Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Petition to Support the Calthorpe Plan

9. January 2006 • Brandon
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What the City of Ann Arbor has been saying for the past 35 years…

In the past 35 years, Ann Arbor’s population has grown by only 14%, or
14,000 people. During this same time period, Washtenaw County has grown
by 38%. The City of Ann Arbor needs to grow to stay competitive and
healthy. We need to stop promoting sprawl and encourage smart growth.
The good news is that we have a plan to do it. The Calthorpe Report
outlines a series of recommended goals and policies for smart growth in
downtown Ann Arbor. Current downtown zoning codes and development
strategies often work against our community goals and vision for a
vibrant, diverse, attractive, pedestrian-friendly, sustainable downtown.
Instead they produce suburban-style, car-focused developments and ugly
office buildings. If we want to make downtown better, we need to take
action.

Ann Arbor needs your help! E-mail the Mayor and City Council ( downtown@ci.ann-arbor.mi.us
) and let them know that you
support for the Calthorpe Plan. See the attached documents to learn more
about the Calthorpe Report and how you can show your support. Please
pass this message on to everyone you know that cares about the Ann Arbor
community, we need to show City Council there is widespread support for
the Calthorpe Plan by February 6th, 2006.

Contact Erica Briggs, 734.214.0100, for more information.

To view the entire Calthorpe Report, go to http://www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us/downtownA2/downtown.html
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E-mail Petition to Support the Calthorpe Report. Please add your name
and forward this message to other Ann Arbor residents. The goal is 1,000
signatures by February 6th! So please pass this along quickly. Thanks
for voicing your support for this plan. (Every 50th person to sign this
e-mail should also send a copy to erica@annarborchamber.org
& all copies should be sent to Erica
for compiling by Feb. 4th.)

Petition:

We, the undersigned, ask the Ann Arbor City Council to not only adopt
the Calthorpe Report, but to actively implement the recommendations. We
encourage City Council to provide frequent opportunities for public
involvement as the City enters the implementation phase of the project
in order to ensure that the community remains involved, invested and
informed in shaping the future of our downtown.

Name, Address, Phone #, E-mail address (optional)

1. Erica Briggs, 717 West Jefferson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48103,
734-213-1697, erica@annarborchamber.org

2. Mike Lydon, 806 Catherine Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104



  1. “The City of Ann Arbor needs to grow to stay competitive and healthy.”

    I don’t know if this assertion was ever true, but in a post-Peak Oil world (yes, I think we’re there) it’s very questionable. Without putting it into a broader context of sustainability I don’t think we can make good decisions about growth, “smart” or otherwise.

    The old saw that growth is coming and it’s only a matter of how we do it is an accommodating of unsustainability that we can’t afford to make anymore, unless we really don’t mind people suffering in ways similar to the victims of Hurricane Katrina—or worse.

    The information in the Plan is valuable, but not every component will necessarily be valuable if implemented. We need to be clear about not only ‘how’, but ‘how much’, when talking about downtown (and citywide) growth, and we have to look at the region in terms of sustainability in the absence of fossil fuels, not just in terms of transit or retail sales or housing costs.

    We didn’t explicitly tie core urban (re)development to the greenbelt proposal. Let’s not make a bigger mistake by not tying downtown redevelopment (and everything else we do from this point on, really) to a goal of sustainable existence for our community, including as many of those alive today as possible.

    “our community goals and vision for a
    vibrant, diverse, attractive, pedestrian-friendly, sustainable downtown.”

    The other adjectives are desirable, but let’s move “sustainable” to the front of the list when describing our vision of downtown and the city as a whole.
       —Steve Bean    Jan. 9 '06 - 06:54PM    #
  2. “The City of Ann Arbor needs to grow to stay competitive and
    healthy. We need to stop promoting sprawl and encourage smart growth.”

    Man does that ever sound Republican! Especially that “smart growth” thing. Those are code words for “get out of the way and give the developers what they want” regardless if it’s good for the city or desired by the residents.

    Ask yourself why our city council hired Roger Frazier, a known sprawler (Polo Fields) paid him a housing allowance to live outside the city and then pays him almost $5k to drive his SUV? Are these the actions of politicians who are concerend about sprawl? Geez! We’ve got the best bunch of Republicans ever elected in Ann Arbor. No wonder they support Calthorpe and that “smart growth” crap. It’s pablum for planners and blind voters.

    In whose opinion is 14% growth bad when compared to Washtenaw County? Some pie in the sky buzzword spouting “New Urbanist? Don’t let Disneyland come to Main street fer cryin’ out loud! Since when does everything have to be bigger to be better? Man, you “planners” have spent far too much time in your ivory tower. Come down to earth sometime and mingle with the folks, k?

    You guys are going to kill the frickin’ goose that laid the golden egg. Go ahead and BUILD BUILD BUILD and when those 20 story buildings are EMPTY EMPTY EMPTY, downtown Ann Arbor will resemble a place that no-one will want to live.

    Get it through your thick skulls, everyone who’s polled for those Top 10 lists says that Ann Arbor isn’t too big or too small, it’s just right. So go ahead and make it Aspen-lite or a mini Chicago by the Huron.

    Makes me wanna puke!

    Buh bye!
       —Downtowner    Jan. 9 '06 - 07:01PM    #
  3. Ah, “progressives”... you’re truly what make Ann Arbor great.
       —Brandon    Jan. 9 '06 - 07:14PM    #
  4. And Steve, what is unsustainable (esp. as fuel-prices rise) about encouraging urban development that allows for less auto-usage?
       —Brandon    Jan. 9 '06 - 07:17PM    #
  5. ”...everyone who’s polled for those Top 10 lists says that Ann Arbor isn’t too big or too small, it’s just right.”

    I’m not sure which lists you’re referring to, but the ones I’m familiar with don’t employ polls at all, instead relying on criteria that are usually most relevant to middle-aged homeowners and are almost always statistically questionable.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Jan. 9 '06 - 07:44PM    #
  6. Downtowner, the heart of your objection is clear in the words “golden egg.” The city of Ann Arbor, in my mind, is more than a real estate investment scheme for people who moved here before 1998.

    Steve, I think you need to lay off Kunstler’s blog.
       —Dale    Jan. 9 '06 - 07:44PM    #
  7. I think you mean “statistically nonexistant.”
       —Dale    Jan. 9 '06 - 07:45PM    #
  8. some egg.

    some goose.
       —peter honeyman    Jan. 9 '06 - 09:33PM    #
  9. Brandon, thanks for asking. The short answer is ‘just about everything’.

    Fossil fuels are used for the vast majority of all transit and transport to and within Ann Arbor, as well as heating (for a 5+ month heating season) and much of the electricity generation. And more buildings with more occupants that rely on the same once-cheap energy aren’t going to change that significantly, let alone provide food to the occupants. Does that mean that more downtown residents is a bad idea? Of course not. It just means that it isn’t a solution to the much larger problem we face. Like much of what environmentalists have done over the last thirty years (granted, with most Republicans and much of the oil-addicted public fighting at every step), it’s an incremental step to ‘better’. We can’t afford to spend resources on a long, slow road to ‘better’. That ‘better’ (much like the affordable housing in AA’s future that gets so much play here) doesn’t exist anymore. We don’t get to relive the 1950s through the 1990s over and over again.

