Stories indexed with the term ‘retreat’

DDA Mulls Role: Events, Marketing?

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Feb. 5, 2014): Highlights of the board’s hour and a quarter meeting were communications and transportation, on an agenda that featured no substantive voting items. The meeting consisted of various reports and discussion points.


A poster generated at the Jan. 30, 2014 Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board retreat. (Photos by the writer.)

A communications and marketing strategy for the downtown was the focus of Rishi Narayan’s report from the board’s partnerships committee, which had invited representatives from the four downtown area merchant associations to it most recent meeting. The message from those groups, Narayan reported, was a desire to see more events take place downtown.

A desire to see more signature events take place, especially during the winter, had been one of several items identified by board members at a recent retreat, held on Jan. 30, 2014 in the jury assembly room of the Justice Center, from noon to about 3:30 p.m. At its Feb. 5 monthly meeting, the follow-up discussion about the retreat also focused heavily on the idea of events and the possible role the DDA might play in facilitating more frequent events downtown. An initial reaction that appeared to be shared by several board members was this: The DDA should not necessarily be in the event-hosting business, but rather provide assistance to those organizations that are already hosting various events.

Board chair Sandi Smith also floated the idea of hiring an additional staff member to focus on marketing. City administrator Steve Powers stressed the importance of having a clear idea of the financial basis for the DDA’s capacity to undertake various projects on the list of its five-year plan. That five-year project plan, which Smith characterized as always in draft form, will be a focus of discussion when the board continues its retreat on Feb. 19. In addition to the five-year project plan, the board will focus on its 10-year financial projections at the Feb. 19 session. [Updated: The board has decided to continue its retreat on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. at the DDA offices.]

Transportation was a topic addressed by the sole speaker during public commentary at the Feb. 5 monthly meeting, as Martha Valadez, an organizer with Partners for Transit, asked the DDA board to support a millage proposal that’s expected to be placed on the ballot by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Late last month, the board’s operations committee had been briefed by AAATA staff on the five-year transit improvement plan – the set of service increases that are driving the likely request that voters approve an additional 0.7 mill tax.

Also related to transportation was a report from the board’s operations committee that included an update on the go!pass program, which the DDA has funded historically. Last year, the DDA granted the AAATA about $560,000 to pay for rides taken by downtown employees through the go!pass program. A request will be coming up soon for this next year’s funding.

In another transportation-related topic, the board also received an update on a possible part-time conversion of downtown on-street loading zones into taxi stands. Somewhat related to on-street right-of-way, the board was briefed on city council action to impose a fee on developers who cause the removal of on-street parking meters – unless the development has a more general public benefit. It will be up to the DDA to define what constitutes a public benefit – a task the board will now take up.

Related specifically to the public parking system, which the DDA manages under a contract with the city, the board reviewed the parking revenues for the second quarter of the fiscal year, compared to last year. It was the first full quarter for which the year-over-year comparison was for periods that did not include any parking rate increases. Revenue was essentially flat, showing just a 0.7% increase.

It’s not clear how much longer the former Y lot – located on William between Fourth and Fifth avenues – will continue to be used as a surface parking lot. Not mentioned at the Feb. 5 board meeting, but discussed at the Jan. 29 operations committee meeting, was a proposal from Dennis Dahlmann about leasing the lot back to the DDA after he completes the purchase of the city-owned land. The idea would be for the DDA to lease the property and continue to operate a surface parking lot on the parcel until Dahlmann is able to move a site plan forward. At the operations committee meeting, the idea was not warmly embraced.

Other updates included the regular report from the downtown area citizens advisory council. Chair of the group, Ray Detter, reported that the CAC was generally supportive of an effort now being made by Will and Mary Hathaway to work with some city councilmembers on a resolution about the future of the surface level of the Library Lane underground parking structure. The resolution would establish a significant part of that level – but not all of it – as an urban public space. [Full Story]

Public Art Commission Plans for Future

Ann Arbor public art commission meeting (Oct. 23, 2013): The most recent AAPAC meeting focused on an ongoing transition for Ann Arbor’s public art program.

Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, Ann Arbor public art commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rendering of “Bucket Cascade” proposal by Mags Harries and Lajos Heder. It’s one of two finalists for public art at the city’s Argo Cascades.

