Liberty Plaza Redesign Referred To Parks Group

The future of Liberty Plaza, a park in downtown Ann Arbor at the corner of Division and Liberty streets, will receive some added attention from the park advisory commission, as a result city council action on June 16, 2014.

The resolution considered by the council would have directed the city administrator to “work collaboratively with the property owners adjacent to and near Liberty Plaza, the general public, PAC [park advisory commission], the Ann Arbor District Library, and the DDA to develop a conceptual design for an improved Liberty Plaza…” The resolution was sponsored by Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), mayor John Hieftje, Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1).

But after nearly an hour of debate, the council voted to refer the resolution to the park advisory commission instead of approving it. The vote on referral to PAC came amid deliberation on some amendments to the resolution proposed by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) that would have broaden the scope of the effort to include the Library Lane lot. [.pdf of Lumm's amendments] Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5) cited the fact that under parliamentary rules, a motion to refer takes precedence over a motion to amend, so the council voted on the referral before the vote to amend.

Funding for the collaborative work on the redesign, in the amount of $23,577, was specified in the resolution as coming from the parks and recreation budget. In addition to a concept for a “re-imagined Liberty Plaza,” the resolution was supposed to result in options for funding construction, to be provided by city staff. The resolution called for a report to be provided to the park advisory commission by December 2014 and to the city council a month later in January 2015.

This resolution comes in the context of a push by some Ann Arbor residents to establish public park space on top of the underground Library Lane parking garage, which is southwest of Liberty Plaza separated from that park by a surface parking lot owned by First Martin Corp. Related to that, the council voted at its April 7, 2014 meeting – as part of reconsidering a vote it had taken at its previous meeting on March 17 – to designate a 12,000-square-foot portion of the Library Lane surface to be reserved as an urban park.

The result of the reconsidered resolution on April 7 undid the council’s earlier decision to establish a square foot range for the urban plaza – from 6,500-12,000 square feet. That April 7 council decision was made on a 7-4 vote, with dissent from Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), mayor John Hieftje, Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5).

Deliberations on June 16 included questions about why PAC hadn’t been consulted on this resolution. Taylor, one of the resolution’s co-sponsors, serves as an ex-officio member of PAC. Taylor indicated that it wasn’t necessary to consult PAC, as it’s the council’s prerogative to set policy.

PAC meets monthly, but its June 17 meeting has been canceled. The group had previously been directed by the council to develop a set of recommendations regarding downtown parks, which they completed last year. The council accepted the recommendations at its Nov. 7, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of 21-page PAC downtown parks report]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.