    Dale, my natural gas bill rose 60% last month compared to a year before. I don’t expect it to ever go down from there. (I already work at home with the temp at 56 during the day.) Meanwhile, the state will only be able to pay to keep the heat on for poor people and those on fixed incomes for a short time (as the Republican legislature was in the process of doing today.) You tell me what will happen to those people next year.

    Unlike the downside of the petroleum peak, the end of natural gas will be a cliff. Until that time, maybe as early as 10 years from now, the price is just going to keep climbing. Then it will be essentially gone. Tall, healthy, young, priveleged, white men like you and I (and you, Brandon) need to be leaders on this.

    So, no, let’s not just implement the Calthorpe plan. Let’s put it in the proper context and make wise decisions about our future in a very different world.
       —Steve Bean    Jan. 9 '06 - 11:41PM    #
  10. Steve, point taken. The threat of an impending fuel crisis ala-Kunstler does often seem very real to me and the issue is downplayed at best in most planning and policy discussions. We do assume an only-slightly-altered future from the postwar reality we’re still largely living-in… when you look at the numbers and the science, things are indeed much, much scarier. We all still assume the economy and government will be able to function generally as it has indefinitely into the future…

    ugh. sweet dreams,
       —Brandon    Jan. 10 '06 - 12:25AM    #
  11. Talk about real estate investment schemes – the Calthorpe report would result in a huge public subsidy to developers, starting with the removal of the requirement that developers pay for parking. There is more, also.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 10 '06 - 09:36AM    #
  12. Four wheels good, two wheels baaaaad.
       —Dale    Jan. 10 '06 - 10:26AM    #
  13. “Don’t let Disneyland come to Main street fer cryin’ out loud! Since when does everything have to be bigger to be better?”

    “So go ahead and make it Aspen-lite or a mini Chicago by the Huron.”

    “Man does that ever sound Republican!”

    Geez. It is depressing to think that you really believe this.

    “Go ahead and BUILD BUILD BUILD and when those 20 story buildings are EMPTY EMPTY EMPTY, downtown Ann Arbor will resemble a place that no-one will want to live…...Man, you “planners” have spent far too much time in your ivory tower. Come down to earth sometime and mingle with the folks, k?”

    OK. You want real world numbers and experience? Boulder citizens acted the same exact way that you are: no growth. Fight the “developers”. No density. They followed your path for 20 years.

    What did they get?

    Median new home cost is $500K.

    Median income is through the roof. (lots and lots of beautiful wealthy people)

    Conservative and wealthy population (the Aspen lite you refer to).

    Tract homes just outside the city for miles and miles with their concomitant strip malls.

    Influx of corporate chains (the Disneyland you refer to), and the death of many local businesses.

    And what do you supposed the vacancy rate is for downtown Boulder? Ann Arbor is currently at around 12%. What’s your guess for Boulder? Using your no growth plan, they should be just about full, right?

    22%. Nearly one out of every four offices in Boulder is vacant. Sweet.

    Local and national developers grew tired of dealing with people like yourself, and simply installed their buildings outside of town. Now taxes are higher, and it no longer makes sense to have a downtown office. They’re too expensive.

    What good does your path accomplish?? Well, I guess that those who own one of those downtown homes that were purchased in the 80’s are jumping for joy, but that’s about it…..

    Your path, downtowner, is going to make Ann Arbor the exact opposite of what you want it to be. If anyone has his head in an ivory tower, it’s you. I find the fact that you can’t see this depressing.
       —todd    Jan. 10 '06 - 02:41PM    #
  14. Todd: Urban planning students will be patronizing you in mild numbers Friday for happy hour, advance warning. And we heart you.
       —Brandon    Jan. 10 '06 - 04:00PM    #
  15. You know! All those Top Ten polls where folks from other places say how great Ann Arbor is, they talk about how it’s not too big and not too small, just right, small town atmosphere, city culture, UM etc.

    Not scientific at all, but hey, are those folks lying? I guess “science” trumps real peoples comments.

    >I’m not sure which lists you’re >referring to, but the ones I’m >familiar with don’t employ polls >at all, instead relying on >criteria that are usually most >relevant to middle-aged homeowners >and are almost always >>statistically questionable.
    —ann arbor is overrated Jan

    Most telling is how the pro development, build in the floodway, pro Calthorpe (DDA) posse cast their argument and define those who oppose their pie in the sky new urbanist concepts. Here’s a hint. It’s little to do with reality. It’s really about straw men and red herrings. It’s not about preserving what’s best about Ann Arbor or sustainable growth. Frankly most of the people who support the Calthorpe plan, building in the floodway, 20 story buildings and parking structures are pawns of developers.

    1) They blame the baby boomers for buying a house in Ann Arbor 20 years ago. (jealousy and self loathing for not being born in the 50’s, I guess)

    2) They define the argument as the “haves” (home owners) against the “have nots” (renters, students, low income)

    3) They cast the argument as NIMBY’s against the forces of “Growth”, “Progress” and “Reason”.

    (Man, that old “blame the boomers for everything” argument is getting long in the tooth.)

    4) They base their assumptions of the city “needing to compete” and that “it must grow” to remain vibrant and relevant in the region. Their assumptions are based on somones “business model” or some class or seminar they took at their institution of higher learning.

    HELLO? Is there any other “downtown” in Washtenaw County that can “compete” with Ann Arbor? Dexter? Chelsea? Ypsilanti? Stockbridge? Like I reallywant to go to the newest strip mall in Scio township to hang out, drink coffee or get some sushi.

    > 9, 6:44pm #
    ># Downtowner, the heart of your >objection is clear in the words >“golden egg.” The city of Ann >Arbor, in my mind, is more than a >real estate investment scheme for people who moved here before 1998.
       —Downtowner    Jan. 10 '06 - 05:34PM    #
  16. I’ve disagreed with todd, Dale, Murph, etc. on some of these points but the “freeze the city in amber” viewpoint expressed above is ridiculous. Ann Arbor has never been static and the City it is today is not the same City that existed 10 years, 20 years ago or 100 years ago. I’m sure that people who lived here in the 50s or the 70s thought it was perfect, the right size and saw no need for growth. But the City has continued to grow and change, in some ways good, in some ways bad. You can’t lock the City into some mold that in your view is “perfect”. The question is how we deal with change in the years to come. It’s never going to be static.
       —John Q    Jan. 10 '06 - 05:59PM    #
  17. “Frankly most of the people who support the Calthorpe plan, building in the floodway, 20 story buildings and parking structures are pawns of developers.”

    Is that you, Doug?
       —Brandon    Jan. 10 '06 - 06:26PM    #
  18. For the sake of argument, let’s grant that all developers are greedy, hypocritical profiteers and not do-gooders (though in reality a few might be civic-minded and honest).
    Let’s not even assume the county is going to grow by some projected percentile. Let’s grant Steve’s point that a fuel/energy crisis may give our autocentric life style a severe blow.
    Still, I ask…
    Taking the PRESENT, not the projected, situation…
    Isn’t it environmentally responsible to build more residential units throughout the city (not just downtown) to house at least SOME of the 50,000 people who work in Ann Arbor but don’t live here? (Yes, some would still choose not to live in town but many would, if they could afford to do so.)
    Wouldn’t making that housing expansion a civic priority be a way to begin to reduce the environmentally toxic carbon emissions caused by the million miles a day (my guesstimate) these commuters who work in town travel?
    Wouldn’t building this housing for people who work here be much more beneficial to the overall environment than making the city even less affordable by levying even more taxes on city residents for greenbelts, greenways, and other amenities that are both costly and unnecessary (the city being already, demonstrably, a wonderfully attractive place to live with the abundant parkland it has)?
    The crux of this debate is what is, today, here and now, the environmentally responsible thing to do. And not just for those of us who live here, but for the entire region and planet. (Isn’t that what’s meant by “think globally, act locally”?)
       —Michael Betzold    Jan. 10 '06 - 06:27PM    #
  19. “Like I reallywant to go to the newest strip mall in Scio township to hang out, drink coffee or get some sushi.”