Commissioners were briefed about the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP), which will now be integral to the public art program. AAPAC and city staff will identify projects in the CIP that might be candidates for public art “enhancements” – if the council agrees and provides additional funding for that purpose. It’s a change from the previous Percent for Art program, which the city council eliminated earlier this year.

Deb Gosselin, who oversees the CIP process, attended AAPAC’s meeting and described a decision-making matrix that’s used to help city staff prioritize capital projects. AAPAC plans to use that matrix as a model for developing its own method of prioritizing potential public art projects.

Commissioners also briefly discussed four possible capital projects that might include public art enhancements, including an enclosure of the farmers market, and a retaining wall to be built as part of a Stadium Boulevard reconstruction.

Some of these issues will likely be picked up during a retreat that’s set for Nov. 20. The idea of a retreat was proposed by one of the newer commissioners, Ashlee Arder, as a way to get to know each other better, as well as to discuss the creation of AAPAC’s annual plan, which is due to the council in early 2014. Arder also hopes to assemble a “curated team” from different sectors of the community, to help AAPAC develop ideas for fostering public art as well as the broader creative sector.

Also at their most recent meeting, commissioners acted on a specific project that’s already underway. They authorized applying for a $40,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan to fund a public art project in the Arbor Oaks/Bryant neighborhood on Ann Arbor’s southeast side. But they tabled another proposal – for artwork at the roundabout on South State and Ellsworth – until their February 2014 meeting, allowing time for commissioners to see how it might fit into an overall public art plan.

Updates were provided during the meeting on several other projects, including the Coleman Jewett memorial at the farmers market, finalists for artwork at Argo Cascades, and a plan to add an artistic element to the city’s new bike share program. [Full Story]

Public Art Commission Sets Retreat

The Ann Arbor public art commission voted to schedule a retreat on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 4:30 p.m., at a location to be determined. The action took place at AAPAC’s Oct. 23, 2013 meeting. The item to create this committee was added to the agenda at the start of the meeting.

The point is to review the selection of projects for the commission’s annual plan, as well as to help build rapport among commissioners. Three new commissioners have joined AAPAC this year: Devon Akmon, Ashlee Arder, and Nick Zagar. The retreat will be held in place of the commission’s regular Nov. 27 meeting, which has been canceled. Update: The Nov. 20 retreat was subsequently canceled, as was AAPAC’s Nov. 27 regular … [Full Story]

AAPS Retreat Aug. 1: Evaluation, Budgeting

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education regular meeting/committee-of-the-whole (July 18, 2012): The AAPS school board met Wednesday to plan its annual retreat, and to take care of a small amount of business. The board will meet on Aug. 1 from 3-9 p.m. at a location yet to be determined – to evaluate its own processes, and set goals for the 2012-13 school year.

In planning for the retreat, the board discussed its support for moving the district to a zero-based budgeting system, a goal of AAPS superintendent Patricia Green. Trustees also suggested discussing student performance measures, as related to both superintendent evaluation and the possible restructuring of teachers’ compensation to include merit pay.

The one item of regular business conducted at the July 18 meeting was to renew the district’s membership in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

Board chair Deb Mexicotte also confirmed at the meeting that she’ll be seeking re-election in November. Dale Leslie, a former local businessman, has also filed for election to that seat – the only one open this cycle on the seven-member board. [Full Story]

South State Corridor Gets Closer Look

As one of Ann Arbor’s primary north-south corridors, South State Street is being studied with an eye toward improving what some see as a congested, unwelcoming gateway to the city. City planning staff are seeking input and developing recommendations for changes along that 2.5-mile stretch, from Stimson at the north end – where The Produce Station is located – all the way south to Ellsworth.

The intersection of South State and Stimson, looking north

The intersection of South State and Stimson, looking north. A study of the South State corridor runs south from Stimson to Ellsworth. (Photos by the writer.)

A diverse range of land uses can be found between those two points, including small commercial enterprises, a large apartment complex, University of Michigan sports facilities, an auto dealership, high-rise office buildings, Briarwood Mall, the snarled I-94 exchange, sprawling research and industrial parks, and the soon-to-open Costco at the southern end, in Pittsfield Township.

