Parks Group Briefed on Urban Park Proposal

A proposal to build an urban park on top of the Library Lane underground parking structure was presented at the Feb. 25, 2014 meeting of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission.

Library Lane, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Library Lane park proposal

The presentation by Will Hathaway, on behalf of the Library Green Conservancy, included a draft proposal of a resolution for the city council to reserve about 10,000 square feet on the surface of the Library Lane Structure for an urban park, to be “bounded by the Fifth Avenue sidewalk on the west, the Library Lane Street sidewalk to the south, the western entry to the central elevator to the east, and the southern curb of the service alley on the north.” [.pdf of proposed resolution] [.pdf of proposed site boundaries]

Hathaway said he’s been working with city councilmember Jack Eaton (Ward 4). Hathaway indicated that Eaton might be ready to bring the resolution to the council’s next meeting, on March 3.

The proposal also calls for financial support as well as an allocation of staff time to design and create the park. The proposed council resolution would ask PAC and the parks staff to prepare preliminary recommendations for the park’s design, to be presented at the council’s first meeting in October of 2014.

Other aspects of the proposal include:

  • asking the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority to prepare for an eventual transition from parking to non-parking on the surface of the Library Lane structure;
  • asking the DDA to conduct a structural analysis of the Library Lane structure to determine if any modifications are needed to safely support design features, such as soil, plantings of various sizes, water features, a skating rink, a performance stage, and play equipment;
  • asking that the city’s community services and parks staff work with DDA and the Ann Arbor District Library to facilitate public programming with activities including craft fairs, book fairs, food carts, and fine arts performances;
  • asking the DDA to work with the city to explore possible above-ground private and/or public development of the remaining, build-able portion of the surface level north of the central elevator and above the central exit/entrance ramp.

The proposed resolution would would specify certain conditions for development rights on the remaining surface of Library Lane, including additional public open space and pedestrian access as features of any private development. The resolution also calls for close collaboration with neighboring properties and businesses, including the Ann Arbor District Library, First Martin Corp., the University of Michigan Credit Union, the Inter-Cooperative Council, and the businesses facing Fifth Avenue and Liberty Street.

Activists have pushed for a public park or plaza on the top of the Library Lane underground parking structure for several years. Several members of the Library Green Conservancy – including former park commissioner Gwen Nystuen, and former Ann Arbor planning commissioner Eric Lipson – attended PAC’s Feb. 25 meeting.

PAC has explored the urban park issue more broadly, most formally with a downtown parks subcommittee created in 2012. The subcommittee presented a report at PAC’s Oct. 15, 2013 meeting that included general recommendations, with an emphasis on “placemaking” principles that include active use, visibility and safety. The most specific recommendation also called for developing a park or open space on top of the Library Lane structure. A park or open space at that location should exceed 5,000 square feet, according to the report, and connect to Library Lane, the small mid-block cut-through that runs north of the library between Fifth and Division. [.pdf of 21-page full subcommittee report]

The subcommittee’s report was accepted by the Ann Arbor city council on Nov. 7, 2013 over dissent from councilmember Mike Anglin (Ward 5), who serves on PAC as an ex officio member.

Hathaway’s presentation on Feb. 25 drew on recommendations from the PAC subcommittee, as well as from information in the DDA’s Connecting William Street study. He characterized this draft resolution as an initial step, and likened the process to the one that led to the Ann Arbor skatepark being built at Veterans Memorial Park.

He also noted that some people involved in the Library Green Conservancy were disappointed that this proposal isn’t calling for a park on top of the entire Library Lane site. He indicated that the current draft resolution reflects some political reality, based on feedback from city staff and councilmembers.

Hathaway wasn’t asking for PAC to take any specific action on this proposal, but asked for feedback. Several commissioners raised concerns, some of it focused on the process of bringing this resolution forward without specific direction from the council. Hathaway noted that the draft resolution is intended to start the process, with council direction, to begin working with stakeholders, PAC, the public and others in the design and development of this park.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. A more detailed report will follow: [link]