    A lot of Whole Foods-loving BoBos like yourself might love to do just such a thing when they build all those “Lifestyle” center faux-downtown-esque malls in the townships.
       —Brandon    Jan. 10 '06 - 06:29PM    #
  20. Michael, in a word—yes.
       —Dale    Jan. 10 '06 - 06:33PM    #
  21. See? You’re argument is not about Ann Arbor. It’s about boomer hating and believing that “the BoBos” (What’s that? Some new hip hop group?) have what you don’t.

    I like my coffee from the Dairy and my fish cooked.

    “A lot of Whole Foods-loving BoBos like yourself might love to do just such a thing when they build all those “Lifestyle” center faux-downtown-esque malls in the townships.”

    And if you don’t watch out, that’s exactly what the Calthorpe plan will bring to downtown. Think it’s boutiquey right now? Just wait. Calthorpe even made recommendations for more national chains. Sterility and homogeniety. A Starbucks on every corner. You won’t have to wait much longer, we’re almost there anyway.
       —Downtowner    Jan. 10 '06 - 06:51PM    #
  22. Downtowner—you recognize that not all chains replace or compete with local businesses, right? Many niches are unfilled and desires unmet in Ann Arbor; some chains BRING new or more business to downtown. You also may have noticed that Borders has not put West Side Books out of business. Or Motte and Bailey. Or Dawn Treader. It’s because they fill different retail niches. Even better, people who come downtown to go to Borders might even stop at Dawn Treader or have a meal at Thanos’ or get a magazine at Decker Dru…oops! Guess some other bogeyman beside the developers got that one.

    There is an appropriate and productive place for chains in downtown Ann Arbor.
       —Dale    Jan. 10 '06 - 07:17PM    #
  23. I think that Downtowner, although voicing it rather poorly, does have legitimate concerns that are not being addressed in discussions on the Cahorpe plan. Before this debate degrades to “well, so is your Mom!”, I tried to pull the actual issues out of his posts, and add a little of my own thoughts to give us something more substantial to discuss. I’ll add here that this is does not represent my views on this topic, and may well not have captured Downtowner’s views correctly either, but I think it is still a usefull distillation. So without further adue…

    Arguments weeded out and repackaged from Downtowner’s comments:

    1. People like downtown Ann Arbor as it is. Any change, and certainly the significant increase in density proposed by Calthorpe, will change how people (both residents and visitors) view the city, possibly in a negative way.

    2. While change is certainly inevitable, the city government has a responsibility to represent the residents, especially in large-scale proposals such as adopting the Calthorpe Plan. This responsibility stands whether or not the residents “deserve” the benefits that they have gained from the increase in housing value. Supporters of the Calthorpe plan are incorrect to assume that by not adopting the plan it is intended, or even possible, to “freeze the city in amber”. There are many ways in which the city could change other than via the Calthorpe plan. Refer to Steve Bean’s post for a more productive version of this argument.

    3. The assumption that Ann Arbor “needs to compete” should be more critically analyzed. While Downtowner limits his reference to within the county, I might add that the Ann Arbor area is currently one of two cities in Michigan that is actually growing (sorry, I don’t have a cite for this. Can anyone back this up?). Further, Ann Arbor is weathering the cuts in state funding far better than other Michigan cities.

    4. The assumption that Ann Arbor needs to grow is not convincing. The debate has been framed as pro-“all the great and obvious benefits of density” vs. anti-“all the great and obvious benefits of density”, before such benefits have been proven to result from densification (Is that a word? How about increased densificity? Dense-o-rama?).
    a. Ann Arbor should not be held responsible for the township decisions that lead to sprawling suburbs. Voters should not be swayed by a moral obligation to take on a burden imposed by those outside the city’s jurisdiction.
    b.Growth in Ann Arbor does not equal a decline in township suburbs. In fact, the increase in services, goods, and livability that is claimed to come from increased density may well attract more suburbanites to the surrounding townships.
    c.As Steve pointed out, there are a host of issues that may be more pressing or required in order for the recommended growth to achieve it’s stated goals.

    5. Slaves! You’re all a bunch of f**king slaves to developers!
    Sorry, that’s about as concise and well-versed as I can make this argument. Perhaps a kinder version would be “while I recognize that we are all free-thinking people trying to make decisions based on solid reasoning for what we feel is best for the larger community, we should recognize that a decision to increase density is an opening that developers will capitalize on. Therefore their contributions to the discussion should be considered critically.” …or something.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 11 '06 - 01:02AM    #
  24. ok, i’ll respond to Scott TenBrink since, as usual, someone who spouts Cahillian™ anti-density rhetoric runs for the hills the minute you use actual real world math.

    “1. People like downtown Ann Arbor as it is.”

    You can’t freeze time, and you can’t ignore demographic and economic surroundings. It doesn’t work. My parallel example (Boulder) tried this. It failed miserably. The biggest reason that Ann Arbor cannot refuse to grow as a town like, say, Dexter could is (drumroll please) the University of Michigan is here, and it keeps growing. Check the stats as Umich.edu. The city isn’t gaining population while employment and enrollment is consistently rising. The town has to react to this. It has no choice in the matter.

    2. I agree with this statement

    3. “While Downtowner limits his reference to within the county, I might add that the Ann Arbor area is currently one of two cities in Michigan that is actually growing (sorry, I don’t have a cite for this. Can anyone back this up?).”

    Well, Ann Arbor isn’t growing. The fasting growing town in the area is Ypsi Township. I can tell you as someone who knows many of the retailers and other businesspeople in the area, most of us think that downtown is going to have a rude awakening in the next few years if we don’t act quickly. The Calthorpe retail expert confirmed my theories on retail demand in Wash. County. It’s coming. If we don’t put it downtown, downtown local businesses are in for a real hard time.

    “4. The assumption that Ann Arbor needs to grow is not convincing.” Well, I’ve played my broken record enough on this subject that you probably know I diagree with this view.

    I again point to the 600 lb gorilla that is the University of Michigan. It keeps growing, and, this is important, they don’t pay taxes. UMich, and therefore Ann Arbor grows whether City Council likes it or not. And then there’s all the ancillary services that emerge and grow as a result of new UMich projects, programs and record enrollment figures. Ann Arbor isn’t Dexter or any of 1,000 Michigan cities that don’t have a major university in it.

    This is why I keep using Boulder as an example so often. The city of Boulder has to grow because of the University of Colorado and all its ancillary businesses. Boulder citizens said “University? What University?”, and based their absurd planning decisions using this head in the sand approach. Oops. That doesn’t work.

    Do you know what the biggest project is in the Boulder City Planning Department? A plan to revitalize and rebuild a failed shopping area in the dowtown area, and to try and find a way to reduce the 22% office vacancy in their city. Sweet. Where do I sign for that?