The city held a forum recently to update the public about plans for improving South State and to seek input for possible changes. And the Ann Arbor planning commission’s retreat last week focused on the corridor, and included a van tour of the area.

This report covers both of those meetings.

Observations made by planning commissioners about the South State Street corridor at their retreat included: a lack of cohesion; a negative environment for pedestrians and bicyclists; and a sense that the corridor doesn’t reflect the character of Ann Arbor. Several commissioners noted that the stretch is just plain ugly – not an area that evokes the street as a major gateway into Ann Arbor. Suggestions ranged from improved landscaping and wayfinding signs to updating the city’s master plan, reflecting land use goals more in line with the city’s current priorities and sustainability efforts.

This isn’t the only corridor that’s getting attention – efforts to take a strategic look at North Main and Washtenaw Avenue are also underway.

For the South State study, the planning staff expects to develop draft recommendations by the end of this year, with additional public meetings, review by the planning commission, and consideration by the city council. If approved by the council, city staff would begin implementing recommendations. [Full Story]

Shaping Ann Arbor’s Public Art Landscape

Ann Arbor public art commission retreat (Feb. 26, 2012): At a four-hour retreat on Sunday, the nine-member public art commission began developing a master plan to guide the allocation of Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art funds and the selection of future public art projects.

Wiltrud Simbuerger, Aaron Seagraves, Bob Miller

Ann Arbor's public art administrator, Aaron Seagraves (center) talks with public art commissioners Wiltrud Simbuerger and Bob Miller at the commission's Feb. 26, 2012 retreat. The four-hour session was held at the NEW Center on North Main. (Photos by the writer.)

The Percent for Art program, overseen by AAPAC, allocates 1% for public art from all of the city government’s capital projects. The program faced potential cuts by the city council last year, though a majority of councilmembers ultimately voted against decreased funding. There’s also been criticism that the commission, which was formed in 2008, has been too slow in funding works of art. The commission itself has seen recent turnover, with three new commissioners appointed since late 2011.

It’s in this context that AAPAC decided to work on a master plan – the retreat was a step toward that goal, though it’s expected to take several more months to complete. Meanwhile, the commission is also preparing an annual plan to approve at its next meeting, on March 28, with a list of specific projects it intends to pursue in the coming fiscal year. The public art ordinance requires that the annual plan be submitted to the city council by April 1.

Sunday’s retreat covered a broad range of topics. Commissioners discussed the need to address all aspects of their mission, as spelled out in the ordinance – including education, outreach and promotion of public art. John Kotarski, one of the newest commissioners, proposed a motto to reflect that goal: “The educated resident is the best consumer of public art.”

Questions were raised about whether Percent for Art funds could be used for outreach and promotion – in the past, AAPAC has been told by city staff that funding is restricted to permanent capital projects. Kotarski advocated for including temporary projects, such as an artist-in-residence program or events like FestiFools. If the ordinance doesn’t currently allow temporary work, he suggested amending it.

When Kotarski urged the commission to seek clarity from the city attorney’s office, Tony Derezinski – a commissioner who also serves on the city council – said the city attorney’s staff is already working on legal opinions related to questions from councilmembers. He indicated that the legal staff would be willing to attend a future AAPAC meeting to answer these questions.

Also during the meeting, Aaron Seagraves, the city’s public art administrator, presented preliminary results of an online survey of residents, which yielded 437 responses. [.pdf of preliminary survey report] In response to one of the questions – “Where are the public places in the city that would benefit from a public art project?” – the top three responses were parks (27 responses), “none” (25 responses) and Main Street (23 responses.)

Other items emerged at the retreat. Theresa Reid, the newest commissioner who was appointed earlier this year, reported that she and others are working to apply for a National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” grant, to help pay for a countywide public arts planning process. Derezinski indicated that the Detroit Institute of Art’s Inside|Out project, which involves installing framed reproductions from the DIA’s collection at outdoor locations on building facades or in parks, likely won’t come to Ann Arbor until 2013. When originally proposed in October 2011, it was expected to take place this year.

Another possible project on the horizon is tied to the resurfacing of Main Street in 2013. AAPAC chair Marsha Chamberlin said the Main Street Area Association and Downtown Development Authority are interested in some kind of “street stamping” project. It’s a project that’s in the very early stages, she said, but might include ideas like creating patterns on the street at crosswalks, for example.

