the property and the final built project would yield around $250,000 a year in TIF (tax increment finance) revenue to the DDA. If adopted as it’s currently worded in the draft, the formula in the policy would translate into up to $625,000 of support for 618 S. Main.

The board also received updates on the third-quarter financial statements for the DDA, as well as an update on the Connection William Street planning project. 

The DDA manages the city’s public parking system under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor that ensures the city receives 17% of the gross parking revenues, which amounts to around $3 million annually.

So parking is typically a topic at DDA board meetings that receives a great deal of time and attention. The May 2, 2012 meeting was no different. The construction of the new parking garage on South Fifth Avenue was highlighted at the meeting in three ways: (1) public comment on future planning for the top of the underground parking garage from advocates of a public park to be constructed there; (2) a resolution to help foster usage of the new garage through differential pricing; and (3) and the regular update on construction progress.

Parking Structure Park

A request for proposals (RFP) process that could have led to the selection of a development project on the top of the underground parking structure was terminated by the Ann Arbor city council on April 4, 2011. The structure includes reinforced footings designed to support future development on the site.

Parking Structure Park: Public Comment – Library Green

Will Hathaway told the board that he was speaking on behalf of group of Ann Arborites advocating for a downtown public park – a Library Green on the Library Lot. He allowed that there are other competing views for the future of the Library Lot. He also allowed that there are also concerns about the possible impact of public open space in the downtown.

He reviewed the site plan for the top of the parking structure, given the absence of any future development on the top of the lot. The design includes 40 parking spaces, he said.


The red rectangle outlines the area where Hathaway and the Library Green advocates would like to see a public park/plaza constructed, instead of using all the available area for surface parking. (Image links to higher resolution .pdf file)

Hathaway then reviewed the configuration of the spaces that are currently planned for the top of the structure. He suggested that a public plaza be created now and proposed a configuration that would leave 18 parking spaces, but would allow for a plaza too.

He invited the DDA board to think about an interactive water feature or an ice rink or a piece of public art like The Cube as elements of the plaza. He reported that he’d been on a tour of the underground garage, which is nearing completion, and he allowed that in some ways it’s architecturally beautiful.

But it needs a better “crown,” Hathaway said, than a surface parking lot.

Eric Lipson introduced himself as a resident of Ann Arbor and former city planning commissioner. He told the board he was also wearing the hat of a Library Green advocate. He explained that as general manager of the Inter-Cooperative Council, he was also representing a stakeholder in the Connecting William Street project. The ICC houses 600 members, and its headquarters is located on East William Street, within the area of study for that project.

Lipson reminded the DDA board of the Calthorpe process that the community had engaged in around 2005. He described it as an extensive process that had included a series of design charettes. One of the ideas that had emerged was the need for a public plaza, or a “town square.” The Calthorpe report mentions a town square over a dozen times, Lipson said, and depicts such a square on the Library Lot.

Lipson called it a perfect time to revisit the question of what to put on top of the underground structure. He told the board it was doing an excellent job on the Connecting William Street project. The DDA’s planning and research specialist, Amber Miller, and executive director Susan Pollay were doing a good job, he said. The speaker series that Concentrate is sponsoring as a part of that is very useful, he said.

Right now the plan for the top of the Library Lot is for it to be a surface parking lot [until some other possible future use is identified]. But surface parking lots are anathema to active downtowns, he said. He encouraged the DDA board to put something on the site that is not a surface parking lot. He acknowledged the concern about crime and panhandlers, but characterized that as a broader issue. The community shouldn’t sacrifice the idea of a plaza because of the issue of the homeless. He said that as he moved through downtown Ann Arbor walking along the sidewalks, he was approached more and more by panhandlers – but no one is suggesting we abolish sidewalks.

Ray Detter, during his report from the downtown citizens advisory council (CAC), said that Lipson and Hathaway had spoken to the advisory council at its meeting the night before. Detter said the CAC agreed with them that a plaza space should be part of the plan. But he said that a plaza space has always been part of the plan. The CAC agreed there should be a clear-cut process for using Library Lane when it was finished. [Library Lane is the mid-block cut-through from Division Street to Fifth Avenue just north of the current location of the downtown district library.] Detter said the CAC had affirmed a long-held commitment to tax-producing private development on top of the parking garage. The CAC has always believed that whatever goes on the top of the parking garage should benefit the library, Detter concluded.

Parking Structure Park: Board Response – Three Other Parks

Responding to the remarks of Library Green advocates about the perceived problem of panhandling as an argument against additional open space in the downtown, mayor John Hieftje noted that panhandling had been the focus of a task force that had done some work on the issue. He mentioned that people would start seeing posters appear that give suggestions for ways to help without giving money to a panhandler.

[By way of background, the city of Ann Arbor previously staffed a downtown beat patrol, which many officers chose to cover by bicycle. With the reduction of the police officer force, that specific patrol assignment has been reduced to the point of elimination. Many people have contended that there's an increased panhandling and other nuisance-type crimes in downtown Ann Arbor and that it can be attributed to the elimination of the downtown beat patrol.]

So in connection with panhandling, Hieftje then took the occasion to point out that later in May, the city council would be likely to approve a budget that does not cut 9 police officers as had been planned last year, but would add one, for a net gain of 10. He also pointed out that some additional personnel would be added as part of a recruitment program.

[In May 2011, the city council approved a budget that eliminated six police officer positions, with a plan to eliminate nine additional positions this year. So compared to 2010 budgeted levels for sworn officers, preserving the nine positions and adding one leaves Ann Arbor police officer staffing at five fewer for next year. That doesn't include the proposed recruitment program, which calls for potential new hires to the department to work under the direction of sworn officers.]

721 N. Main

Image from the city/county flood map website showing the 721 N. Main parcel. The blue area is floodway. The green area is floodplain. Two of the three buildings on the parcel are in the floodway. They could be demolished with a FEMA grant described by mayor John Hieftje. Acceptance of the grant from FEMA would require a deed restriction against development in the floodway. (Image links to floodway mapping tool.)

Continuing his remarks on panhandlers, Hieftje noted that most of them are not homeless.