    As for Michael B.’s appeals to environmentalism…..there’s no greater reason than that one to simply remove all height limitations on buildings in the downtown area. Let the market decide how tall they can be, and focus on good, pedestrian friendly, sustainable design. But I stand alone on this point.
       —todd    Jan. 11 '06 - 03:53AM    #
  25. Todd, the “market” has already decided that tall buildings in downtown are not profitable. Calthorpe is suggesting big public subsidies to encourage such buildings.

    I watched about half an hour of the Planning Commission public hearing last night. I had expected a long line of speakers touting the virtues of the report. I got a big surprise! Most of the people I saw were either quite negative or noncommittal.

    Steve Thorp, the former chair of the Planning Commission, said essentially that the report was a waste of money and should be disregarded. He read a nonsensical passage from page 46 to emphasize how sloppy the report was. Thorp was supposedly the eyes and ears of Mayor Hieftje when he was on the Commission.

    Fred Beal, who was one of the biggest boosters of Calthorpe, and who invented the figure of 2500 new housing units, said the process should move ahead, but he said the report contained a variety of recommendations “good, bad, and indifferent.”

    Did anyone else watch this hearing? Or attend it? Did I get the wrong impression? What is going on here?
       —David Cahill    Jan. 11 '06 - 10:21AM    #
  26. “When I use a word,” Humpty Cahill said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jan. 11 '06 - 11:02AM    #
  27. “Todd, the “market” has already decided that tall buildings in downtown are not profitable. Calthorpe is suggesting big public subsidies to encourage such buildings.”

    David! Back to take another cut at the math, eh? OK.

    Explain to the class how it is you figure that your plan to limit building heights across the downtown area isn’t going to cost the city millions of dollars in tax revenue, new jobs, new residents who can walk to other businesses, etc., while at the same time a parking garage that we charge people to use and eventually turn a profit on and will own as a tangible asset is a “big public subsidy”.

    Oh, and David, you can’t use your magic calculator that subsitutes the faces of various characters from the Muppet Show™ for various numbers. You have to use a real one. Gonzo isn’t equivalent to the number 7, no matter how much you like it. I will admit that Gonzo the Great is funny…but that’s as far as it goes.

    Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but you’ve got the floor. Let’s see the math.
       —todd    Jan. 11 '06 - 11:48AM    #
  28. It has been explained clearly more than once to David Cahill that parking/buildings will not be subsidized under the Calthorpe plan. I appreciate, though, Todd’s rebuttal (once again) with humor.

    In previous comment threads Cahill attempted to sidestep the subsidy claims – saying that it was not he who was crying subsidy, but that it was an article by Armentrout. Now here comes Cahill wearing his subsidy allegations on his sleeve…

    David, why, despite evidence and lucid explanations to the contrary are you still going on about subsidies?
       —FAA    Jan. 11 '06 - 01:08PM    #
  29. Point of information for those playing at home:

    The square root of Gonzo the Great is exactly 3.574 Miss Piggy’s.

    Hope that helps.
       —todd    Jan. 11 '06 - 01:56PM    #
  30. Todd,

    You’re not alone on building heights. I’m with you. In many respects, the taller the building is, the better it is for the environment (more density on the available land).

    Given the scarcity of land in Ann Arbor, building up makes sense. A lot of sense.

    I don’t understand the opposition to building tall buildings here. It’s always masked in terms of aesthetics but I wonder if that’s the real objection. Buildings of any size can be ugly or beautiful.

    Can someone explain why some taller buildings would be bad for Ann Arbor?
       —Michael Betzold    Jan. 11 '06 - 03:27PM    #
  31. Coming soon – a revised design for “Calthorpe Place” with a better figure of the cost of parking which will be shifted to the public. It’s going to be based on the concept of a new DDA-funded parking structure open to all, not merely reserved for Calthorpe Place. There should be plenty of math to satisfy everyone. 8-) Remember, class, that the transfer of cost for parking from the developer to the public is a corresponding transfer of wealth to the developer.

    Today’s AA News story on the Planning Commission public hearing indicates that my comment #25 above was right. It even quotes Steve Thorp prominently.

    I had expected the Calthorpe Cheerleaders to do a lot better job at lobbying than what we saw yesterday. Of course, Calthorpe set itself up as a target by having obvious errors in the report….

    Maybe the report will sink of its own weight. Very curious.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 11 '06 - 03:45PM    #
  32. Can someone explain why some taller buildings would be bad for Ann Arbor?

    That’s a very good question, Michael.

    Here are the reasons/explanations/concerns that I’ve heard or have myself:
    – Taller buildings create a wind tunnel effect. This is a valid though relatively minor problem, and someone here probably knows whether it can be mitigated in some way.
    – Taller buildings ruin the view of people living in other, adjacent tall buildings. You can’t have everything—where would you put it all? Seriously, I think it would be reasonable to give weight to the viewshed concerns of multiple residents of multiple buildings (e.g., part of a residential neighborhood), and maybe as well to all the residents of a single building, but not to only some of the residents of a single building. Also, as Mike points out, buildings can be beautiful. Let’s make them that way.
    – Taller buildings aren’t “human scale.” Now we need someone to tell us why taller than “human scale” would be bad for Ann Arbor. ;-) I can imagine that for someone who can’t get away from such scale, it might have some psychological effect, but our city is broken into many areas of human scale and natural features within walking and even wheelchairing distance.
    – Taller buildings cast long shadows. Now this one may be a valid issue, especially if passive solar energy is to be used for space and/or water heating or active solar for electricity generation on other building roofs/facades/awnings/etc. I’m less concerned about the electricity than I am the heat. I’d appreciate hearing informed opinions on how downtown buildings will be heated in the absence of natural gas.

    That’s all I can come up with.
       —Steve Bean    Jan. 11 '06 - 04:00PM    #
  33. “Remember, class, that the transfer of cost for parking from the developer to the public is a corresponding transfer of wealth to the developer.”

    Wow. I see you’ve installed a fresh set of batteries in your Muppet Calculator™.

    I hope those weren’t subsidized batteries, because, you know, if the makers of Muppet Calculator™ don’t provide batteries, then the batteries that the public is forced to buy are subsidized.

    Oh, wait, I forgot you actually pay for those batteries, kinda like the parking. Or are you just about to go one step further and explain that things like metered parking in Ann Arbor are subsidized by the public too? Or are people filling the meters with MuppetMoney™?

    If you follow your absurd logic to its asburd conclusion, you’d be asking yourself why aren’t there meters in front of your driveway? Those spaces are subsidized, aren’t they? Those greedy homeowners! What gives?!
       —todd    Jan. 11 '06 - 04:05PM    #
  34. Just about all those concerns are addressed in the Calthorpe report, Steve. Slender towers, like Calthorpe responsibly recommends, allow light to pass to ground level and other buildings and reduces the wind effect.

    In addition, “human scale” does not mean “human size.” The Calthorpe report recommends stepping back buildings above a few stories to reduce the visual and wind impact, while giving a “Main Street” feel.

    Finally, on the notion of passive heating, creating a larger building (or greater set of buildings) increases the total exposure to the sun. That, in addition to the efficient effects of having more shared walls and ceilings, yields an even greater efficiency for larger buildings.

    Some of my cohort does research on this type of thing (though it’s a pretty basic issue), if anyone has questions or wants references.
       —Dale    Jan. 11 '06 - 04:12PM    #
  35. “Here are the reasons/explanations/concerns that I’ve heard or have myself:”

    Without going into each of your points, all of the cost benefit analysis (whether the costs and benefits relate to capital or environmental sustainability) needs to take this key point of information into account:

    It isn’t a question of “do we build in Ann Arbor, or do we not build in Ann Arbor?” The question is “do we build this downtown, or do we rip up fresh farmland for new one and two story tract homes, condos, and strip malls just outside of Ann Arbor?”

