DDA OKs Development Grant, Parking Leases

Also: Parking permit discount plan previewed; budget maintenance

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (June 6, 2012): The board’s action items this month covered both of the DDA’s functions – as the administrator of tax increment finance (TIF) revenues within its geographic district, as well as the manager of the city’s parking system.

Ann Arbor Public Parking System

Excerpt from a Chronicle chart constructed with DDA parking data from the Ann Arbor public parking system. The vertical scale represents hourly patrons per parking space in a given parking facility. The lines correspond to four facilities in the system: Maynard, Liberty Square, Fourth & Washington, and Huron/Ashley. Pop quiz: Which line corresponds to which facility? Answer in the full report.

On the TIF side, the board first adopted a formal policy to guide its allocation of grants to new private developments. The board then acted to authorize a $650,000 TIF-capture-based grant to the 618 S. Main project. The policy applies to developments that are seeking to leverage support from the state’s brownfield and Community Revitalization Program, or other matching programs.

Highlights of that policy include a priority ranking of benefits that a development must offer. At the top of that list: A requirement that the project fills a gap in the existing market. The DDA board concluded that the 618 S. Main project filled such a gap – by targeting residential space for young professionals. The $650,000 would be distributed over four years, with the amount in any one year not to exceed the estimated $250,000 in TIF capture that would ordinarily be retained by the DDA as a result of the completed construction.

The board was interested in achieving a unanimous vote of support for the 618 S. Main grant, and not all board members agreed with covering bank carrying costs and the full amount of streetscape improvements. So the $650,000 reflected a reduction from a $725,000 grant in the original resolution before the board.

On the parking side of the DDA’s responsibilities, routine business was mixed with issues involving the imminent opening of a new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue. In the routine category was the board’s authorization of three-year leases for two properties from companies controlled by First Martin Corp., which the DDA manages as surface parking lots – at Huron/Ashley and Huron/First. Per space, the Huron/Ashley lot generates more revenue per month than any of the other public parking facilities in the city.

The board was also presented with a demand-management strategy for encouraging the use of the new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue, which is scheduled to open in mid-July. Highlights of that strategy include a reduced rate for monthly permits of $95/month – a $50/month savings over the $145/month rate set to take effect in September this year, and a $60 savings over the extra increase that the DDA is planning for two structures. The special $95/month permits are available only to current holders of permits in two other parking structures in the system: Liberty Square and Maynard Street. The DDA wants to free up spaces in those two structures for people who do not hold permits, and pay the hourly rate instead.

The DDA board also heard public commentary from advocates for some kind of public park to be constructed on top of the new underground parking structure – instead of using the space for additional surface parking, with the eventual possibility of allowing development of a significantly-sized building there.

In the board’s final action item, routine adjustments were made to the current fiscal year’s budget in order to assure that actual expenses did not exceed budgeted revenues for any of the DDA’s four funds. Last year, the routine adjustment did not adequately cover construction invoices that arrived after the final budget adjustment, something that was pointed out in the DDA’s audit for that year.

Brownfield Grants: Policy

In 2008, the DDA discontinued its partnerships grant program, because the board believed that development interest in downtown Ann Arbor was strong enough that such grants were no longer needed to help spur investment. [.pdf of March 5, 2008 DDA board resolution]

However, the board was approached recently by Dan Ketelaar, developer of the 618 S. Main St. project, with a request for support for the project based on the TIF (tax increment finance) revenue it would generate. The support would count as the local match expected as part of the state’s brownfield program. Ketelaar made his initial presentation to the DDA board on Feb. 1, 2012 after having won a recommendation of approval for his project from the city planning commission on Jan. 19, 2012.

One of the concerns that was expressed by board members through the months-long discussion over the course of several partnerships committee meetings – some of them added to the calendar as special sessions – was the absence of any formal brownfield grant policy. So the policy was developed during these discussions.

Sandi Smith introduced the policy by noting that the DDA’s partnerships committee has struggled with the discussion for several months. She reminded her board colleagues that a draft policy had been presented to them at their May 2, 2012 meeting. She felt that not many of the changes made since then were substantive. The cap was changed, she noted. Another significant change was to try to make the evaluation criteria objective. She noted that the criteria in the policy reflect the priorities and values of the DDA in order of importance:

  1. Addresses a documented gap in the marketplace or underserved markets of commerce.
  2. Will act as a catalyst for additional revitalization of the area in which it is located.
  3. Is “connected” to the adjacent sidewalk with uses on the first floor that are showcased using large transparent windows and doorways to give pedestrians a point of interest to look at as they walk by the project.
  4. Creates a large office floor plate.
  5. Will facilitate the creation of a large number of new permanent jobs.
  6. Is a mixed use development, that will encourage activity in the daytime, evening, and weekend, such as a development with a mix of commercial and residential.
  7. Adds to downtown’s residential density.
  8. Reuses vacant buildings, reuses historical buildings, and/or redevelops blighted property.
  9. Number of affordable housing units created on site or funded by the project elsewhere in the community, which are beyond what is required by the City.
  10. Environmental design exceeds City requirements.
  11. Architecturally significant building or project design.
  12. Strengthens Ann Arbor’s national visibility.

Newcombe Clark suggested adding a clause that stated: “Grant approval will also be contingent on DDA review and approval of any subsequent substantial changes made prior to or during construction, which must be fully disclosed on an on-going basis.”

Clark described the added clause as matching up closely to how things are handled at the city with development agreements, when they’re approved by the city council and then must be reviewed for possible approval at the administrative level or by the council itself.

Nathan Voght – Washtenaw County’s brownfield program coordinator who works in the county’s office of community and economic development – was asked to comment on Clark’s amendment. Voght indicated he felt it was fine – because it would put the developer on notice that the DDA is to be kept abreast of any changes. Smith took the opportunity to acknowledge the work that Voght had done to help with the formulation of the policy, as well as that of Matt Naud, the city of Ann Arbor’s environmental coordinator.

Clark then offered an additional amendment to add a specific item to the list that an applicant must submit as part of the financial pro forma [added language in italics]:

The Developer making a grant application to the DDA must submit a full financial pro forma, including purchase cost and construction cost breakdown, sources and uses including any equity positions that constitute managing member position, rental income or condo sale prices, tax assumptions, and recurring expenses, etc.

Clark’s amendments were accepted as “friendly” and thus did not require a vote.

Roger Hewitt thanked the partnerships committee for the enormous amount of work they’d done. He agreed with the concept of using TIF money to support state brownfield grant money. He supported that, he said. He had hoped that the policy would remove the subjectivity from the evaluation and make it essentially an administrative action. He understood the need to balance what the market wants and what the DDA would like to see – which can be a challenge.