Though discrete projects were mentioned, the focus of the retreat remained on big-picture goals. Common themes included the importance of public art in creating a sense of identity for the community, and of its role in supporting the local economy. [Full Story]

Art Commission Retreat Set for Feb. 26

The Ann Arbor public art commission has cancelled its Wednesday, Feb. 22 meeting in lieu of a retreat scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 from 1-5:30 p.m. The retreat will be held at the NEW Center, 1100 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor.

No agenda has yet been posted for the retreat, but it was discussed at AAPAC’s Jan. 25, 2012 meeting in the context of developing an annual art plan for fiscal 2013, which by ordinance must be delivered to the city council by April 1. In addition to shaping the annual plan, the aim of the retreat is to develop a master plan that would provide a broader conceptual framework to guide AAPAC’s decisions.

The retreat will be open … [Full Story]

State Street Corridor Study Planned

Ann Arbor planning commission working session (April 12, 2011): Moving ahead on a project they’ve discussed for more than a year, planning commissioners gave feedback on a draft request for proposals (RFP) for a South State Street corridor study.

state street corridor

State Street runs north-south. Ellsworth, which runs east-west, is at the bottom of the frame. The large paved area northwest of the I-94/State Street interchange is Briarwood Mall. The proposed area of study extends farther north to Stimson. (Image links to Bing Map.)

The RFP, which will likely be issued next week, will solicit a consultant to develop a comprehensive plan for the 2.15-mile section between Stimson Street to the north – near a railroad crossing and the Produce Station – and Ellsworth to the south.

The corridor is the city’s main gateway from the south – the stretch includes an I-94 interchange, entrances to Briarwood Mall, and other retail, commercial and office complexes. Although there is one large apartment complex along that road, it is not a densely residential area.

Also at Tuesday’s working session, commissioners and staff discussed plans for an April 26 retreat that will focus on another major corridor: Washtenaw Avenue. [Full Story]

County Board Connects, Hard Choices Loom

Washtenaw County board of commissioners retreat (Jan. 29, 2011): A budget retreat for county commissioners last Saturday – also attended by other elected county officials and staff – laid some groundwork for tackling Washtenaw County’s two-year, $20.9 million projected deficit.

Washtenaw County board of commissioners retreat

At their Jan. 29 retreat, Washtenaw County commissioners, staff and other elected officials gathered to talk about the county's budget priorities. The retreat was led by commissioner Conan Smith, the board's chair, who's sitting in the center of the horseshoe table. Other participants are sitting around the room's perimeter, off camera. (Photos by the writer.)

While no decisions were made, the group took steps toward reaching consensus on budget priorities. They identified among their main concerns: public safety, service delivery and human services. At the end of the five-hour session, several commissioners cited the main benefit of the day as building closer relationships with each other, which they hope will help the board and other elected officials – including the sheriff, prosecuting attorney and treasurer – work together more effectively as they make difficult decisions about programs and services to cut.

The retreat was led by board chair Conan Smith, who structured the day with time for sharing individual priorities and concerns, combined with small group work to discuss specific outcomes the commissioners hope will result from those priorities. For example, if public safety is a priority, a possible outcome might be the goal of responding to a 911 call in 20 minutes or less. The county could then budget its resources to achieve that outcome.

Though these kinds of examples emerged during the retreat, the work of setting priorities will continue. Smith said the goal is to develop a formal board resolution outlining their priorities, to guide the budget-setting process. The board will hold its next retreat on Wednesday, Feb. 9 from 6-9 p.m., immediately following its 5:30 p.m. administrative briefing. Both meetings are public, and will be held at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor.