Hieftje then pitched a framework for discussing the future of the top of the underground parking garage – which Library Green advocates are suggesting should become a public park. Hieftje contended that it should be considered in the context of other significant anticipated additions to the city park system.

Hieftje indicated that the city council’s May 7 meeting would include a presentation about a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for demolition of buildings on the city-owned 721 N. Main property.

By way of additional background, Jerry Hancock, the city’s floodplain manager, provided some explanation about the grant, which has been awarded but still awaits some steps on the city’s part. One of those steps is updating the city’s All-Hazard Plan, which had expired, delaying the award of the grant by FEMA.

From The Chronicle’s March 5, 2012 city council meeting report:

Hancock responded by saying there’s only one other site on which the city has moved forward with FEMA applications: 721 N. Main St., a city-owned property.

The city had received approval of a grant to remove two storage structures in the floodway on the 721 N. Main site, but that grant has been delayed because the city’s All-Hazard Plan has expired. The city’s emergency manager, along with the city attorney’s office, is updating that, Hancock explained. Once that All-Hazard Plan is complete, the city will be able to move ahead with that grant. However, no other sites besides the two storage structures at 721 N. Main have been identified for FEMA applications, Hancock said.

At the DDA board meeting on May 2, Hieftje also said there was a real push being made to get the area across Main Street from the 721 N. Main property cleaned up – it’s the site of Avalon Housing‘s Near North affordable housing project, which currently has several vacant houses on it. Hieftje indicated that the city would be pursuing a state Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to make the 721 N. Main site the first of the greenway parks. It would have a linkage across Main Street under the railroad tracks to the countywide Border-to-Border Trail, he said. City staff would be investing time in planning for that, he said. Washtenaw County [parks and recreation], Hieftje reported, had agreed tentatively to participate in the project by making a match for the Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.

[Hieftje appears to have somewhat overstated the currently expected level of participation by the county's park and recreation program. In a phone interview, Bob Tetens – director of Washtenaw County parks and recreation – told The Chronicle that there was not anything yet on the table in front of the parks and recreation commission. He indicated that there'd been conversations with the city about the project, and that the idea of connecting the 721 N. Main property would be a good fit with the Connecting Communities grant program – a $600,000 annual program over five years, for a total of $3 million. Tetens also said that a project that's already partly funded through another source (like the state's Natural Resources Trust Fund) would enhance a project's application. However, there are more applications for various projects every year than Washtenaw County parks and recreation can fund through the Connecting Communities program, Tetens said.]

Hieftje characterized the land at 721 N. Main as something that the city needs to do something with – because the city doesn’t want to contribute to blight. [The property was previously the city's fleet maintenance yard, but was closed when the Wheeler Service Center opened in 2007.] He also reported that he’d been working with community members on the city-owned 415 W. Washington property. He said that not much progress has been made because of the condition of the old building. By council resolution, he said, that parcel will be a greenway park. [The council resolutions to which Hieftje is referring don't appear to commit the entire parcel to becoming a greenway park.]

Environmental cleanup work is being done on the MichCon property, located between the Amtrak rail station and the Huron River, near the Broadway bridges. Hieftje stated he hoped that would also become a park – across from the new whitewater features to be constructed in connection with the Argo Dam bypass, now called the Argo Cascades.

So as people start to think about adding parks, he said, people need to think about how to maintain them. According to the park advisory commission, Hieftje said, the city is at the limit of being able to maintain parks. Because the city already owns the 721 N. Main site, and because the MichCon property is one the city has wanted for 40 years to be cleaned up and added to the park system, those would be “first in line,” he stated. The capacity to care for another park will stretched, Hieftje said. He recommended to people who are working on the Library Green to take that into account: How will we maintain the park? Also, Hieftje invited Library Green advocates to think about how that fit into the competing interests of three large new parks that will need planning, development and maintenance.

Hieftje also said that he’d be recommending to the park advisory commission that they take up the issue of how to re-design Liberty Plaza [at Division and Liberty streets] so that it becomes a more active center and not something that people avoid. It’s fortunate that First Martin cares for the park, Hieftje said. [First Martin is an Ann Arbor firm that owns the building adjacent to Liberty Plaza.]

Picking up on Hieftje’s comments, Sandi Smith noted that the Connecting William Street committee members would have the future of the top of the underground parking garage on their radar as well, and noted that Liberty Plaza is within the boundary of the study area. Trying to maintain and activate two parks within the same block seems to be a difficult chore, she said.

Responding to Hieftje’s comments during the second opportunity for public comment at the end of the meeting, Jerusalem Garden owner Ali Ramlawi suggested that one idea of funding the maintenance for a public park plaza on top of the parking garage would be to take a fraction of a percent of the parking revenues collected from the structure.

Parking Demand Management

Parking demand management is basically a strategy of differential pricing – higher for higher demand areas and lower for lower demand areas – to try to optimize the available parking spaces in the system. At an April 9, 2012 city council work session, Ward 1 city councilmember Sabra Briere had asked DDA board member Roger Hewitt when residents could expect to see demand-management strategies implemented. At that work session, Hewitt had been presenting the DDA annual budget to the council.

Parking Demand Management: Resolution on Permits

At their May 2 meeting, the DDA board considered a resolution authorizing its operations committee (aka bricks & money and transportation committee) to use demand-management strategies to price monthly parking permits in Ann Arbor’s public parking system. The goal of adjusting monthly parking permit rates is to expand campus-area parking to structures other than those immediately adjacent to the University of Michigan campus. In broad strokes, “demand-management strategies” means pricing the most desirable parking options higher than those that are less desirable.

The move comes as the opening of the new underground parking structure on South Fifth Avenue, offering around 700 total spaces, is set to open by the start of the Ann Arbor art fairs, which this year run from July 18-21. Monthly permits for some of the spaces will be offered at the new structure, which will add to the five public parking structures where permits are available: Ann & Ashley, Forest Avenue, Fourth & William, Liberty Square (Tally Hall), and Maynard.

Under a demand-management strategy, prices of monthly permits at the underground parking structure are likely to be lower than at other structures.


The Ps denote parking structures offering monthly permit parking. (Image links to Google map.)