Having gone through the process when the DDA previously had a TIF grant program, Hewitt felt it could lead to long endless discussions and to subjective decisions that will leave some people unhappy. Speaking to the 12 criteria, he said he did not think there’s a developer born who doesn’t think they qualify for some of those. He would have been happier supporting something more administrative and objective.

Responding to Hewitt, Smith ventured that something as objective as he had described might leave the DDA in a position that forces the board to approve a project. She did not want to be hemmed into something so rigid that the board has to automatically approve a project.

John Mouat suggested that it might be worth looking at needed streetscape and infrastructure improvements that could be undertaken, without needing to undergo a brownfield grant application process.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the brownfield grant policy. [.pdf of brownfield policy as adopted]

Brownfield Grants: 618 S. Main

After approval of the grant policy, Sandi Smith moved into the reason for having such a policy: The DDA had received a request for the kind of support outlined in the new policy – for the 618 S. Main project.

Brownfield Grants: 618 S. Main – Commentary

Dick Carlisle of Carlisle/Wortman Associates spoke at the start of the meeting on behalf of Bill Kinley. They’re partners and tenants of South Main Market, located across the street from 618 S. Main. Since their acquisition of the South Main Market about seven years ago, he said, they’ve made investments to keep the retail space alive and have worked closely with tenants. As a result, the market is now 100% occupied – a total of 14,000 square feet. He said they feel very fortunate, but they also worked very hard to make that happen. He did not want to speak specifically to the 618 S. Main project, but said he was very happy to see private investment being made in that area of South Main Street. All the improvements that are made will be helpful to everyone, if the entrance to downtown Ann Arbor is improved.

His message, Carlisle said, is quite simple: please consider allocating funding for streetscape improvements on both sides of the street [which would include the South Main Market side]. He noted that there’s a lot of pedestrian activity, especially on University of Michigan football game days. There also have been significant traffic issues, he said, due to his own property’s businesses and the gas station on the corner, which generates a lot of traffic. He asked the DDA board to consider allocating funds to make that area more pedestrian friendly.

Ray Detter, during his report from the downtown area citizens advisory council, called 618 S. Main an excellent first use of the policy.

Brownfield Grants: 618 S. Main – Board Deliberations

Based on the criteria in the policy, Smith said, the partnerships committee had concluded that the project addresses a gap in the rental market, that it act as a catalyst for the South Main area, that it will add to the downtown density, and that it has environmental features exceeding the city’s requirements.

The grant that the board was asked to consider included the following line items, for a total of $725,000:

Recommended DDA Brownfield Grant for 618 S. Main Street
$135,000 Streetscape costs (sidewalk adjacent to project on Mosley/Main
$384,500 Streetscape costs (sidewalk on west side of Main north of project)
$100,000 Rain garden to infiltrate storm water, rather than detain and release
$ 80,500 Upsizing the water main under Ashley Street to a 12” pipe
$ 25,000 Bank carrying costs
$725,000 TOTAL


The amount of the grant was proposed to be disbursed over four years in the following amounts: $100,000, $225,000, $225,000, and $175,000.

Mayor John Hieftje weighed in with a number of concerns. In the course of conversation with Smith and DDA executive director Susan Pollay, Hieftje drew out the fact that the dialogue about the detail in the streetscape improvements is now starting. Hieftje said he was concerned that the developer be required to actually build to the detailed specifications that are agreed upon. He made an apparent allusion to the Corner Lofts building at State and Washington as an example of a building that was ugly – due to the failure of the developer to build it to the approved specifications.

Another concern Hieftje had was about the bank carrying costs – because he did not feel the DDA should bear that cost. John Mouat ventured that one way to reduce the carrying costs would be for the DDA to front-load its support on the first years of the four-year period. [The board would be constrained in that option by the policy, which states that "the amount released will at no point be greater than the amount of new TIF paid by the developer of the new project."]

Outcome on amendment: The board voted unanimously to eliminate the $25,000 for bank carrying costs from the grant award.

Leah Gunn

Left to right: DDA board members John Hieftje, Leah Gunn, Nader Nassif.

Hieftje also confirmed that the $135,000 line item for streetscape improvement costs did not include a specific breakdown of those costs for the ordinary work that is required of a developer to perform as part of a project.

So Hieftje put forward an amendment to eliminate the $135,000. Roger Hewitt suggested that there’s a base amount for the sidewalk improvements immediately adjacent to the project that should be the developer’s expense. But he could support improvements that go beyond the city’s minimum requirement. The DDA could support the differential, he said.

Leah Gunn asked Pollay to comment on the sidewalk improvement design. Pollay clarified that the developer, Dan Ketelaar, is planning to do more than what is required by code. She described it as an enhanced planting scheme that’s more than what’s required. Newcombe Clark questioned whether it made sense to talk about what was actually required – because the project has not yet received approval from the city council.

DDA board chair Bob Guenzel asked Nathan Voght how the Michigan Economic Development Corporation brownfield program might view the reduction in local support – which would result from eliminating the $135,000. Voght said the state wants to see a significant contribution.

At the $725,000 level, Voght felt the MEDC was feeling positive about the 618 S. Main application. Gunn said it bothered her that the state won’t just say how much the DDA needs to contribute. Nader Nassif also asked if there were an exact dollar figure that the MEDC was looking for.

Voght ventured that if the amount is still “in the ballpark,” he felt it would be okay. But he stressed that the MEDC has not formally considered the application. He also noted that the state has two programs – a brownfield redevelopment program and the new community revitalization program. Voght said the state is still figuring out the community revitalization program.

Clark ventured that based on his own experience, it’s the amount of enthusiasm from the local authorities that matters, as opposed to the dollar figure. The state doesn’t want to tie its hands so that only the “haves” get the money.

Sandi Smith proposed coming up with a number – some percentage of $135,000 – and encouraging the best-looking streetscape. She didn’t want to leave the amount shy of what was necessary to get a good streetscape.

Newcombe Clark

DDA board member Newcombe Clark.

Gunn offered an amendment to Hieftje’s proposal to eliminate the $135,000, instead cutting the amount to $100,000. She was concerned there could be a “tipping point” past which the state would not consider the local match to be sufficient. Hieftje indicated a preference to go down to $85,000. Clark ventured that for the state of Michigan, a unanimous vote would be more interesting than an additional $15,000.

Outcome on amendment to grant $100,000 instead of $135,000 for sidewalk improvements: It failed with only 10 members present and four members voting against it – Hieftje, Hewitt, Mouat and Clark. It needed seven votes to pass.