    This is the key element that I believe people like Dave C. miss. Even though I give the guy a hard time, I don’t think that he has a black heart. I just don’t think that he’s looking at the whole picture.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if the best argument that you can come up with is “it gets windy and throws shadows”, then I have to say that I can beat those arguments using a junior high school debate squad.

    “Taller buildings aren’t “human scale.”” I don’t know who came up with this one, but I’m not buying it. How about this? Every story we lose in a tall building equals another half block of tract home?

    Unless you somehow think of ripping up endless amounts of farmland is somehow human, or all those beautiful “human scale” one story big box stores and strip malls are more human, then I’ll take a pass on this particular non-starter.

    Remember, it’s not this or nothing. Choosing not to build up has serious consequence. You’d think a city as supposedly environmentally conscious as Ann Arbor would understand this intuitively…...
       —todd    Jan. 11 '06 - 04:17PM    #
  36. Finally, on the notion of passive heating, creating a larger building (or greater set of buildings) increases the total exposure to the sun.

    You’ll have to parse that one for me, Dale.

    For more perspective: if I’m the resident of a third-floor apartment and one taller building blocks my winter sunlight from 10am to 11am and another blocks it from 2pm to 3pm, am I going to be shivering all winter? If so, the owner of my building is going to have a high vacancy rate. That’s the sort of consideration we may need to make in response to Michael’s question. It may not be a matter of how tall or how many, but where the buildings are located.

    Do any of your cohorts know about district heating? Building efficiency is a necessity, but the heat has to come from somewhere. Are we going to be burning coal, wood from our parks, or what?
       —Steve Bean    Jan. 11 '06 - 04:30PM    #
  37. That’s easy: coal. (Maybe even coal gas, which is what they used before natural gas.) Among other options. Heating oil derived from shale deposits, retrofitting of electric-powered baseboard heating, etc.

    I agree we don’t know what will happen in the future. But what will [i]probably[/i] happen, at least in the short term (let’s say next 100 years) is growth. Does growth have to mean greater-than-replacement birth rate? No—it can (and most likely will) include immigration (not to mention intra-national migration).

    Yes, growth should be sustainable, if for no other reason than that again, you can’t count on growth forever. I think both goals can be met simultaneously.

    I don’t know of anyone who’s calling for 20-story buildings in Ann Arbor yet. If the Y site is redeveloped according to plan, that will be 15 stories. Tall buildings can certainly be human-scale. Look at any major city that works, and you’ll find a place where people [i]enjoy[/i] the urban environment. You certainly don’t need tall buildings to accomplish it. It’s merely one way of doing so. There are others.

    Supporting higher-density residences in downtown Ann Arbor doesn’t in any way mean you’re “pro-Calthorpe”. Why on earth can’t there be a middle ground on the report? Surely disagreeing with some of the report’s conclusions doesn’t mean one has to reject all the concepts motivating it wholesale. Isn’t this blisteringly obvious? I find the rhetoric here completely unhelpful.

    I think that arguing whether Ann Arbor should be held within certain population limits is missing the point: the city isn’t just the city. By now it’s the entire county (actually it’s now a three-county metro area), whether the townships (and the city) realize it or not. This growth affects the city, and it will happen whether the city likes it or not. Supporting downtown retail, for example, doesn’t mean you support Calthorpe’s suggestions that the city woo chain stores downtown. It simply doesn’t. Obviously. It [i]might[/i] be that no other option makes economic sense. In other words, Calthorpe might be right. Or they might be wrong. What’s more important is, trying to find [i]some[/i] solution that gives us the city we want. In my opinion that means a city where, among other goals, people can walk someplace downtown to get what they want. Of course we all want to maintain the things that give Ann Arbor its identity as much as possible. We’re not talking about gutting the downtown and replacing it with five Tower Plazas and Somerset Collection West. I think all some people want are a few more pedestrian-friendly shopping options, and more opportunity for living near them (and for living near work.) You don’t have to throw out the entire Calthorpe plan (or if you want to throw it out, fine—in which case, what’s your alternate plan for guiding Ann Arbor through the growth that is [i]already happening[/i] around it? What’s your plan for the regional development of Southeast Michigan?)

    If you don’t support growth, or change, alright. But Ann Arbor used to be a place where people did everyday shopping downtown. That is much more difficult now (with a nod to those downtown business which still offer such goods. Buy local, shop Acme, etc.) If you support the status quo, then why aren’t you afraid of more malls and subdivisions? Do you think we can keep such things away by doing business as usual?

    Let’s say Klines and Jacobsons were major chains. Let’s say the city brought them to the current downtown. Would that be an outrage? If so, why wasn’t it twenty years ago, when there still [i]were[/i] a Klines and a Jacobsons downtown?
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 11 '06 - 04:42PM    #
  38. I wouldn’t consider living in a tall building. Wouldn’t want my ceiling to be another person’s floor. Don’t care to share walls with noisy neighbors. Don’t want to fight for parking. Lived in the area for nearly 30 years and never had to live within the city limits. Have no desire to walk to the grocery store and carry all my purchases home. Don’t like mass transit.

    I like the township. I drive past farmland and wide open spaces every day and see deer, cranes, rabbits and lots of nature. I don’t want to go to trendy bars or coffee houses after work. I’d rather sit on my patio and look at the pond and view of the trees. I wouldn’t shop at chain stores in downtown Ann Arbor because I prefer not to deal with the traffic and parking problems. I don’t shop at the “trendy” independently owned shops for the same reasons and also because I can’t afford the high prices. I shop at Wal Mart and avoid the city for the most part. Go to a couple of lectures a year, maybe a couple of restaurants.

    I have a house that works great for me. Problably costs less than half what it would sell for in Ann Arbor and certainly has about half the tax bill. I don’t need a downtown. When the sprawl reaches my neighborhood, I’ll move out further. With 95% of the country uninhabited, I don’t think we run out of room for at least the next 5 thousand years. I prefer the quiet solitude of a commute than high density urban living.

    I don’t know who decided that our community goals were for a
    vibrant, diverse, attractive, pedestrian-friendly, sustainable downtown but it’s never been a goal of mine. I very much prefer my quiet peaceful neighborhood. When I’m in the mood for the city life – I visit Chicago. Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there either.
       —Karen Luck    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:02PM    #
  39. For historical perspective, I’m willing to bet that a high percentage of the growth since the 1970s WITHIN the city limits has been of the suburban variety. Thirty years ago, Briarwood, the Plymouth Road Corridor and many areas on the periphery of the City were mainly farmland or vacant tracts. Almost all of it has been developed in the standard suburban style with a few nods to protecting woodlots and wetlands. So if you LOVE the City as it exists now, you sure are willing to accept a lot of bad suburban development that so many of us like to dismiss.
       —John Q    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:11PM    #
  40. Karen—I don’t think anything about the Calthorpe recommendations precludes you from choosing the living situation you enjoy most. It is enabling others to have a choice they currently do not.
       —Dale    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:18PM    #
  41. “When the sprawl reaches my neighborhood…”

    The sprawl is your neighborhood. Having denser housing downtown might prevent it from being more crowded sprawl, though.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:23PM    #
  42. From what I can tell around town, tall buildings do not create a noticable wind tunnel unless the building is (1) taller than 8 stories, (2) a straight block with no setbacks whatsoever, and (3) on the corner of a street. It also varies dramatically on the predominant wind direction, of course. Still, buildings taller than 8 stories can be built in the middle of the block, and/or with setbacks, to minimize this effect. Besides, if you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can harness the wind created by a very tall building by putting a wind generator in the middle of it! but of course, no one is talking about building 60 story buildings in Ann Arbor. We would be lucky to get 10-15 stories, and it sounds like more people think 6-10 is okay.