Hewitt noted that the DDA has been focusing on the completion of the new underground parking garage and has not had time to pay as much attention to parking demand-management initiatives.

As the DDA gets closer to opening the new underground garage, Hewitt said, the idea is to look at carrots and sticks for evening out the usage in the system. Rather than forcing people to move their permits from structures in high demand to those that are in lower demand, the idea is to offer incentives. There’s a number of ideas to relieve the pressure on the structures closest to campus – Forest, Maynard and Liberty Square. The idea is to move those folks into the new underground structure or the Fourth & William structure, he said.

The resolution authorized the operations committee to use parking demand management to alter rates to even out the demand in the system, he said.

Newcombe Clark questioned why there was an explicit mention of “two blocks west” in one of the “whereas” clauses. Hewitt assured him that the intent was to explore parking demand management for monthly permits throughout the system, without any particular boundary.

Outcome: The DDA board unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the operations committee to use parking demand management strategies to alter monthly parking permit rates.

Parking Demand Management: DDA-City Contract

The  Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority manages Ann Arbor’s public parking system under contract with the city. The DDA has the unilateral ability to set parking rates. To implement an increase, the DDA is required under the contract to complete a series of steps designed to ensure adequate notice and public input before implementation of a rate increase. From the contract [emphasis]:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, DDA shall not implement any increase in the Municipal Parking System’s hours of meter operation or parking rates intended to persist for more than three (3) months without first: (i) announcing, and providing written communication regarding, the details of such increase at a meeting of the DDA Board; (ii) providing all members of the public an opportunity to speak in a manner similar to a public hearing before the DDA Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting on the subject of the proposed increase (“Public Hearing”); and (iii) postponing any vote on the proposed increase until at least the regularly scheduled meeting of the DDA Board after the Public Hearing

The changes to the monthly permit system, which Hewitt characterized as “incentives,” do not appear to involve rate increases, but perhaps only decreases. So the various steps outlined in that contract clause would not apply.

Parking Demand Management: Public Comment

Edward Vielmetti addressed the board during the second opportunity for public commentary, and focused on the topic of demand management pricing. He ventured that sometimes people don’t have much of a choice as to where they can park and they pay whatever price they have to pay – because they don’t know much about what their alternatives are.

In addition to improved communication about availability of spaces, Vielmetti asked for better communication about information on the parking system performance – as opposed to simple pronouncements about the parking system being at full capacity.

Vielmetti also addressed the board at the start of the meeting on the topic of relatively low-tech ways to get parking space availability information to people who need it – people who are looking for a place to park.

He shared an experience he had visiting Toledo to watch the Toledo Mud Hens play. It’s usually easy to find a place to park, he said, and if the lots near the stadium are full, there are usually other lots that are easy enough to find. But on the occasion of the visit he described to the DDA board, the Detroit Tigers were playing, and all the lots were filled up. So he had to navigate using his wits and found the farmer’s market, which offered free parking.

Part of the challenge of parking in an unfamiliar place, he said, is not knowing the lay of the land. You have to figure out if the place you want to park is legal, and you might not know if the structure you know exists is already full. He said that what was fascinating about Toledo was not any kind of fancy smart phone application that anyone had running, but rather a sign at the border that advised people to tune their radios to AM 1640. That’s a station that tells you how much traffic was on the roads to get to the stadium, or to get to downtown Toledo from the Michigan border.

The radio station, Vielmetti said, would give estimated travel times to different places, on a constant loop. Every few minutes the information would be updated. It’s a low-power AM station that you can only hear in Toledo, he said. He suggested that setting up such a station would be within the means of any municipality or a public body like the DDA, and the radio station could tell people a little bit about what they need to do in the downtown. The DDA already has realtime parking information available, so potentially that information could be broadcast every three minutes and listeners could hear something like “All the lots have spaces available,” or if the Fourth and Washington structure is full, then it could advise people to use the underground garage.

Vielmetti said he wanted to revisit the realtime parking information issue that he’d raised with the DDA back in 2009. This time around, he said, he didn’t want to look at “fancy things” that only people with fancy phones could use, but something that people could tune into from their car radio.

Parking Demand Management: Parking Report

A report of the monthly parking figures are a standard part of every DDA board meeting. Generally, the message conveyed by Roger Hewitt is that revenues are up in excess of the rate increase, which he interprets as an indicator that demand for parking is increasing.

For the past few months, The Chronicle has charted out revenues and hourly patrons in the system as reflected in the DDA’s monthly reports over the last couple of years. Hourly patrons don’t include people who park at on-street meters, but rather those who pay hourly at a parking structure – as opposed to parking there using a monthly permit.

Ann Arbor Public Parking System Revenue through March 31, 2012

Ann Arbor public parking system revenue through March 31, 2012. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Ann Arbor public parking system hourly patrons (in structures) through March 31, 2012

Ann Arbor public parking system hourly patrons (in structures) through March 31, 2012. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Parking Garage Construction

At its monthly meetings, the DDA board typically receives a report on the progress toward completion of the new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue. It will offer around 700 spaces underground. The surface lot that existed there previously offered 192 spaces.

Parking Garage Construction – Public Comment

Ali Ramlawi introduced himself as the owner of the Jerusalem Garden and a resident of Ward 5 – but he allowed that board members already knew who he was. [Ramlawi has addressed the board previously to raise essentially the same issues he did at the May 2 meeting.]

He described the construction of the underground parking structure as stretching now into its fourth calendar year, but was not yet complete. [The ceremonial groundbreaking took place in October 2009.] He reviewed some of the issues he’s raised before – loss of income, disruption in deliveries, forced evacuation [due to the emergence of a sinkhole]. He questioned how the construction contract was awarded to the Christman Company and contended that the choice of subcontractors by Christman had raised some eyebrows. He contended that the original contract with Christman had no penalties for being late and no reward for finishing on time. No one is held accountable, he complained. With the powers and budget the DDA board members have, they need to do a better job of awarding contacts, he said. If this were the private sector, he contended, someone would have been fired. Where are the penalties for the lateness? he asked.

He told the board that when they have the ceremonial opening celebration he would not be around for it because he didn’t want to “puke over [himself].”