So Gunn tried again, this time offering an amendment to make the amount of support $85,000.

Outcome on amendment for $85,000 instead of $135,000 for sidewalk improvements: It passed unanimously.

With the reduction in the grant award now resulting in a $650,000 award, Hieftje returned to the topic of the rain garden. Smith explained that under the city code, detention is required, which could be achieved at a cost of around $100,000. That approach detains stormwater in a tank, then releases the water into the stormwater system pipes. The benefit offered by a rain garden with infiltration is that it keeps the stormwater out of the pipe. It’s not about the visual aesthetics of the rain garden. The cost of the rain garden would be around $850,000, so the DDA was supporting something that went $750,000 beyond what was required, she said.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the $650,000 grant to the 618 S. Main project.

Parking System

The DDA operates the public parking system under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor. Under terms of the contract, the city receives 17% of gross parking revenues from the system. So the public parking system, which is mostly located within the Ann Arbor DDA TIF (tax increment finance) district, is a topic at nearly every DDA board meeting.

Parking System: Monthly Report – Break in Trend

A standard part of a DDA board meeting is an update on the monthly parking report, looking at the most recent month for which data has been analyzed. At the June 4 meeting, board members discussed data from April 2012. In giving an overview, Roger Hewitt noted that for April, the revenue to the system was up compared to April 2011, but it had not increased as much (on a year-over-year basis) as in previous months. He also noted that there’d been a decline in the number of hourly patrons. So he’d asked Republic Parking to take a closer look at that, he said. Republic Parking handles day-to-day parking operations under a contract with the DDA.

Ann Arbor overall parking revenue

Ann Arbor public parking system: Total revenue

Ann Arbor public parking system

Ann Arbor public parking system: Hourly patrons


One factor contributing to the decline, Hewitt reported, is that there was one fewer business day in April this year – 25 compared to 26. In addition, there were two fewer “weekend days” [Friday and Saturday] – 8 compared to 10. Another wrinkle was that this year, the University of Michigan held graduation on four days, all in April. Last year there were only three days of graduation, and one had been in May, Hewitt reported. And the parking pattern for graduation attendees, he said, is that they enter the structure as hourly patrons, but stay almost the whole day. So the number of patrons is depressed, even though the revenue is the same.

Hewitt noted that revenues were still up 9%, which he characterized as a solid increase – more than the 6-7% range for the rate increases.

Parking System: Demand Management – Maynard, Liberty Square

Hewitt gave the board an update on the parking demand management system that the DDA’s operations committee has been working on, in connection with the completion and opening of the new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue. The board had given the committee direction to undertake development of the program at its May 2, 2012 meeting.

In broad strokes, the DDA would like to reduce the number of spaces taken up by monthly permit holders in the parking structures nearest to the high-demand University of Michigan campus. The DDA would also like to ensure usage of its new underground parking garage.

Hewitt summarized the approach as establishing prices for parking based on the demand in a particular area – higher demand areas have higher prices and the lower demand areas should have the lowest prices. Integrated into the concept is a component for alternative transportation, he said.

The DDA has asked the getDowntown program to do a transportation audit for the State Street and South University Avenue businesses. The DDA has also asked that getDowntown do some targeted marketing and communication to those businesses. Further, the getDowntown program has been asked to encourage businesses to adopt a “transportation stipend” program, instead of just providing a monthly parking permit. The stipend would allow employees to realize the savings that would result from opting to take public transportation, instead of claiming an employer-provided monthly parking permit. The Zipcar car-sharing program would be expanded in the Maynard Street parking structure, Hewitt reported. In-street bike racks will also be added to the State Street area.

From experience, Hewitt reported, the Maynard Street structure does fill up in the middle of the day, and people have to wait to get in. Liberty Square, Hewitt said, is also near capacity. Hewitt then unveiled the details of what he described as a two-year pilot program – based on the DDA’s experience in opening a new parking structure. A new structure doesn’t get used much for the first couple of years, Hewitt said. It takes the public a couple of years to find it and to start using it routinely.

So the idea is to “jump start” that process, Hewitt said. Currently, based on rate increases approved by the DDA board earlier this year, monthly permit rates are scheduled to increase from $140 to $145 per month on Sept. 1, 2012. Hewitt announced that for the Maynard Street and Liberty Square structures – the two highest demand structures in the system – rates would now be raised even higher, to $155 per month. Hewitt said there are around 700 monthly parking permits in the roughly 1,400 total spaces in those two structures, so the idea is to move those monthly permit holders to the new underground garage.

Ann Arbor Public Parking System: Patrons Per Space

Ann Arbor public parking system: Patrons per space. To give an idea of the maximum usage in the system – measured in terms of patrons per space in a facility – this chart includes the Huron/Ashley/First surface lot (light green). None of those surface lot spaces are used for monthly permits. To give an idea of the maximum usage in a parking structure that allows no monthly permit parking, the chart includes the Washington/Fourth structure (light orange). The two structures that are the target of the incentive program – to move monthly parking permits from there to the new underground structure – are Maynard Street (blue) and Liberty Square (red). Chart by The Chronicle, using data from the DDA. One way to observe the effect of the demand management pricing will be to track whether the red and blue lines increase. (Links to larger image)

By way of background, the contract between the DDA and the city of Ann Arbor, under which the DDA operates the city’s parking system, was revised in May 2011 to give the DDA the unilateral authority to adjust rates, without approval by the Ann Arbor city council. However, the contract requires the DDA to announce intended rate increases at a board meeting, hold a public hearing at a subsequent board meeting, and not vote on rate increases before a third board meeting.

The rate increases triggering the public announcement and hearing process are described in the contract as “any increase in the Municipal Parking System’s hours of meter operation or parking rates intended to persist for more than three (3) months.” Based on a telephone interview with DDA staff, the DDA is interpreting the clause to apply to parking meter rates, not monthly permit rates.

The rate changes are meant to be revenue neutral, because the increase in rates for the two high-demand structures are expected to be balanced against the decrease in monthly permit costs for the new underground garage.

The monthly permit rate increases were characterized by Hewitt as the “stick part” of the plan. The “carrot part” is an offer of cheaper monthly permits to current permit holders in the Liberty Square or Maynard Street structures – if they move to the new underground garage. It would be a $60 savings compared to the monthly permit rate they’d pay if they stay in their current structure. The rate of $95 per month in the new underground structure would be good for two years. Any new users of the system would also be offered the $95 per month rate.