    Now as to views… what views count? from whom, and where? IMO well-designed tall buildings can be a heck of a lot prettier to look at than, say, another Ameritech addition.

    Tall buildings can be human scale. Think of the building on the SE corner of Washington and Fourth Ave. In your minds, imagine that corner, with the cell phone shop and the rest of it. Now tell me how many stories it is. Don’t know? it’s seven stories – but hardly anyone notices because the first floor is very pedestrian friendly. There is lots of clear glass for the shops; they have canopies and an interesting corner entrance; there is a good deal of architectural detail. All these things make that building a nice building, no matter the height.

    Tall buildings do cast shadows – but the taller and thinner the building, the longer, skinnier, and faster that shadow will move. Which do you want: short squat buildings that put the streets in shade all day, or tall thin buildings that shade the street for a few hours? the latter is better for getting us the most sun possible, which is why the Residential Task Force Report emphasizes “point towers” in certain locations around town.
       —KGS    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:24PM    #
  43. “I don’t know who decided that our community goals were for a
    vibrant, diverse, attractive, pedestrian-friendly, sustainable downtown but it’s never been a goal of mine.”

    Karen, if you don’t live in the City, your opinion on the City’s goals, while “interesting” are probably irrelevant to the decision-makers in the City. While you may not think you need the downtown, it would be interesting to see what your tax bill would look like if it wasn’t subsidized by taxpayers across the state. Too many township residents seem to think that their subsidized tax bills are a result of their lifestyle and not the diversion of tax dollars from urban areas to suburban ones.
       —John Q    Jan. 11 '06 - 05:24PM    #
  44. Yes, tall buildings can be lovely, but they can be horrible too (as can smaller buildings). Even though it is many years later, developments like One North Main, Tally Hall, the Galleria, and the Post Office loom large in people’s minds because they really haven’t stood the test of time as attractive, useful buildings. There are some buildings in Ann Arbor that are interesting because they are never mentioned as “bad” buildings even though they share many of the same qualities as other, more vilified projects—the building KGS pointed out on Washington, the First National Building on Main, Sloan Plaza, Campus Inn, Maynard House, Lurie Terrace, and Baker Commons (corner of Packard and S. Main) come to mind. Why do these work and how do we work to get projects more like those?

    For an interesting look at Ann Arbor’s past, check out Clan Crawford’s pictures that Ed Vielmetti posted on Flickr. Especially interesting to me are the “modernization” of the Municipal Court Building (where One North Main now stands), and the buildings that were taken down to put in the post office.
       —Juliew    Jan. 11 '06 - 06:09PM    #
  45. Yes: people should know that not all advocates for better urban living are against all suburban and semi-rural (and rural) living. Those have their place. But Karen, it doesn’t take a tall building to have someone’s floor as your ceiling—all it takes is two stories, and that could be a squat concrete bunker-style apartment building, or it could even be a pair of converted duplexes in a nice house. Among other arrangements. There are already plenty of those. I just think all these options should be as good as they can be.

    Many advocates for better urban living like nature, too—they just fear that some habitats can become endangered as a result of uncontrolled low-density growth. For that matter, some of them also love superstores. Again, as John Q says, it’s a matter of providing options and choices.

    And when it comes to running out of room, sure, there’s plenty of room left. (Though I should point out that same space could be, and is, used for farm production, or is reserved for recreation, or is needed by either industry or the government, or is uninhabitable.) But it’s not all freely available. Tell your story to the residents of Northfield Township, for example, who are doing everything they possibly can to prevent housing from being built there. Your preferred lifestyle is completely valid, and even quite attractive—it’s just that not everyone shares a preference for it.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 11 '06 - 06:10PM    #
  46. “Again, as John Q says, it’s a matter of providing options and choices.”

    Actually, Dale should get credit for that but I agree with the sentiment.

    I’m not opposed to rural and suburban living. But people who make that choice shouldn’t expect the rest of us to subsidize it through state revenue sharing (which makes up the majority of many Township budgets), freeway interchanges in Palookaville and other such nonsense that allows township taxes to be kept artificially low.
       —John Q.    Jan. 11 '06 - 06:15PM    #
  47. You know, reading about stuff like this in the News would frustrate the living heck out of me.

    That’s why I gave up and moved to Philadelphia. If things remain frozen in time, lots of people/businesses will give up and move their tax/spending dollars away.
       —RJ White    Jan. 11 '06 - 06:55PM    #
  48. I want to repeat one point from the arguments listed above because I don’t think that it was addressed. Todd’s post #35 repeats a common argument that increasing downtown density is an alternative to development in the green space surrounding (or, as John Q’s post #39 points out, within) the city. The assumption here is that increasing density in the city will reduce development pressure in the less regulated townships. But I don’t see where a causal effect has been proven.

    I still think that this argument relies on the provision of some evidence that downtown density will reduce development pressure around the city. It seems to me that sprawling suburbs surround most dense cities. For example, miles of suburbs surround Chicago. Despite urban boundaries, the areas around Portland continue to grow.

    While the severity of the impact may be debatable, there is certainly some “induced suburban development” that results from a denser central city. I think there are lots of other good reasons listed throughout this thread (Todd’s post #24, for example) for increasing downtown density, but this particular argument doesn’t stand without more support.

    I’m expect that Todd can lead a response to this concern.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 12 '06 - 12:33AM    #
  49. It’s not that “easy”, YUA. Coal (let alone shale oil) requires lots of energy to extract. Remember that the oil and natural gas will be gone. We’ll need to rely on passive solar heating to some extent, and not designing it into new developments and planning it for future ones would be tragic.
       —Steve Bean    Jan. 12 '06 - 12:56AM    #
  50. Lest we forget, we aren’t the only ones struggling with density and growth. Here’s an interesting article about cities across the US, focusing on Austin, are dealing with density.

    Some exerpts:

    From Austin to Boston, Tampa to Portland, cities want to make their downtowns lively 24-hour districts that will enhance their image and tax base. Austin and some other cities also are hoping that more downtown housing options will reduce sprawl as their populations grow.
    ...
    Like Austin, Tempe, Ariz., is a college town, the home of Arizona State University. With 160,000 people, it’s far smaller than Austin, but just the same, the density debate is near the top of the public agenda. Developer Avenue Communities wants to build four residential-retail towers in the heart of downtown, one with 22 stories and three with potentially 30 stories.
    ...
    You are facing large rapid growth going forward,” said John McIlwain, senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, an urban planning think tank in Washington, D.C. “You want to capture as much of that growth downtown as you can. It’s a much more sustainable housing pattern than pushing the new housing out into the far suburbs.

    and I admit I smiled at this one

    Betty Baker, chairwoman of the zoning commission, says that she does not oppose density but questions whether very tall buildings — Spring would rise 400 feet — should be allowed close to traditional neighborhoods. Spring would be just two blocks from the Old West Austin neighborhood, where some residents say the project would be too tall and would add much more traffic to an already congested area.