Parking Garage Construction – Board Report

John Splitt gave the update on the construction of the underground garage. Work continues on the mechanicals. The most exciting part of things, he said, is that the backfilling on the plaza level is going along nicely and the waterproofing is almost complete. Backfilling on the “bridge” section, which will allow the re-opening of South Fifth Avenue, is almost complete, he said. Curbs are beginning to be formed on South Fifth Avenue. It’s on schedule to reopen by the end of May, and it’s anticipated that the underground garage will be open by the time that the art fairs start, he said. The fairs run from July 18-21 this year.

During the second opportunity for public commentary near the end of the meeting, Ali Ramlawi objected to Splitt’s use of the phrase “on schedule to open,” saying that the project is a year behind schedule. He contended that saying it was on schedule undermined the DDA’s credibility.

Following up on Splitt’s construction summary, Newcombe Clark asked that the depiction of the Lincoln Continental on the meeting room’s wall be explained, so that people did not think the DDA was getting into the sponsorship business. Splitt explained that it’s part of the underground garage wayfinding system – which will use both colors and four different automobiles to identify floors. The car is a mockup of a wayfinding sign.

“Brownfield” Policy Draft

The DDA board considered a draft policy on supporting “brownfield” projects – a policy prompted by discussions at the board’s partnerships committee over the last few months. [.pdf of draft DDA brownfield policy] The board was not expected to act on the policy, and did not vote.

“Brownfield” Policy Draft: Background

The DDA’s partnerships committee has been discussing a proposal by Dan Ketelaar for support of a proposed development at 618 S. Main, which received a positive recommendation from the Ann Arbor planning commission on Jan. 19, 2012. The 7-story building would include 190 units for 231 bedrooms, plus two levels of parking for 121 vehicles. Ketelaar has estimated that the tax on the increment between the current valuation of the property and the final built project would yield around $250,000 a year in TIF (tax increment finance) revenue to the DDA.

Ketelaar is asking that the DDA pledge 80% of its TIF capture money for six years – about $1.3 million – to support certain aspects of the project in connection with the state’s Community Revitalization Program. The CRP is the successor to the brownfield and historic preservation tax credit programs. In order to approve the tax credit, the state would like to see a commensurate commitment from local units – and Ketelaar is proposing that it take the form of the DDA’s support.

At the April 11, 2012 DDA partnerships committee meeting, one of the points that resonated strongest with some board members in favor of supporting the 618 S. Main project was the ability of the contribution to leverage state money that would otherwise not be invested in Ann Arbor. The amount of money from the state that could be leveraged is in the range of $3 million.

Under Ketelaar’s proposal, taxes on the property would still need to be paid. In other words, the DDA would not simply waive its tax capture on the property. The 618 S. Main project would be reimbursed for a portion of those taxes it would normally owe. In the draft policy, that’s reflected in the following passage: “The DDA will not forgo its TIF capture from a project; the DDA may elect to provide a grant to a project utilizing its funds, or it may elect to provide all or some of its support using such in-kind elements as access to parking for contractors or construction staging.”

The maximum amount of a possible grant described in the draft policy is “calculated by estimating 25% of the total TIF captured by a project over ten years.” In the case of the 618 S. Main project, that amounts to .25*(10*$250,000) = $625,000. That’s about half what the 618 S. Main project is requesting.

The DDA board has heard about the proposal on several occasions – first at the full board meeting on Feb. 1, 2012, and at four subsequent DDA partnerships committee meetings. DDA board members are cautious about the precedent that such a pledge might set, and the appropriateness of the DDA’s role at this early stage in the project. (Ketelaar has not yet acquired the land.) At the March 28 partnerships committee meeting, DDA board member Newcombe Clark expressed concern that, depending on the precise role defined for the DDA’s participation, the DDA could effectively be artificially inflating land values.

“Brownfield” Policy Draft: Board Discussion

Sandi Smith introduced the draft policy. Looking at the 618 S. Main project caused the partnerships committee to take a really hard look at the reasons why the DDA would participate in the project at all, some or a lot, she said. The committee felt that it was struggling with the idea of creating a precedent. So the committee wanted to make a strong policy statement that the DDA would be able to honor for the 618 S. Main project, as well as for projects that came after it.

She walked the board through some of the highlights of the draft policy. She said she was looking for board-wide feedback for further work by the partnerships committee.

Roger Hewitt said that a lot of his concerns were addressed by the draft policy – about the subjectivity of picking projects. He liked the idea of getting rid of as much subjectivity as possible. The idea of a state match was good, he said, as well as the idea that the only costs to be reimbursed would be public infrastructure, not parts of the development itself. He also wanted to make sure that the DDA would not be paying out more than the DDA would receive in TIF capture.

Smith assured Hewitt that nothing would be paid until the taxes have been paid. The DDA would never be in a position of being ahead of the taxes it had received. Hewitt said his concern was that the amount of the grant could become a larger percentage of the TIF, if the value of the project actually went down. He wanted some way to protect against that. Keith Orr suggested some kind of clause that states that while the grant amount would be based on the estimated value of the TIF capture, the payout would be capped by the actual value.

Russ Collins noted that the scenario that Hewitt was describing involved possibly paying out more than anticipated, but not more than the DDA was capturing. John Splitt noted that there could be flexibility to pay out sooner than the actual TIF capture was received, so that’s where the issue could arise – if it were paid out on a schedule sooner than the 10 years.

Splitt wondered if 25% was enough to make a difference in the project. Bob Guenzel clarified that “enough” meant whether it was enough to actually provide the matching leverage for state funds. Smith responded by saying that for past projects, the Liberty Lofts project [a residential development at Liberty and First] had been the most significant one – and that had amounted to 17% of the TIF over 10 years. Taking all that into account, she wondered if 25% was too high or too low.

Keith Orr agreed with the idea of making it as objective as possible and focusing on public infrastructure.

Newcombe Clark said he was happy that the DDA has continued to be creative even when the organization doesn’t have a lot of money. He appreciated the patience of Ketelaar, watching the “sausage making.” Clark said he’d enjoyed the process. Maybe the DDA didn’t make everyone happy or didn’t get it right the first time, he said – that’s always possible. He knew it was not perfect, but he felt that as a group the DDA board could pick it back up and shine it up some more. He said he’d had the fear that for a few years there’d be nothing the DDA would be able to do [because of diminished financial capacity] and he’d been proven wrong.