Hewitt characterized the plan as the first real substantive experience with differential rates in parking structures. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. Even though the spaces they’re offering in the new garage will be cheaper, the DDA expects that those are spaces that would otherwise be empty – because the DDA is not expecting a lot of underground parking garage use in the first few years. Hewitt felt that by opening up Liberty Square and Maynard Street to more hourly patrons, the enormous demand could be met for that kind of parking. The new rates, as well as the incentives for parking permits, will be implemented Sept. 1, Hewitt said.

Nader Nassif thought the incentive system is a great idea. He reported that based on his hard-hat tour of the new underground garage, he felt it’s actually a very well-designed, beautiful structure. It’s impressive to see natural light from several levels underground, he said.

John Mouat stressed the need to use getDowntown to help get the word out. Board chair Bob Guenzel thanked the DDA staff for their hard work putting together the incentives.

Outcome: This was not a voting item. The board had given direction at its previous meeting to the operations committee to develop the demand management pricing.

Surface Lot Leases

The board considered lease agreements for two surface parking lots in downtown Ann Arbor. One lot is known as the Brown Block, bounded by Huron, Ashley, Liberty Washington and First streets. The other is located on the southeast corner of Huron Street and South Fifth Avenue. The new leases extend for a period of three years.

Surface Lot Leases: Background

The DDA manages the two lots as part of Ann Arbor’s public parking system. The leases, which have been in place for several years, are between the DDA and two limited liability companies owned by the local real estate development firm First Martin Corp. Those two companies are Huron Ashley LLC and City Hall LLC. The lease for the Brown Block had been with the city of Ann Arbor, but this year it’s with the DDA – due to the fact that the city and the DDA signed a new contract last year, under which the DDA operates the city’s public parking system.

The monthly rents paid to First Martin under terms of the leases are stipulated at $28,333/month and $2,122/month, respectively. Based on arithmetic done by The Chronicle on DDA revenue data, the monthly revenues for the two lots since July 2009 have averaged around $61,000 and $9,500, respectively. There is a provision in the leases for the rent paid to the DDA to increase based on the consumer price index (CPI).

Ann Arbor Public Parking System

Ann Arbor public parking system: Revenue per space by selected facility. Surface parking lots, like the Huron/Ashley/First lot, show the highest revenue per space. The lowest revenue per space is derived from metered on-street parking. Structures show varying amounts of revenue per space, based in part on the number of monthly parking permits they allow.


Ann Arbor public parking system: Huron/Ashley/Liberty. Revenue on the surface lot shows the same kind of upward trend as the rest of the system.

Although the two parcels are not zoned for parking use, First Martin Corp. could itself choose to use the surface parking lots for commercial parking – as a pre-existing, non-conforming use, according to city planning manager Wendy Rampson’s response to an emailed query from The Chronicle. The lot on the Brown Block is used by the DDA for hourly parking, paid to an attendant in a booth. The other lot, across the street from Ann Arbor’s city hall and new Justice Center, is used for monthly permit parking.

Surface Lot Leases: Board Deliberations

Newcombe Clark was keen to establish that the new lease amounts for the two lots did not reflect any more than a simple CPI increase from the previous amounts.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the two lease agreements for the surface parking lots.

Library Lot

John Splitt gave an update on the construction of the underground parking garage, which is nearing completion. South Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William had been expected to reopen by the end of May, but that re-opening was delayed. At the June 4 meeting, Splitt gave June 18 as the new date for probable re-opening of the street, and July 12 as the date of the opening of the structure.

The Library Lot, as the parcel is called due to its proximity to the downtown library, is part of the area of study for the DDA’s Connecting William Street project, which aims to find alternate uses for the surface parking lots in the area bounded by William, Ashley, Liberty and Division streets. That project is being undertaken by the DDA at the direction of the Ann Arbor city council, given last year on April 4, 2011. As the opening of the underground structure draws closer, advocacy for construction of a park on top of the lot has become more vocal.

Library Lot – Public Commentary

Commentary by Will Hathaway and Eric Lipson focused on the future of the top of the new underground parking garage, which is due to be completed in mid-July. By way of brief background, a request for proposals (RFP) process that could have led to the selection of a development project on top of the underground parking structure was terminated by the Ann Arbor city council on April 4, 2011. The proposal in play at that point was for a conference center. The parking structure includes reinforced footings designed to support future development on the site. Among the proposals that were rejected in the earlier phases of the RFP review process were two that envisioned the use of the area as primarily open space – some kind of park.

Lipson essentially ceded his time to Hathaway, who reprised many of the points he’d made at the DDA board’s meeting the previous month, on May 2, 2012. He told the board that his group was working to promote the idea of a park of some kind on the Library Lot. [It's called the Library Lot, but the Ann Arbor District Library does not own the parcel.] He’d put together a slide show to promote that, he said.

He began by saying that Ann Arbor lacks public space downtown for people who work and live. Ann Arbor previously had a town square, he said, in the form of the lawn at the old 1878 Washtenaw County courthouse, which had stood on the block of Huron and Main.

Hathaway suggested that the top of the underground parking garage is a place in the middle of Ann Arbor that could be a missing “Central Park,” bounded by Fifth Avenue, William, Division and Liberty streets. He described the block as anchored by the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. But he also noted that the area is home to organizations like the Center for the Education of Women, the Christian Science reading room, the University of Michigan Credit Union and the Inter-cooperative Council. Small businesses in the area include Jerusalem Garden, Earthen Jar, Seva, Comedy Showcase and Herb David guitar studio.

Hathaway described Liberty Plaza on the northeast corner of the block as the only park in downtown Ann Arbor – a modest open space connected by a ramp and footpath to the Library Lot. Hathaway pointed out that the Library Lot was formerly a surface parking lot, that’s been transformed by the new underground parking garage. So the question is how to use the top of the new parking garage, he said.

The Calthorpe study from the mid-2000s recommended a “town square” on that site, Hathaway said. A hotel/conference center was proposed and rejected, as were two proposals for parks – because the RFP review committee contended that they would not create adequate economic benefit. So Hathaway ticked through other examples of park-like spaces that had generated economic benefit: Campus Martius and River Walk in Detroit; Post Office Square in Boston; Millenium Park in Chicago; the High Line Park on an abandoned rail line in New York City; and Discovery Green in Houston. All those parks generate economic benefits through “place making,” he said. That happens in several ways, Hathaway continued: revitalization of an existing building, new construction, more customers, and increased tax revenue.