The county’s fiscal year mirrors the calendar year, and budgets are developed on two-year cycles. The current budget runs through the end of 2011. While there will likely be some additional cuts this year, most discussions are focused on the 2012-2013 budget, which commissioners will be asked to approve by the end of this year. [For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: "'State of County' Tackles $20M Deficit"]

This report summarizes Saturday’s discussions of personal priorities, aspirations for Washtenaw County, budget priorities, and reflections on the process. For breakout sessions, we covered the group focused on public safety. By day’s end there were threads of optimism – Yousef Rabhi, one of four new commissioners, said he felt inspired that they were starting to work not just as a team, but “almost as a family.” But notes of caution were sounded as well, as veteran commissioner Wes Prater told the group that “the most difficult part is yet to come.” [Full Story]

WCC President Repays $4,000 Dinner Tab

Washtenaw Community College President Larry Whitworth says he is taking full responsibility for $4,000 spent by the college on a dinner for its board of trustees annual retreat in early March. At a press briefing earlier today at his office on the WCC campus, Whitworth said he planned the retreat and therefore he – not the WCC board members – should take the blame for the expense. It has become an issue in trustee David Rutledge’s bid for the 54th District state House seat.

As first reported by The Chronicle, the board of trustees two-day retreat at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in Detroit cost a total of $9,910.70, including dinner at the hotel’s 24grille restaurant and $5,887.43 in hotel charges. WCC’s paper The Washtenaw Voice later reported that the dinner bill included $573 worth of wine.

Whitworth said the cost of the meal was higher than anticipated due to the fact that he missed a detail on the menu that 24grille faxed him before the retreat. Specifically, he didn’t read the fine print stating that the restaurant would charge $100 per person for the meal, not including tax and gratuity. Whitworth said he expected to pay about $2,000 and was shocked when he saw the bill. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Satellite Campus for WCC?

The Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees met for a two-day retreat at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit earlier this month, where they discussed the possibility of opening a satellite campus in Ann Arbor – possibly in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library.

The retreat on March 5-6 covered a range of other topics, from the college’s projected drop in revenue and possible tuition increases to its shifting student demographics and a raft of facility renovations.

The Chronicle attended the first day of the retreat – the second day was held in closed session. The location – including an overnight stay at what the Book Cadillac website describes as an historic, luxury hotel – was intended to help focus trustees’ attention, according to board chair Stephen Gill. The cost of the retreat came to $9,910.70. [Full Story]

New Downtown Library? If, When and Where

By the end of their five-hour retreat last week, board members for the Ann Arbor District Library had heard from library staff about hundreds of projects that have been accomplished over the past six years since their last strategic plan was crafted.

Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 groundbreaking for the Library Lot underground parking structure.

Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library, speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 groundbreaking for the “Library Lot” underground parking structure. The project, located next to the downtown library on Fifth Avenue, is being undertaken by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. (Photo by Dave Askins.)

The long list included construction of three new branches. But the board’s discussion kept circling back to one huge undertaking that hadn’t been completed: Building a new downtown library.

When that project was halted last November, the board had considered it as a detour or a pause.  What they’d done up to that point, including about $900,000 worth of architectural and consulting work, was to be set aside and used in the future.

But during Wednesday’s retreat it became clear that with so many variables in the air – including the unanswered question of what might be built on top of a new underground parking structure next to the downtown library – the board would need to start anew if and when they decided to undertake the project again. [Full Story]

Downtown “Library Lot” to Close Sept. 30

Librarians are passing out these informational flyers to patrons, giving details about the closure of the city-owned lot next to the downtown branch. The lot will be closed on Sept. 30 at 4 p.m., as construction begins on the underground parking structure.

Librarians are passing out these informational flyers to patrons, giving details about the closure of the city-owned lot next to the downtown branch. The lot will be closed on Sept. 30, as construction begins on the underground parking structure. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 21, 2009): The sentiment expressed by a Huron High School student at Monday night’s library board meeting – “I just want to get it over with” – might also reflect how board members feel as they brace for construction of the Fifth Avenue parking structure, a project to begin in earnest next week at what’s known as the Library Lot.

The student was attending the meeting as a requirement for a civics class – he said he chose the library board because it was a meeting held early in the semester, compared to his other choices. In contrast, library officials have no menu of choices regarding the parking structure. Though heavily used by library patrons, it’s a city-owned lot –  the new structure being built by the Downtown Development Authority. AADL director Josie Parker told board members they’re trying to make sure that patrons know it’s not a library project.

Parker also gave the board some good news: Stimulus funding has been secured to hire a coordinator for the Washtenaw County Literacy Coalition. Parker is co-chair of that group, which is working to end illiteracy. [Full Story]