Ann Arbor park advisory commissioners had a wide-ranging conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 – mostly focused on responding to a Connecting William Street presentation that was made at PAC’s Aug. 21 meeting.
Liberty Plaza, a downtown city park, as viewed from the corner of Liberty and Division facing southwest. The white house in the left background is the Kempf House Museum. The red brick building visible in the back right is the Ann Arbor District Library.
Their consensus: That the potential development scenarios presented by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – focused on five city-owned properties along William Street – did not include sufficient parkland or green space.
Commissioners plan to craft a resolution for their Oct. 16 meeting, recommending that the DDA incorporate more green space into its final proposal to the city council. The council had directed the DDA to develop a coordinated planning approach for the five sites, to guide future development. The parcels include the lower level of the Fourth & William parking structure, plus four surface parking lots: (1) the Kline’s lot on Ashley; (2) the lot next to Palio restaurant at Main & William; (3) the old YMCA lot between Fourth and Fifth; and (5) the top of the Library Lane underground parking garage on South Fifth, north of the downtown library.
PAC’s resolution will also likely suggest specific attributes they’d like to see in a downtown park, such as grassy areas, interactive sculptures, or a performance space. Other attributes might include a visible location with mixed-use development around it, and programming or activities to attract people to the site.
Despite consensus that more green space is needed, commissioners were less unified about where that green space should be located, and expressed some frustration that they didn’t have more time for this task. One possibility discussed was a downtown greenway, making connections between different parcels where pedestrians could walk from Main Street to the library on South Fifth, and possibly continuing to State Street.
Other ideas included setting aside one of the five sites – either Main and William, or Fifth and William were suggested – as a park. Commissioners also discussed a possible park or plaza on the Library Lane site. There was some sentiment that having an outdoor space next to the library would be positive, though they acknowledged the concerns raised by library officials about putting a park there.
Liberty Plaza, one of the city’s current downtown parks, was part of the mix, although it’s not included in the Connecting William Street project. Commissioners have been asked by mayor John Hieftje to look at that park and some staff suggestions for improving it. More broadly, Hieftje has asked PAC to help prioritize the needs for downtown parks and the possibility of adding more parks into the system.
Colin Smith, Ann Arbor’s parks and recreation manager, encouraged commissioners to review the city’s parks and recreation open space (PROS) plan, which includes recommendations for downtown parks. Some of these issues have been discussed for years, he noted, and it’s important not to “reinvent the wheel.”
The follow-up discussion to requests from Hieftje and the DDA was held at PAC’s land acquisition committee meeting on Sept. 4 in the city council workroom. It was attended by seven of the nine park commissioners: Julie Grand, Ingrid Ault, Tim Berla, Tim Doyle, Alan Jackson, John Lawter and Karen Levin. Not at the meeting were the two city councilmembers – Mike Anglin and Christopher Taylor – who are ex-officio members of PAC.
Also absent was Bob Galardi, the commission’s most recently appointed member. His absence was noted by some commissioners, who had hoped to hear his perspective as a member of the DDA’s leadership and outreach committee for the Connecting William Street project. [Full Story]