Liberty Plaza is the only green space in the downtown, Hathaway said, and creating a pedestrian link to the Library Lot would essentially create Ann Arbor’s downtown Diag [a reference to the University of Michigan campus landmark]. He suggested that the Ann Arbor District Library could extend itself in connection with an adjacent park. Outdoor features that might be constructed on the Library Lot space, he said, include ice skating, interactive sculptures (like the Wave Field or The Cube), a sculpture plaza, or a town square gazebo.

The current plan is to put around 40 surface parking spaces temporarily on the top of the parking garage. So Hathaway concluded by saying that the choice is between a park or a parking lot. On July 14, after the grand opening of the new garage, his group has permission to host an event on top of the parking garage. It will be an afternoon for celebration of the end of construction and the businesses nearby who’ve endured the turmoil. It will be an opportunity to envision what a park on that spot might look like.

Library Lot – Board Response

Sandi Smith responded to the slide show presented by Hathaway by saying she appreciated the passion of his group, but said she found it “slightly disingenuous” when the location of the underground parking garage is bordered for the most part by historic districts. What’s displayed on the slides, she contended, is not feasible to achieve in the center of Ann Arbor.

Sandi Smith

From left: DDA board members Newcombe Clark, John Mouat and Sandi Smith.

Every example that Hathaway had given, she said, has high-rise buildings all the way around – extreme density. In Ann Arbor, she said, there are not even 5,000 people living downtown yet. She wanted the Connecting William Street process to unfold and she wanted Hathaway and his group to participate in it. Smith said it’s important to keep in mind that “we’re not Houston, we’re not New York City. We just don’t have the possibility of creating what was presented to us today.” She concluded her remarks by saying it’s important to keep in mind what is possible.

Mayor John Hieftje, who sits on the DDA board in a position created by the organization’s state enabling statute, agreed with Smith, saying that it’s “a little bit disingenuous” to say Liberty Plaza is the only green space in downtown Ann Arbor. Hieftje then went on to describe the University of Michigan Diag as a public park that is populated by students, people of Ann Arbor, and families having picnics. It’s a “state of Michigan park,” he said, that is “open and available to all of us.” Hieftje also pointed to an area near the new North Quad residence hall at State and Huron as an additional park. All those spots on University of Michigan property should also be shown as green space on the map in Hathaway’s presentation, Hieftje contended.

Regarding Liberty Plaza, Hieftje said he and Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere – along with city parks and recreation manager Colin Smith and park planner Amy Kuras – had taken a look at Liberty Plaza. Hieftje said there may be a possibility to redesign Liberty Plaza and there might be some grant money available.

Hieftje also said it might be possible to use some parks capital improvements millage money for Liberty Plaza work. A request might also come to the DDA. He said he did not want improvements to Liberty Plaza to be construed as opposition to a significant park on the Library Lot. He then went on to describe how in his time as mayor, he’d been very active in adding parkland to the city.

Library Lot: Public Commentary – Reprise

At the conclusion of the meeting, Nancy Kaplan addressed the board on the future of the Library Lot. [Kaplan serves on the Ann Arbor District Library board.] She asked the board to consider the results of a survey that the DDA had done. The responses showed support for green space in the Connecting William Street study area. She said that although Liberty Plaza has failed as a park, its existence shows that the city was willing to have a green space.

In the area where the Library Lot is located, Kaplan said there’s a need for respite from stone and hardscape. She asked the board to do something, at least temporarily, that would allow for a use of the top of the underground structure that is different from surface parking. She suggested using tree plantings. She encouraged the board to try it as a pilot program. Kaplan said the area has a lot of unattractive buildings and needs some respite from that.

Kitty Kahn told the board she totally agreed with Kaplan. She asked why a green roof on top of the underground garage couldn’t be tried. She contended that there is plenty of parking and that more is not needed. She urged the board to give the idea of some green space a try.

Annual Budget Adjustment

The DDA board considered amendments to its previously approved fiscal year FY 2012 budget (ending in three weeks, on June 30). It is an annual exercise undertaken to ensure that the actual expenses incurred are allowed for in the budget.

An example of a major difference between the already authorized budget and the amended version is an adjustment upward from $1,017,847 – for capital construction costs from the TIF (tax increment finance) fund – to $3,480,701. Those costs are construction invoices related to the new South Fifth Avenue underground parking garage, which is expected to open in mid-July. The budget adjustment is conservative, in that it assumes the parking garage will be completed and invoices will be submitted by the end of June, although that’s not likely. [.pdf of FY 2012 budget revision]

Roger Hewitt

DDA board member Roger Hewitt.

Last year, the DDA received construction invoices after its final regular budget adjustment that resulted in an excess in expenditures over budgeted revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. The overage was identified in the regular audit that was done by Abraham & Gaffney, P.C. as inconsistent with Michigan’s Uniform Budgeting and Accounting Act (UBAA) of 1968. DDA staff attributed the $337,478 overage to the submission of a bill forwarded to the DDA in June by its construction management consultant, Park Avenue Consultants Inc. The bill was for the underground parking garage and streetscape improvement projects that are currently under construction.

This year an additional effort was made to ensure that the final budget adjustment allowed for additional construction invoices that might be submitted between now and the end of the fiscal year.

South Fifth Avenue between Liberty and William is expected to reopen in mid-June, although it was most recently expected to open by the end of May.

Roger Hewitt introduced the item to the board and gave the background, noting that a city councilmember had been sharply critical of the DDA in connection with this issue in the past. [He was alluding to Stephen Kunselman, who represents Ward 3.]

Aside from some lighthearted commentary about a line item for the graffiti-removal product Elephant Snot, and more serious inquiry about the inclusion of the cost of surface lot leases in the direct parking expenses category, there was not a lot of board deliberation on the budget adjustments.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the adjustments to its FY 2012 budget.

Communications, Committee Reports

The board’s meeting included the usual range of reports from its standing committees and the downtown citizens advisory council.

Comm/Comm: State Street

During public commentary, Frances Todoro addressed the DDA board as a member of the State Street Area Association board. She noted that the State Street area currently has some challenges with respect to retail space – frequently turnover, for example, and the opportunity for the former Borders space. As a board, the SSAA has expressed a desire to learn more about opportunities, what is possible in the community. Specifically, she described an interest in having a retail location analysis done, that would encompass the entire downtown. It would be something that landlords, merchant associations, everyone who wants to understand the potential for downtown Ann Arbor could participate in. Questions such a study might answer include: Who wants to be in Ann Arbor? What demographic would make a retailer successful?

Todoro said the SSAA is interested in partnering with the DA to make the study happen.