Collins quipped that he found Clark’s positive and optimistic attitude completely inappropriate, which drew laughs around the table. On a more serious note, Collins said that the DDA had structured itself as an organization that tends to assets. That causes a certain amount of fiscal conservatism. The draft brownfield policy, therefore, is very conservative, he said. But by being conservative, the DDA could miss the chance to be a stimulus to other private investment, which is the core of the DDA’s mission, he said. That’s the constant tension a DDA has, he ventured.

Clark suggested that based on past experience, once the DDA creates policies, it lays down the rules of engagement, and then people will line up with proposals. Collins continued with his friendly ribbing of Clark, saying that Clark’s unmitigated optimism was completely out of character.

During his report from the downtown citizens advisory council (CAC), Ray Detter congratulated the DDA on the formulation of the draft policy. He said the CAC supports the project and is confident the DDA is developing a consistent policy that will be fair to everyone.

Outcome: The draft policy was not before the board for a vote. It will be subjected to further discussion by the partnerships committee.

Third Quarter Financials

Roger Hewitt reviewed the financial statements for third quarter, through March 31, 2012. The DDA’s accounting system includes four funds: the TIF (tax increment finance) fund, which gets its revenue from tax capture; the parking fund, which receives revenue from the public parking system; the parking maintenance fund, which gets revenue through transfers from the parking fund; and the housing fund, which gets revenue through transfers from the TIF fund. [.pdf of DDA  financial picture through March 31, 2012]

The tax increment finance (TIF) income is anticipated to be $200,000 below budgeted – $3.7 million instead of $3.9 million, Hewitt reported. The drop, he said, is primarily due to changes in personal property, not changes to real property. Personal property depreciates quickly, he said. Operating expenses will be about $250,000 below budget, primarily from less use of consultants and lower administrative expenses. Only about $45,000 in capital expenses are shown so far, he said, but he anticipated that number would be right around $1 million at the end of the fiscal year.

That figure will come from the Fifth and Division streetscape improvements project and a portion of the “Library Lane” parking structure. Overall, he said, the DDA had budgeted for around a $1.5 million use of fund balance. Now, said Hewitt, it looks like it would be around $1.44 million of fund reserves that would need to be used. Hewitt pointed out that the use of fund balance was planned, and the natural consequence of accruing capital funds to pay for major construction projects and then using the money.

Revenue for the public parking system is anticipated to be around $17 million, or about $800,000 more than anticipated. The rate increases had been budgeted into the anticipated revenue, he said, so he attributed the additional revenue to increased demand. He stated that the DDA continues to see strong growth in demand for parking. It’s fortunate that the “Library Lane” parking structure is coming on line when it is, because the system is at capacity, he said, at least in the campus area and at the Ann Ashley parking structure.

Direct operating expenses are expected to be $800,000 less than expected. That has to do with the fact that Republic Parking – the DDA’s contractor for day-to-day parking operations – is doing a good job at belt-tightening and is efficient in its operations, Hewitt said. He commended Art Lowe, Republic Parking manager, and his staff for keeping costs in line. Overall, it looks like the parking fund will be around $1 million to the positive.

Parking maintenance has received around $2 million, he said, which is right where the DDA anticipated being. The DDA has not spent money on maintenance that it would have ordinarily done, but the DDA is so far ahead on preventive maintenance that it was able to scale back without any concern about the structural integrity or long-term durability of the structures, he said. So parking structure maintenance has been conservative. There’s been about $1.6 million less spent on maintenance than what had been budgeted. That money will be there for future years as needed, Hewitt said.

The only income into the housing fund was due to interest. About $500,000 had been budgeted for Avalon Housing’s Near North project, but that project has not gone forward. The $500,000 is not due to be paid until Avalon has a certificate of occupancy, and that shows as under budget on the expense side for the housing fund.

Summarizing the financial picture in terms of fund balances, Hewitt gave the following round figures: TIF fund – $6.5 million; housing fund – $1 million; parking fund – $2 million; and parking maintenance – $1.8 million. Total fund balance is $11,444,000, he said. That will certainly be drawn lower as the Fifth and Division streetscape and the “Library Lane” parking structure projects are paid off, he said, but the DDA still has adequate cash.

Communications, Committee Reports

The board’s meeting included a usual range of miscellaneous reports from its standing committees and the downtown citizens advisory council, as well as public commentary. To the extent that significant issues are not already included in the other parts of the meeting report, we include them here.

Comm/Comm: Connecting William Street

Joan Lowenstein gave an update on the Connecting William Street project – an effort the DDA is making under the direction of the city council to find alternate uses for city-owned parcels currently used for surface parking. Lowenstein said that the DDA’s leadership and outreach committee is continuing and increasing efforts to bring different “scenarios” to the public. The scenarios won’t be exact building drawings, but there would be more detail in them, she said. In mid- to late June there’d be something concrete to bring to the public.

Focus group meetings will continue in an effort to shape scenarios. A meeting with members of the city’s park advisory commission had taken place. On May 16, the committee would hear the market analysis findings that will shape the scenarios, based on survey feedback and the market analysis. Throughout the month of June, the committee was moving ahead to have something to show people and get feedback.

The next event in the Concentrate speaker series, focusing on land-use economics, will take place on May 17 at 5 p.m. at Conor O’Neill’s, Lowenstein said.

Comm/Comm: Commuter Challenge

Nancy Shore, director of the getDowntown program, gave the board a brief update on the Commuter Challenge, which getDowntown sponsors annually during the month of May.

Comm/Comm: Girl Scouts

spring blooms Girl Scout badge

Girl Scout badge design for "Spring Blooms" park cleanup day. The DDA is camouflaged into the design.

Board members were given a Girl Scout badge that’s been created in connection with the parks cleanup day, Spring Blooms. Girl Scouts can earn the badge by participating in the event, DDA executive director Susan Pollay said.

Pollay noted that the DDA name was hidden within the badge design.

This year, the event falls on Saturday, May 19. The assembly point is Liberty Plaza at Division and Liberty. Said Pollay: “We will go forth and clean up the downtown!”

