Stories indexed with the term ‘active use’

Active Use of Work Space: Film Premiere

On Wednesday night at the Workantile Exchange – a membership-funded coworking space on Main Street, between Washington and Huron – local video producer and urban researcher Kirk Westphal premiered his two newest films.

Workantile Exchange Urban Planning Council Manager Form of Government

Pre-premiere socializing at the Workantile Exchange for films on urban planning and forms of local government. (Photos by the writer.)

The first film, “The Great Street Toolkit,” focuses on urban planning. The second, “The Council-Manager Form of Local Government,” is an introduction to how the council-manager system is different from a strong mayor system. The city of Ann Arbor uses a modified version of the council-manager form.

As Westphal himself noted lightheartedly, it was the “true wonks” in the audience who stayed for the second film – on council-manager government.

And it turns out that most of the 30 people in the audience were true wonks.

But linked indirectly to the evening in multiple ways was one person who was not in the audience at all –  local developer and downtown property owner, Ed Shaffran. [Full Story]

Planning: Banks, Parks and Roundabouts

Ann Arbor Planning Commission meeting (Nov. 3, 2010): Banks provided a leitmotif for the most recent regular meeting of the planning commission.

PNC Bank building in Ann Arbor

The PNC Bank building in Ann Arbor, at the corner of Main and Huron, illustrating planning commissioner Kirk Westphal's point that banks tend to create urban "dead zones."

A request to add a parking lot at the University Bank headquarters in the former Hoover Mansion was revisited during public commentary – the proposal had been discussed and postponed at the commission’s Oct. 19 meeting. Bank president Stephen Ranzini returned and spoke during public commentary on Nov. 3, citing additional reasons why commissioners should grant the request, which planning staff had recommended rejecting.

Later in the meeting, commissioner Kirk Westphal reprised a cheeky slideshow he’d given during the recent annual conference of the Michigan Association of Planning. One slide showed an image of a bank robbery taking place, as Westphal narrated: “I contend that what this thief is stealing from the bank doesn’t even come close to what underused banks, like this one, steal from the vitality of a downtown.”

Commissioner Evan Pratt also gave a presentation that he’d delivered at the conference, focused on the use of roundabouts as an alternative to a traditional intersection, or the “axis of evil.” Their presentations were given in the “Pecha Kucha” style – Chronicle readers might be familiar with a similar format if they’ve attended Ignite Ann Arbor events.

Intersecting the topics of parks and planning, but without the playful overtones, commissioners passed a resolution recommending that city council distribute a draft of the Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation Open Space (PROS) plan to neighboring communities and stakeholders, as required by state law. The draft plan, revised every five years, will be posted on the city’s website for public feedback after council approves distribution. [Full Story]

Council Begins Downtown Zoning Review

At Monday night’s city council work session councilmember Leigh Greden said that he wanted to see growth. Growth is what he could see (even if not the kind he was looking for) by turning his gaze to his immediate left at the council table to look at his colleague, Christopher Taylor’s upper lip, which is sprouting a mustache for charity. That kind of growth is no longer visible on city administrator Roger Fraser’s chin. Before the work session began, Fraser joked with the Ward 3 council contingent that he’d shorn his whiskers in order to appear as youthful as Greden.

Maximum Diagonal Illustration of the concept of a … [Full Story]