During his remarks near the beginning of the meeting, mayor John Hieftje mentioned an improvement he’d like to see in the State Street area – widened sidewalks through bumpouts. It would enhance the outdoor dining possibilities, he said, making it more like Main Street. The sidewalk currently is too narrow there, he said. The idea of bumping out the sidewalks on State Street in downtown is something he said he did not want to fall off the radar screen. [Hieftje had begun talking about that idea around a year and a half ago.]

Responding to Hieftje’s suggestion to increase opportunities for outside dining on State Street, Roger Hewitt quipped that he supported Hieftje’s comments strongly. [Hewitt owns the Red Hawk Bar & Grill on State Street, which would benefit from that kind of streetscape improvement.]

Comm/Comm: R4C Zoning Review

Ray Detter, during his report from the downtown area citizens advisory council, said that the CAC had asked mayor John Hieftje to support the report from the R4C/R2A review committee. He characterized the work of that committee as reflecting an overwhelming desire to preserve streetscapes in the R4C/R2A area and to curb development patterns that depend on the accumulation of lots so that larger projects can be built. [See Chronicle coverage: "Planning Group Weighs R4C/R2A Report."]

Comm/Comm: Near North

Mayor John Hieftje gave an update on the latest report from Avalon Housing’s Near North affordable housing project. The DDA board had voted on Sept. 7, 2011 to extend a $500,000 grant that it had previously awarded. At that time, the closing on the deal had been thought to be imminent. At the June 4, 2012 meeting, Hieftje reported that financing was now expected to be finalized at the end of June. Demolition of the vacant houses, he said, would be expected to begin in July.

Present: Nader Nassif, Newcombe Clark, Bob Guenzel, Roger Hewitt, John Hieftje, John Splitt, Sandi Smith, Leah Gunn, Russ Collins, John Mouat.

Absent: Keith Orr, Joan Lowenstein.

Next board meeting: Noon on Monday, July 2, 2012, at the DDA offices, 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. [confirm date]

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  1. By Rod Johnson
    June 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm | permalink

    I’m interested in the top critieron: “Addresses a documented gap in the marketplace or underserved markets of commerce.” In the case of 618 S. Main the gap was “residential space for young professionals.” Where is this “documented”? What kind of documentation is necessary? I know there’s a perception that there is such a gap–where’s the evidence?

  2. By James Jefferson
    June 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm | permalink

    Thank you again annarborchronicle.com for a through recap of the meeting. I had planned on attending, but the scheduling link on the city’s website showed the meeting as being cancelled. Is there a more accurate place to get information abut the DDA’s meeting times and places? Is citizen (non-member) participation and observation allowed, or are these closed, executive sessions? Thanks.

  3. June 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm | permalink

    Re: [2] “…the scheduling link on the city’s website showed the meeting as being cancelled.”

    There was a Connecting William Street project meeting scheduled for June 5 that was cancelled – which may be the source of the confusion. The regular board meeting, which is held on the first Wednesday of the month at the DDA offices at 150 S. Fifth Avenue on the third floor, was held as scheduled this month on June 6. Note that next month, the regular board meeting has been moved to July 2, to accomodate the July 4 holiday.

    The two committee meetings — partnerships and operations (aka bricks & money) — are typically held on the second and fourth Wednesday morning of the month, respectively (usually at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.) The DDA online calendar will show the specific times and days.

    Re: “Is citizen (non-member) participation and observation allowed, or are these closed, executive sessions?”

    For the full board meetings, opportunity for citizen participation and observation is allowed under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act. Public participation at the meetings is offered at two points: (1) at the start of the meeting, by signing up in advance, by contacting the DDA – with the total number of such speakers limited to four, at four minutes each; (2) at the conclusion of the meeting, with no requirement of signing up in advance, no limit on the number of speakers, but limited to four minutes each.

    The committee meetings later in the month are also open to the public to attend, although typically there’s not time made available for the public to address the committees.

    The DDA videotapes its meetings to be archived on CTN’s video-on-demand for later viewing. In retrieving the URL for that link, I noticed that no meetings since January 2012 have been added – I’m not sure why not.

    If the board meets in closed session, which it has done on fairly rare occasion over the last four years, then it may do so only as part of duly-noticed open meeting, only for one of the specific reasons listed in the OMA, and only after voting to go into a closed session.

  4. June 9, 2012 at 10:49 pm | permalink

    I appreciate the Chronicle’s thorough coverage of the DDA meeting. As I have already communicated to Mayor Hieftje, I am grateful for the constructive criticism he offered after we presented our case for a Library Lot park to the DDA. We are always refining our argument and it is helpful to know where there are any perceived weaknesses.

    As I read the Mayor’s comments and those of Council Member Smith, I am struck again by how some arguments and definitions seem to shift to suit the situation. It is OK for the City to think BIG and build a huge underground structure with multi-million dollar reinforced footings for a totally speculative skyscraper. But if our group of public open-space advocates points out that urban parks have generated economic benefits in other cities they say that we need to think “small.”

    We used an illustration from the City’s 2009 Downtown Plan (page 10) – presumably approved by City Council – showing the lack of parks downtown. In response we are told that this is “disingenuous.” This is the City’s own document. We didn’t make this up. If they meant to include the University of Michigan’s property as part downtown park land, they could have tried to make that argument when they adopted the plan in 2009. Everyone in Ann Arbor appreciates that the UM is generous in sharing its resources – including the use of Ingalls Mall for the Summer Festival and Art Fair. To pretend that the proximity of the campus to the downtown obviates the need for an urban park is truly disingenuous.

    The arguments used to dismiss those advocating a downtown park are divisive: “You can’t create a park downtown because it is in conflict with historic districts!” “You can’t create a park downtown because the Greenway is first in line!” “You can’t have a park downtown because Liberty Plaza is perceived negatively and that means all downtown parks will also be a problem.”

    What if the $5-6 million spent on reinforced footings had been invested instead in an amazing park on top of the the library lot? The City/DDA would have built its deluxe underground parking structure with a beautiful crown on top – with millions to spare for a downtown parks maintenance endowment. During the RFP process in 2009 the Dahlmanns offered $2.5 million out of their own pockets to build a park on top of the Library Lot – a potential gift to Ann Arbor that was brushed aside. All this speculation and missed opportunity and yet the implication is that people advocating for a park are the naive ones.

    Our group is trying to participate in the DDA’s Connecting William Street Process. It is more than “slightly disingenuous” to imply that there are a lot of opportunities for legitimate public input into that process. The DDA’s online survey received a significant response from people calling for the creation of a downtown park. Because of the survey’s design, these responses were forced into a disorganized avalanche within the open-ended portion of the questionnaire. So far, the DDA has not shown an interest in understanding and honoring this public input. Instead of working to interpret the survey responses in favor of a downtown park, the DDA staff and consultants worked on arguments for why it should be ignored.