Present: Nader Nassif, Newcombe Clark, Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Russ Collins, Keith Orr, Joan Lowenstein.

Absent: John Mouat, Leah Gunn.

Next board meeting: Noon on Wednesday, June 6, 2012, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. [confirm date]

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  1. May 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm | permalink

    The similar radio station to the one I mentioned broadcasts Mackinac Bridge conditions: [link]

  2. By Tom Whitaker
    May 6, 2012 at 10:32 am | permalink

    As I read through this article I was struck by the number of bracketed editorial comments–especially those that contradicted the Mayor’s defensive soliloquy about “downtown” parks that are supposedly under development. Thank you for setting the record straight, where need be, right there in context. It was very helpful.

    Clearly, the Mayor just doesn’t get it. Those who favor a public town square/green space are looking for an urban oasis, like Campus Martius in Detroit–a place where downtown workers can take a quick break or eat their lunch, without having to take a 20-30 minute hike each way. A place that could host events like Fool Moon, ethnic festivals, concerts, art showings, lectures, storytimes and other community gatherings that bring people downtown (where they can linger and bring business to nearby establishments). Many of these types of events are already sponsored by the Library, and I can’t believe they wouldn’t jump on the chance to have a wonderful outdoor space like this to also use for that purpose.

    I, for one, am getting tired of people who don’t live in the area claiming that Liberty Plaza is some horrible example of why a downtown public space won’t work in Ann Arbor. That is simply B.S. If it has an issue at all, it is the fact that it is too small. People who live and work in the smaller confines of downtown interior space need a place to go where they can breathe and get some elbow room. When one walks past Liberty Plaza, and there’s already 10-20 people in there, it feels “full,” even though it might have seating capacity for 50 or more. To me, Liberty Plaza demonstrates pent-up demand, not an unsuccessful public space.

  3. By Kitty B. Kahn
    May 6, 2012 at 10:42 am | permalink

    I am a supporter of the Library Green and I love the idea that Ali Ramlawi proposed to fund maintenance of the park with a small percentage of proceeds from the underground parking structure. This makes perfect sense.

  4. By Jack Eaton
    May 6, 2012 at 11:29 am | permalink

    “So in connection with panhandling, Hieftje then took the occasion to point out that later in May, the city council would be likely to approve a budget that does not cut 9 police officers as had been planned last year, but would add one, for a net gain of 10.”

    Correct me if my math is wrong but I think that if you have a number and you reduce that number by 9 and then you increase it by 10, you have a “net increase”of 1, not 10. If you planned to decease the number by 9 but instead increase it by 1, it is still an increase of only one.

  5. May 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm | permalink

    Re (2) I attended a talk by one of the Campus Martius organizers which was marred by two local speakers, first one who suggested that places like Sweetwaters’ constitute “public space” in downtown Ann Arbor and then one who suggested that we can’t have a park downtown because it would cost money to maintain (names withheld purposely). The Campus Martius example is inspiring, further, there is much research and many other examples of how a downtown green space enlivens and even enriches downtowns, yet we keep hearing that this is a poor use of space.

    As I outlined in a post last year [link], not only the downtown but the entire Central Area is park-poor.

  6. May 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm | permalink

    It does seem to me that if we’re going to give a big chunk of downtown space over to parking, the people who park there should compensate us for loss of the space. And paying to maintain a park seems appropriate.

  7. May 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm | permalink

    Re: [6] parking dollars for park maintenance

    Of the 17% of gross revenues from the parking system that go to the city (under the DDA-city contract), roughly 2/3 (~$2 million) go to the city’s general fund and the other 1/3 goes to street maintenance.

    So the part that goes to the city’s general fund can be fairly analyzed as already supporting parks maintenance. But to see that, you have to follow parking money from the DDA to the city, then assign the $2 million proportionally to parks, and there the trail will probably peter out – because you’d be hard pressed to identify which maintenance activities got funded from those exact dollars. So while it’s accurate to say, “Parking dollars already support parks,” it’s a pretty long and somewhat hand-wavy story you have to tell.

    And that longer narrative is harder to sell, I think, than the simple, straightforward one that Ali is suggesting: N% of this garage’s revenue goes to support this park. I think it might also be a more attractive story for motorists who feel the parking rates are too high: I’m paying more to park … to benefit that actual park I see every time I park here – not (just) to benefit the more abstract “City of Ann Arbor General Fund.”

  8. By John Floyd
    May 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm | permalink

    Re: Brownfield Payments

    What is the pollution that makes the Fox Tent & Awning site a brownfield? This hasn’t been a prominent part of the discussion.

    Re: Sweetwater’s

    Being a place of public accommodation means that, under the Civil Rights act of 1965, you cannot refuse to serve someone due to their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. It does not mean that you must accommodate those who are not buying anything.

    This is among the differences between a public space and the private space of a public accommodation: In a city park, you cannot be evicted for refusing to buy something. Even though Sweetwaters cannot refuse to serve, say, Muslims, it remains a private space, not a public space.

    Apparently, I am not the only person in Ann Arbor who is confused from time to time.

    Re: Jack Eaton’s math

    Jack, don’t go rational on us. It makes everyone else look bad.

    Now go knock on some doors.

  9. By Frank Wilhelme
    May 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm | permalink

    I support the Library Green Advocates. I also like the idea of dedicating a fraction of the parking revenues for the maintenance and community utilization of the proposed park. It has been several decades since Ann Arbor lost it “centering” space surrounding the old county building. I believe its time to give our city a central focal point.

    Basically, Library Green is an opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.

  10. By Leah Gunn
    May 7, 2012 at 7:28 am | permalink

    I also attended the Campus Martius presentation. What Vivienne Armentrout left out was the tremendous cost to develop the space. Development there was about $30 million, and yearly maintenance is about $3 million. It was all paid for privately, by such people as Peter Karmanos and Edsel Ford, and businesses such as Quicken. The other big difference is that Campus Martius is surrounded by many high rise office buildings, which attract thousands of people to the area. No such density exists here. I should also point out that to say that downtown is “park poor” is not quite true – in addition to Liberty Park Plaza, which is adajcent to the site, we also have the Farmers’ Market, Sculpture Plaza, the Diag and West Park. Part of the presentation discussed why Sculpture Plaza is a success – it has businesses that are directly adjacent to it, so people provide “eye and ears”, while Liberty Plaza is a failure because it lacks that. And, for your information, the planter in front of the library (green) was removed at the library’s request at the expense of the DDA – it was littered with drug paraphernalia. We need that density around this site, and a plaza has always been part of the plan, because any building can be only on part of the top of the structure. It needs people to succeed, not grass.