    Does this sound familiar?
       —KGS    Jan. 12 '06 - 11:43AM    #
  51. I agree with Scott; the argument that downtown development will magically stop sprawl in the townships just doesn’t hold water. That said, the argument that I think does work is that we aren’t allowing the option of downtown living for a majority of people. My husband & I, for example, live at the outer boundary of the city; not by choice, exactly, but because we couldn’t find a house near downtown that wasn’t a tear-down, and the condos available were way out of our price range.

    I don’t think we are allowing enough development downtown currently, in the lower price ranges (below $300K). Let the market bear what it will, but we need to free up some policies before the market can even show what it will bear! Getting rid of the extra fees and parking requirements would be a good first step.
       —KGS    Jan. 12 '06 - 11:53AM    #
  52. I also question Todd’s assertion that it was Boulder’s lack of growth that “created” the sprawl in that area. In truth, most of the sprawl in the Denver/Boulder area started from Denver and moved toward Boulder rather than moving out from Boulder. Denver is the large metropolis with the industry and the jobs. Many of the high-tech firms moved to areas between Boulder and Denver because the land (former ranches for the most part) was cheap. These places would have only built in Boulder if they had been able to find large tracts of land for very low prices and there wouldn’t have been many of those, even twenty or thirty years ago. Boulder’s land value is now very high in large part because it is one of the few cities left on the front range that actually has green space. Had Boulder not had the green space and building height restrictions, it would be just another rest stop in the unending sprawl on the front-range of the Rocky Mountains. It wouldn’t have changed the overall sprawl in the Front Range of Colorado, except that the greenbelt would now have buildings in it. Boulder is looked at by many people as one of the cities that has actually managed to contain sprawl (and yes, in so doing, has caused themselves some problems). It would have been far easier for Boulder to build up and out, just like everyone else did.
       —Juliew    Jan. 12 '06 - 12:36PM    #
  53. “I agree with Scott; the argument that downtown development will magically stop sprawl in the townships just doesn’t hold water.”

    I didn’t say that sprawl would be magically stopped. I will stongly argue that it will be slowed, and the demographics can be manipulated (i.e. hold housing costs firm, allow for workforce housing). Currently we’re allowing the REIT’s to manipulate demographics, and I’m not real happy with the results.

    “For example, miles of suburbs surround Chicago. Despite urban boundaries, the areas around Portland continue to grow.” I am not sure if this has occured to anyone, but do you think that there’s a chance that American cities keep making the same development mistakes over and over and over again?

    If you recall, there was a post a few months back on Arbor Update that had Boston officials and Urban Planning experts complain that citizens have an unnatural fear of tall buildings. Peter Pollock, the Boulder City Planner I keep referring to said that his citizens had the same problem. He said it was near impossible to get his downtown residents to understand that density in their neighborhoods was in their best interest.

    Now we have KGS quoting that the same citizen interference has happened in Austin. Anyone want to take a stab at what the vacancy rate is for Austin? Yep, another Socratic trap here:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2002/03/25/daily22.html

    They are forcing the demand to the suburbs. I’ll go so far as to say that nearly all finanically healthy cities pull the same crap again, and again, and again.

    “Hey, here in Boulder, Austin, Ann Arbor, (fill in the blank), things are great. There’s a University to hold the real estate market firm no matter what. The party is never going to stop, and we don’t have to react to market forces because we don’t think that they apply to our city. The cost of living just keeps going up because, well, our city is just a swell place to live. It has nothing to do with the fact that our infastructure is overstressed, the natural laws of supply and demand are out of whack, the ratio of jobs to homes are pushing into the 3:1’s, and the population isn’t evey reacting to the increased enrollment from the university that’s just down the road”.

    Have you ever noticed that only financially unhealty cities vie desperately for large development projects (which can include the dreaded tall buildings)? Now why is that?

    Is it a coindence that all of you think that sprawl is inevitable and uncontrollable, while at the same time we see that, time and again, citizens who have a choice to build downtown while the city is relatively healthy don’t?

    This is just the world’s biggest coincidence, right?

    I can’t give you an example of a medium or large city that has avoided sprawl because they all keep repeating the same predictable bad behavior.

    I’m an idiot for thinking that Ann Arbor would buck this trend, but I honestly thought that we were smarter than that.

    I don’t care what anyone says. Housing and retail demand is limited. If you buy a quart of milk at a downtown store, you aren’t going to suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and drive to Ypsi and buy another one. The same can be said for housing. If you buy a home in downtown Ann Arbor, you aren’t going to buy another one in Ypsi township the following week. The same can be said for retail. If you put a Bed Bath and Beyond or a Nordstrom’s downtown, they aren’t going to open another location in Briarwood mall.

    It’s just simple math, folks.
       —todd    Jan. 12 '06 - 12:40PM    #
  54. It seems to me that sprawling suburbs surround most dense cities. For example, miles of suburbs surround Chicago. Despite urban boundaries, the areas around Portland continue to grow.

    Scott, Chicago is not only home to America’s first planned suburb but many of the current ‘burbs there were farming communities intentionally turned into sprawl in the beginning of the twentieth century. They were making suburbs before anyone else and before they were nearly as dense in their downtown as they are today, so I would not use this unique situation as evidence for or against the argument at hand.

    Portland is sort of unique as well. They stopped the sprawl in Oregon, but their neighbor to the north, Washington, picked up all of the sprawling slack and then some. The reason behind it looks to have a lot to do with price, so if there is any argument/lesson to be learned it is building half-million dollar condos downtown doesn’t stop people from buying McMansions™ on the outskirts of town for half the price.
       —FAA    Jan. 12 '06 - 12:59PM    #
  55. I think the argument here might be that denser, happier urban spaces “induce” more suburban growth, because those urban spaces become more attractive overall. There might be some truth to that. However, if that’s the case, then what is the answer to slowing suburban growth, besides making your region so unattractive that no one would want to live there? Is the only answer a city- or county-owned land bank and sky-high real estate prices? I suppose controlling lot sizes could help, but I feel that becomes in part a matter of consumer choice…if people want large lots, they’ll just move to whichever township permits them. I also recognize, again, that there are many people who will always prefer suburban living. Often these people are families, or people who want to have families.

    Nothing wrong with that, obviously. So, it’s just a question of the kind of urban lanscape that’s created in the suburbs. Suburbs have some good things going for them, so they’re not in any way a problem per se. So instead, I think it’s, again, just a question of: how could they be better? They could be better by being somewhat denser, better connected to their business areas, more walkable, more community-oriented, better integrated with their surrounding cities, and so forth. That’s not something the cities can control—it’s going to take initiatives by all governments to successfully pull off. I guess in Ann Arbor’s case, it’s just a question of: how can we do our part? So maybe it’s the beginning of a larger effort, rather than an isolated effort.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 12 '06 - 01:01PM    #
  56. Steve—sure, I agree with that. Oil makes a lot of things easier. Though some things may be the same in the future, some thing will be very different, with their own challenges. (I’d be happy, for example, if new construction in the city involved green technologies, such as solar power, to a significant degree.)
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 12 '06 - 01:03PM    #
  57. “Portland is sort of unique as well. They stopped the sprawl in Oregon, but their neighbor to the north, Washington, picked up all of the sprawling slack and then some.”