    Our group hopes to have more opportunities to participate in the DDA’s process. We are confident that if the Connecting William Street process were truly open to the public that our idea would be a part of the vision for the Library Lot. We want a thriving downtown with successful businesses and many diverse residents and visitors. We argue on behalf of a centrally located, public park as an integral part of downtown Ann Arbor’s future.

  5. By Mary Morgan
    June 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm | permalink

    Re. #4: “We used an illustration from the City’s 2009 Downtown Plan (page 10) – presumably approved by City Council – showing the lack of parks downtown.”

    Here’s a link to that plan: [link] And more specifically, a .pdf of the map that Will Hathaway refers to on page 10 [link]

  6. June 10, 2012 at 7:47 am | permalink

    I note that the map shows only Sculpture Park, Liberty Plaza, and Main Street (as an open space, not a park).

    Actually, the entire Central Area is rather deficient in parks. This illustration [map] was from a city planning document as well (it seems to have been deleted from the city website) and shows that West Park and Fuller Park, at the very edges, are the major green spots in the entire area surrounding our downtown. This chart of parks acreage [chart] from the PROS plan shows that, even including non-city open space, the Central Area is very poorly served with parks compared to the rest of the city.

    I would like to state that calling the UM Diag a public park is the disingenuous statement. That is not accessible to the general public as a right; public is tolerated there under some circumstances, but it does not belong to us.

  7. By Chris Hewett
    June 10, 2012 at 10:28 am | permalink

    I too appreciate the coverage by annarborchronicle.com. What I cannot understand is the total disregard for the will of the public (taxpayers) by our city leadership. They seem to forget that they are elected to carry out the will of the public, NOT their personal agendas. I love Ann Arbor and also would like to see it thrive, but let’s face it, no argument by the city can change the fact that it is 90+% concrete and hardscape. Right now the downtown area mainly targets 2 interests – dining and drinking, which is good, but it could be so much more. What about a destination that draws singles, professionals, kids and families? The Campus Martius/Hart Plaza reference was spot on! There are always tons of people there and that generates revenue for the city. Even with Detroit being “somewhat empty”, people travel there…it is a destination! I don’t think the Park Advocates are asking for too much here, they seem to only want to restore some of Ann Arbor’s former glory that was lost when the old courthouse was torn down. Even the historical markers on Main St document the value and use of the former lawn and green space. Let us learn from this history lesson…and being practical, concrete and hardscapes are just not attractive…again I only ask one thing from the City- serve the will of the PEOPLE!
    Respectfully Submitted,
    Christopher Hewett

  8. By Kitty B. Kahn
    June 10, 2012 at 11:47 am | permalink

    I would like to reiterate what I said to the DDA: Why not try a green roof on top of the underground parking structure? One has only to look on the web to see many examples of green roofs around the world – and here in Ann Arbor. Our own Mallett’s Creek Branch public library has a green roof. I envision environmentally friendly perennial groundcover with paths winding through it and benches where people can read a book they just borrowed from the library next door or eat their lunch or chat with friends or play a game of chess. There could be a gazebo to get out of the rain or sun and where performances of all kinds could be presented. But mine is only one vision of what could be possible on the library lot. I invite everyone to come to the ‘Imagine a Park’ Block Party on Saturday, July 14th, noon-5 pm on the library lot. Young and old and in between are all invited to tell us your own visions for our public space.

  9. By karen sidney
    June 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm | permalink

    I’ve been talking to my neighbors about a park on the library lot and have yet to find one that does not think it is a great idea. It’s time for the DDA to get beyond concrete as the only way to develop downtown.

  10. By Marvin Face
    June 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | permalink

    Count me among those that think a park downtown would be a lovely idea. Just not in this spot. I have elaborated elsewhere the many reasons that this a poor idea so I won’t go into detail here. I just didn’t want Ms. Sidney’s comment to float out there without a response because I fear that she is (as usual?) in the vocal minority.

  11. By John Floyd
    June 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm | permalink

    Mr. Face has previously advocated moving the library to the space above the underground lot, and using the current corner location of the library for the downtown park. The library board wants a new building, the parking structure has the footings for building to be build on top, and the design of the underground lot leaves little space for an actual park. The current library site would offer a larger, even more visible space than the top of the parking structure itself. Whether or not this is still Mr. Faces’s thinking, it strikes me as a great idea.

    It would be wrong for bickering over exactly which space is to be a park to distract from the discussion about whether a park is needed, in whatever location.

    @ Mr. Hewit,

    This is what elections are for: replacing non-responsive, non-responsible officials with responsive, responsible officials. Are you working for a candidate? Talking to your neighbors? in any case, see you at the polls in August, and again in November. That’s where responsive officials are created.

    @ Ms. Armentrout,

    It is indeed disingenuous to describe the diag as a public space. The university can and does ban people from its property. it is my understanding that the university has permanently banned several thousand people from its campuses – including the diag. I personally know children who have been summarily banned from campus for a year for the crime of using a skate board – once. The ban was with or without a skateboard. While I can understand the impulse to ban skateboarders, even if this example is over the top, this underscores that the diag is not public property. The public has no right to use it, merely the sufferance of President Coleman and her officials. This, of course, also overlooks that the diag is not downtown, is not especially family friendly, and isn’t near any downtown or near downtown residential buildings, except for William Plaza and the Zaragon private student dormitories. The diag does nothing for the Main Street area, or for non-students.

    @ Mr. Hathaway,

    No fair confronting city officials with their own work. We all know that the city’s “Visioning” documents are just for show to the public, and have little/no relation to actual intentions of elected officials as evidenced by their actions.

  12. By James Jefferson
    June 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | permalink

    Thank you for the meeting time and restrictions clarification. I will attend the next meeting and plan on signing up for public comment.

    Why not a park? Just because the building was built with extra foundation work doesn’t mean it has to be put to that use immediately. Unless, of course there are plans in the works that are not yet available to the public. This could very well be the case. I am appalled by the negative comments from Ms. Smith and others refuting the validity of citizen surveys, prior planning documents and comparative analysis to other cities. We can’t hold up Central Park as a reasonable comparison, but I am sure NYC is better for it being there. Also, I think her statement about the number of people living downtown needs fact checking. What constitutes downtown living? Lastly, I am sure if we let this DDA and City Council carry on as they are now it won’t be long before there IS a ring of highrises around the library lot. Then can we have a park?