  11. May 7, 2012 at 9:39 am | permalink

    I can’t support the use of the Diag as a substitute for a downtown park. It belongs to the UM and is not accessible to Ann Arbor residents for most purposes, as pleasant as it is. The Farmer’s Market is great but has a specialized use. I’m fond of Sculpture Plaza (the DDA was very helpful in renovating that space, thanks, Leah) but it is limited. And please, I love West Park but it is not in the downtown, barely in the Central Area.

    One reason Campus Martius was so expensive to develop was that they demolished buildings and installed underground parking. We’ve already paid as a city to install the underground parking, and to demolish the building on the nearby “old Y” lot. So we’re part way there.

    Certainly, Campus Martius is not an exact model for Ann Arbor, only a telling one. As to private funding, let’s have a moment of silence for the quickly rejected Dahlmann proposal in which Mr. Dahlmann offered to give the city $2.5 million (“or more”) to create a lovely, fully visualized park and public space. (I reviewed some of this at the time: [link]) I think we should all feel sheepish at the off-handed way in which this generous offer was rejected, without any public acknowledgement of its generosity.

  12. By Aaron Hammer
    May 7, 2012 at 10:08 am | permalink

    I support the Library Green. Having a common green space downtown, as a central park, will enliven the city, integrate people and encourage economic benefits for the surrounding businesses and community as a whole.

  13. May 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | permalink

    I am glad to read all the comments about the idea of a Library Green public open space atop the new underground structure. I agree that Ann Arbor can gain by incorporating lessons learned by other cities. The idea of dedicating some portion of the revenue from the garage below for the maintenance of the park above has been tried successfully elsewhere. One excellent example is Post Office Square in Boston: [link]. Yes, I know that we are not the same as Boston, or Detroit, or New York, but we can learn something from these other cities and add our own creativity in designing a central park for Ann Arbor.

    I want to respond to the point that DDA Board Member Sandi Smith raised about the proximity of Liberty Plaza to the Library Lot and her implication that two parks so close together would somehow be more work or less likely to succeed (I am not clear on the basis for her concern). On the contrary, our group is hopeful about the two parks working together. While there are some design challenges and other issues to be dealt with, a connection between Liberty Plaza and a new public space on the Library Lot could create a pedestrian link – a downtown “Diag.” This could help to solve the perception by some people that Liberty Plaza is not lively or diverse enough.

    I applaud Mayor Heiftje’s announcement of plans to look at a redesign of Liberty Plaza. I also want to acknowledge the contribution made by First Martin Corporation in maintaining Liberty Plaza. Any improvements of Liberty Plaza will necessarily involve looking at the design and use of the adjacent, privately owned space. Indeed, the success of any downtown park requires ongoing public and private sector commitment and cooperation. That is the major lesson to draw from the experiences of other cities.

  14. By Tom Whitaker
    May 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm | permalink

    [Campus Martius actually cost $20 million: $8 million from Compuware, Inc., $8 million from Ford Motor Company, and $4 million from the City of Detroit. It is a much larger space than the library lot and included the moving of a large monument and the construction of a huge water fountain, as well as major road construction around the perimeter.]

    Owned by the City of Detroit, it is managed by the Downtown Detroit Partnership, on behalf of the Detroit 300 Conservancy (both non-profits with combined public and private funding). There’s a restaurant space in the park that is leased to a successful, privately-owned restaurant (The Fountain Bistro) and a skating rink that brings revenue from admissions and skate rentals. Occasional private events also bring revenue. Even so, I’m sure that the DDP must also kick in additional operating funds each year.

    But most importantly, according to the DDP and the independent organization, Project for Public Spaces, this award-winning park attracts two million visitors per year and has helped to spawn a tremendous amount of private investment in the immediate vicinity (they claim more than $750 million) including new buildings, new shops and restaurants, and the renovation of older office buildings. I can confirm the progress from my own recent visit, and several visits previous to that. It is very impressive, especially for those who haven’t gotten out of their cars in Detroit in several years.

    Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, we continue to pour millions into SPARK without even asking for financial reports, let alone a return on our investment. The recent public art installations are not expected to earn revenue to pay for their maintenance and security, because according to supporters, they beautify the city and spur economic development. Yet, for some reason, whenever this wonderful Campus-Martius-like idea is brought up, the immediate response from our officials is that it must make a profit. Why is that?

  15. By Rod Johnson
    May 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm | permalink

    There are actually three city owned parcels, the Library Lot property, Liberty Plaza and Kempf House. There has to be some potential for synergy there. However, the parking lot between them, behind Kempf House, which seems to be treated as a public walkway, is actually privately owned, right? That seems like an obstacle for real connectedness. 320 S. Division, too, has always seemed a little out of place. I’d be interested in hearing whether anyone has looked comprehensively at that whole area.

  16. By Caroline Smith
    May 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm | permalink

    A green space on the “library lot” site makes so much sense. It will bring people to an open center for leisure and recreation and will enhance the surrounding business and shopping area as well.

  17. May 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm | permalink

    Re: What’s the pollution?

    Very briefly the state’s “brownfield” program, now the Community Revitalization Program, includes “blight” and “functional obsolescence” as eligibility criteria.

  18. By Rita MItchell
    May 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm | permalink

    The 2011 PROS Plan showed stats on park land per 1000 people. The Central Area, where the city is trying to encourage more dense residential living, is not well served in comparison to the other parks planning areas.

    The PROS Plan indicates that there are 3.7 acres of city-owned park land per 1000 people in the Central area. Even if one includes the open space of school yards and University property, the calculation results in 4.8 acres per thousand. The Central Area includes West Park, Fuller Park, and Wheeler Park, each a significant walk from the center of downtown, in addition to the tiny hardscapes of Sculpture Plaza and Liberty Plaza.