  13. By Alice Ralph
    June 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm | permalink

    In regard to the important opportunities represented by concurrent development of green open space with building development, it’s tempting to say “what they said…”. I spent a few hours on Main Street at an information table as part of Green Fair last Friday. Our local penchant for public activities downtown has developed a public demand for spaces that better accommodate them. These spaces need to be as diverse as the activities themselves, not just streets blocked off for a few hours. (Although, I do recognize how appealing it is for people to dominate a space that is usually dominated by vehicles!) With all the ‘al fresco’ dining and ‘waiting-in-line-ing’, it is sometimes difficult to promenade in Main Street’s Dean Promenade!
    That’s why the Diag is not appropriate for civic expression. That’s why we don’t see music performances in Sculpture Plaza. And that’s why noon concerts in Liberty Plaza attract crowds, but still is viewed as a “problem”. And events at the Farmers Market have varying success. One size or type of space does not well suit all purposes.
    For three evenings last week, certain local downtown businesses hosted a series of site-specific dances. Every evening was sold out, but anyone in the public right-of-way could get a glimpse of this creative event, or even walk with [or through] it. The finale was in an unpaved parking lot that might be part of a green urban connector trail–transforming blight to beauty. We only have to stop thinking about what “we can’t do” and start thinking how, and where, to do what we know is good for us.

  14. By Tom
    June 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm | permalink

    Advocates for a public space downtown have created a website with a lot of additional information: a2centralpark.org

    There’s also a link on the site for donating towards the cost of their block party event on July 14th.

    I’ve been very impressed with the open and honest communications these citizens have engaged in. They put their vision on the web, spoken at numerous public meetings, written op-eds, and most impressively, have actually gone out and met with numerous individuals, from business owners and developers, to public officials—including the library board and staff, including those that they knew were opposed to their idea. They have demonstrated the courage of their convictions and are willing to take the slings and arrows that are inevitably thrown at those who stand up for something in public.

    This is in marked contrast to our local leaders who often work behind closed doors via appointees and consultants to manipulate outcomes for pet projects like conference centers, train stations, massive commuter transit systems, golf course privatizations and city hall expansions. For the Mayor and Council Member Smith to call these good citizens disingenuous is the epitome of irony.

  15. By Sandi Smith
    June 12, 2012 at 9:43 am | permalink

    To be clear, I am not against parks or public open space or even additional open space on that block. I want to be mindful that whatever we do, it is a successful space – unlike the other park that exists on that same block.

    What I found to be disingenuous about the slide show  was the series of photos portraying what could never be on that block. Each picture showed a large public space, usually green, dotted with lots of people. They were photos taken in large cities like New York, Houston and even Detroit. Each of these parks were surrounded by tall buildings, full of people and eyes on the park: density. 

    Each city has a much greater population than Ann Arbor. Even Detroit is seven times the size! I don’t have daytime visitor/employee stats at hand, but all the example cities dwarf Ann Arbor. There are less than 5000 people living in the DDA district, and probably less than a 100 who live on that block.
    It is also mostly bounded by historic districts. It is not that a park is an incompatible use with an historic district, it is that the necessary density to make a park work can never be built there because of the restrictions in place imposed by the historic district regulations.

    The DDA effort called Connecting William Street is currently underway. To date we have conducted a preliminary survey (with ~ 2000 respondents) and 3 out of 4 speaker series that have been well attended. This is only the first phase of effort. There will be ample opportunity for robust public input in the coming months.

    BTW: I both live and work in downtown Ann Arbor. I have ample ways to enjoy open space and don’t feel cheated about my share of it. There are over 2000 acres of parkland just within the City! I often walk my dogs through West Park, Bandemer, the new Argo Cascades or just through the neighborhoods. They always enjoy the trip.

  16. By Tom Brandt
    June 12, 2012 at 10:50 am | permalink

    I’m not sure that comparing the population of Detroit with Ann Arbor when talking about Campus Martius and a possible park on the Library Lot is relevant. Not that many people live near Campus Martius, but it is heavily used by people who work in area. I think the same situation would obtain in downtown Ann Arbor – a park on the Library Lot would be heavily used by people who work downtown.

  17. By Alan Goldsmith
    June 12, 2012 at 10:52 am | permalink

    “He then went on to describe how in his time as mayor, he’d been very active in adding parkland to the city.”

    As well as pushing legal loopholes to give away parkland via ‘leases’ and going around the intent of the law that requires a vote of the public for this to happen, ala the Fuller Road Parkland Giveaway attempt.

  18. By Alan Goldsmith
    June 12, 2012 at 10:52 am | permalink

    “There are over 2000 acres of parkland just within the City! I often walk my dogs through West Park, Bandemer, the new Argo Cascades or just through the neighborhoods. They always enjoy the trip.”

    As long as Sandi Smith’s dogs are content I guess we should move on.

  19. By Steve Bean
    June 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm | permalink

    @15: Sandi, have you ruled out an event space, or did you just neglect to mention such usage in your comment? (By the way, a simple omission doesn’t make your comment disingenuous. In any case, you might want to forego that term when communicating with residents.)

    How would you define “successful” relative to this space? How would you describe “what’s possible”? Also, do you have suggestions for park spaces to research in comparably-sized cities?

  20. June 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm | permalink

    I think that we may have discovered a new T-shirt slogan: “Ann Arbor – Where calling someone disingenuous is fighting words!”

    The definition is “to not be candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.” I think that everyone involved in this debate is sincere in wanting a successful downtown. We may or may not disagree – hopefully we can find consensus. I don’t sense that anyone involved is pretending to know less about something than they really do. On the contrary, in Ann Arbor it is more likely that someone might err in the other direction.

    Because this dialogue began with my slide show about the idea of a “Library Green,” I’d like to share the link to that presentation on Youtube. It is now updated to incorporate the constructive criticism offered by Mayor Hieftje and Council Member Smith during the June 6 DDA meeting. Here is the link: [link]

  21. By Tom
    June 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm | permalink

    How about Ellis Square in Savannah, GA, population 136,000?

    Ellis Square was one of the originally platted squares in the city, but similar to Ann Arbor’s court house square, it was demolished in 1955 to make way for “progress”–in this case, a four-story parking garage which was a blight on an otherwise lovely, historic downtown for decades.

    In 2005, Savannah finally demolished the eyesore parking garage and replaced it with an underground structure. On top–you guessed it–they built a new Ellis Square complete with 30′ transplanted live oak trees, a fountain for viewing and cooling off in, a visitor center, and restrooms. This, in spite of the fact that there are several other public squares and parks within a short walking distance of this location.

  22. By Tom
    June 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm | permalink

    Oh–Did I forget to mention that Ellis Square is in an historic district? Oops.