    Compare that open space area to city owned land per 1000 residents for
    Northeast: 28.4 acres
    South: 12.6 acres
    West: 27.2 acres

    Including more open space, even the small amount described on top of the library parking structure, in the downtown will contribute to the value of existing built-spaces, and will benefit the community. The citizens are not asking for much, and the idea is well worth testing.

  19. May 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm | permalink

    Re (15) It has always been my understanding that the other bits and pieces of that block are owned by Bill Martin, though I don’t have any documentary information. If I am correct, his assent and help would be important.

    Re “eyes on the street” I’d like to point out that the Denali condos overlook the area, and some (not me) have proposed that businesses like Jerusalem Garden, Earthen Jar and others could “open up” to the back, providing activity on the edges.

  20. By Rod Johnson
    May 7, 2012 at 7:22 pm | permalink

    Re 19: mapannarbor indicates that to be correct.

  21. May 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm | permalink

    Not to be too pessimistic, but one thing we should watch out for. The City could decide to give us our park, but design it in such a way that it’s guaranteed to fail. That’s easy to do in an urban setting. Even Copley Square in Boston, in the center of one of the highest pedestrian concentrations in the country, was initially a failure because it was cut off from the surrounding neighborhood. After the park fails, the City could then push through a conference center or whatever they like.

    The City loves to hire consultants, maybe they could get someone who knows what they’re doing to design the park.

    And here’s a wild and crazy idea. Instead of putting the skate park on the edge of town where anyone without a car (90% of skaters) can’t get to it, why not put it right downtown?

  22. By Marvin Face
    May 8, 2012 at 11:14 am | permalink

    I understand why everyone wants a park downtown. In concept, I think having a well programmed, staffed, and maintained park downtown (like Campus Martius or Post Office Park, etc) would be outstanding. Unfortunately, this piece of land is not the place for it. Everyone wants it so bad they are willing to overlook the physical realities that make it a poor site for a park.

    It is not central. While it is “in the middle”, it is not where people are. There need to be eyes on it and there is only one street frontage. It’s mid-block on a arterial one-way street so that the only people who will use it are the ones who are intent on finding it. There will be no stumbling upon it. It’s just a bad space for a park. Everyone likes it, I think, because it so tantilizingly close to reality. (Hey! We own it and are looking to DO something with it!). Regrettably,this place won’t work for a park.

    Now, put a new library on top of the underground parking and put the park on the current library spot so it fronts William and find a lively, high density use for the old Y site, and you might have something.

  23. By Rod Johnson
    May 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm | permalink

    How about if we put the park there but get rid of the Federal Building?

  24. May 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm | permalink

    How about we get rid of the Federal Building and put the park there? The Federal Building is so old it must be close to falling down anyway.

  25. By Alan Goldsmith
    May 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm | permalink

    “Correct me if my math is wrong but I think that if you have a number and you reduce that number by 9 and then you increase it by 10, you have a “net increase”of 1, not 10. If you planned to decease the number by 9 but instead increase it by 1, it is still an increase of only one.”

    Jack, you don’t get it. If there is a decrease of 1,000 and now we plan to stop the decrease and add one employee, it’s an INCREASE of 1,001. Heiftje Math.

    And Leah, since you are so concerned about money, how about pushing a requirement that SPARK opens their books to the public, since you and others are fine with shoveling dollars to those folks with zero oversight?

  26. By John Floyd
    May 10, 2012 at 1:48 am | permalink

    It doesn’t seem often that I agree with Marvin Face, but I think he’s on to something here: A new library as the building on top of the parking lot, and the cleared off corner site for the park. With its proximity to existing residences in Germantown, location on a pedestrian connector between campus & downtown, and two-sided visibility, and greater usable footprint, this is a much better site for the downtown park. I gather that there are deed restrictions on the current library location, to the effect that that site must be used for a library, or it reverts to the Ann Arbor Public Schools, but it seems like there must be some way to cut a deal on such an idea.

    Among the reasons that The Diag is not a downtown public park/greenspace are such diverse elements as:

    1) It’s not downtown
    2) As noted, the UM can and does control who may use the diag. My understanding is that as many as 3,000 people are banned from UM property, including the diag. I know kids who were banned from the diag after being caught skateboarding. This is not a public space in any sense of the word. It is a private space that tolerates a large amount of trespass.
    3) Being dominated by a narrow demographic – as befits the central quadrangle of a large state university – it is not necessarily all that welcoming a space for those outside the dominant demographic, except as a passage way to South U.

    I have not personally met a serious person who thought that West Park was in the downtown.

    Last time I was in downtown Detroit, the “many high rise buildings” that surround Campus Martius looked like they were occupied by maybe 3,000-5,000 people. Even if as many as 7,000 office workers surround this downtown park, I’m not sure that the fraction of those who eat sack lunches in the Campus between 12 and 1 on non-rainy days in the good weather months are having much effect on anything in the park.

    Strikes me that the 20-somethings who are to live in the high rises beloved by the current political class are in the most transient, self-possessed phase of their lives. This is to be expected of people struggling to establish careers and snag mates. They relocate as job opportunities indicate, and are much less community and “other” minded than they will be in the Spouse, Rugrats, and Mortgage decades of their lives. It’s not obvious that this demographic is a good bet to play the role of Eyes and Ears.

    A point overlooked by the Density crowd regarding the modern hunter/gatherer/scavenger types who are prone to panhandling, begging, and hanging out in public spaces, is that density ATTRACTS them. Density attracts scavengers for the same reason that banks attracted John Dillinger: that’s where the money is. The most densely occupied parts of town – Main Street, Liberty Street, State Street, the Diag – are precisely where the scavengers are. A “24-hour” downtown will have 24 hour scavenging, because eyes and ears are often accompanied by wallets and purses. If they aren’t in a park, scavengers will be on a sidewalk or in an alley. They will not go away when opportunities to scavenge increase, any more than planting more hostas will drive the deer from Vivienne’s yard. Density won’t “fix” junkies at the library – it will bring them on.