    And some conservatives have argued that Portland’s UGB pushed the sprawl into Washington. For me, Portland is a difficult case. I think its UGB is a good thing just as I think the Greenbelt will be a good thing for Ann Arbor. But cities that are successful enough to become destinations where people want to live then face the challenge of accepting everyone who wants to live there while maintaining the qualities of life that gave people a reason to want to live there in the first place. Such cities also face affordable housing problems because the demand for housing always outpaces the supply.

    If Portland abandoned its UGB, it could accomodate more growth and more residents but would probably no longer be as desirable because of the impacts of sprawl. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard any good solutions that really address this dilemma.
       —John Q    Jan. 12 '06 - 01:06PM    #
  58. “In truth, most of the sprawl in the Denver/Boulder area started from Denver and moved toward Boulder rather than moving out from Boulder.”

    Totally disagree. Denver did not recover from its recession (caused by an oil pullout) until the 90’s. The whole city exploded after that, I’ll grant you. No question there.

    The high tech firms began their infiltration near Boulder in support of the University (Aerospace, Comp Sci). Outside of a very few firms (Martin Marietta comes to mind), the high tech growth started in and around Boulder.

    “Boulder’s land value is now very high in large part because it is one of the few cities left on the front range that actually has green space.”

    Completely untrue. Most Metro counties have a very aggressive greenspace program. Jefferson County, where my Dad lives, has miles and miles of greenpaths, parks, and preserved natural features. How do I know this? My dad helped design them.

    “It wouldn’t have changed the overall sprawl in the Front Range of Colorado, except that the greenbelt would now have buildings in it. Boulder is looked at by many people as one of the cities that has actually managed to contain sprawl (and yes, in so doing, has caused themselves some problems). ”

    Again, I disagree. I have no problem with Boulder’s greenbelt program. In fact, I think it was nearly flawless plan….except they forgot to mandate infill, just as Ann Arbor did. Have you been to Boulder County lately? How in the heck can you say that they controlled sprawl? All the surrounding cities and towns have completely exploded with population, and there was a fairly long period where you literally couldn’t legally build anything in Boulder…leaving new homeowner/businesspersons with no choice but to create sprawl.

    So if Boulder had another, say, 2,500 citizens living dowtown, your assertion is that it wouldn’t have moved 2,500 people and the ancillary services from the surrounding areas? The demand is infinite?

    I just disagree with this. I also think that infill would have curbed (not cured, but curbed) many of the serious problems that plague Boulder today. Job to home ratio. Workforce housing. Traffic. Stuff like that.

    The same can be said about Ann Arbor, except the *hit hasn’t completely hit the fan here just yet. There’s still time to adjust our path for many of our problems.
       —todd    Jan. 12 '06 - 01:27PM    #
  59. Yeah, I have been to Boulder lately and it is almost solid houses from about 20 miles east of Denver until you hit the mountains—all up and down the front range. The only place you don’t see buildings is where land has been set aside in a greenbelt or when it becomes unbuildable. Douglas County alone (not close to Boulder) grew by almost 48,000 residents in three years (source). Unless you were planning to double the population of the city, Boulder development would have made no appreciable dent in the sprawl of the entire region and even then it would have been minimal.

    I think this is similar to Ann Arbor, only there is even more legitimately buildable land here. I think YUA’s comment in #55 is exactly right. It is more about what we can do in Ann Arbor to do our part. That might be adding more housing units, it might be building more sustainable buildings, it could be working on lower-income housing, it might be cutting our resources to the townships so they actually have to pay for services at the same level as people in Ann Arbor do, or some combination of the above. And it has to be part of a regional effort because Ann Arbor, like Boulder, is just a very small piece of the problem.
       —Juliew    Jan. 12 '06 - 04:52PM    #
  60. Let’s visit the Wayback machine here. All this pro development junk started with a twinkle in Hieftje’s eye. The Greenbelt was a payoff to the township residents and the land speculators when hizzoner had his eye on higher office in Lansing. (That’s not an option anymore because Hieftje is a weak political candidate for state office) The Greenbelt was subliminally linked to the so called need for greater downtown density to reduce surburban sprawl. (IMHO, a majority of folks were duped by the Greenbelt intitiative imagining themselves as protectors of the planet. Instead you just need to look at what happened to the cost of land in the townships.) Be on your way, nothing to see here.

    Mayor and council For all their multitudinous reasons, (low income housing, tax base, political back scratching, etc.) had to figure out a way to take away power from the Planning Commission and silence the planning professionals in City Hall. This would allow them to roll out the red carpet for the developers (For the politically naive, developers have deep pockets for contributing to campaigns) To achieve that end, Hieftje stacked the Planning Commission with his appointees and figured out a way to get rid of Karen Hart. He pulled that off. Step one achieved.

    The second step was to have the city administrator put some toady in charge of the newly reorganized Planning and Development Services department and hire another toady (do your homework and add the names of the guilty) to carry out the plans and pave the way for Ann Arbor to become a developers playground. The reorganization successfully gutted the input of planning staff. Step two achieved.

    While this was happening the DDA waited in the wings with their 3 site plan and Susan Pollay’s smile to quietly slip their plans by the public with little or no public review. That included a $600k payoff to the Eaton factory developers to prevent them from supporting any other option for First and William other than the 3 site plan. (The Eaton factory developers aren’t even in the DDA area, what’s up with that?)

    But the unexpected happened. Public outcry (more than a mile wide and inch deep with apologies to Ray Detter) made them step back from the 3 site plan, particularly First and Washington. Then the politicans figured out a way to committee to death any plans for a real Green Way by hiring Calthorpe, thus making it look like the professionals of Calthorpe know what’s best for the city. (They’re purposely trying to wear down the opposition.) This strategy gives the politicians a scapegoat if their plans turn to a pile of crap. Blame Calthorpe. Then Chris Easthope want to put it on the ballot. Don’t blame council for the fiasco! Blame the voters!!

    Tune in tomorrow for the next chapter of Ann Arbor, Developers Gone Wild.
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 12 '06 - 05:03PM    #
  61. It’s rather amazing that the argument on this thread that successful cities like Chicago just attract more sprawl doesn’t mention the obvious nearby counter-example. Detroit’s about as sprawling a metro area as you can imagine, with a city that has nearly emptied out. In fact, there are dozens of U.S. cities whose population is declining while their suburbs are growing, and precious few cities whose population is growing.

    Building more housing in Ann Arbor isn’t going to end suburban sprawl around AA. But anti-growth sentiment and policies in Ann Arbor do nothing to stem the environmental damage caused by commuters who work in town, and building more housing in town would certainly mitigate some of that damage.

    As for wind tunnels and viewscapes and building shadows, those don’t seem to discourage millions of people from living in (and enjoying) Chicago, New York, San Francisco and other real cities. (And the ugly tall buildings mentioned here haven’t created any disinterest in Ann Arbor’s downtown, have they?) I suspect these non-issues are just masking the real reasons why many Ann Arborites don’t want tall buildings—a fear of urbanism. I suspect that’s so, but I’m not sure, because no one’s yet advanced a reason to oppose taller buildings that makes an ounce of sense to me.
       —Michael Betzold    Jan. 12 '06 - 05:21PM    #
  62. Mayor and council For all their multitudinous reasons, (low income housing, tax base, political back scratching, etc.) had to figure out a way to take away power from the Planning Commission and silence the planning professionals in City Hall.

    That’s just a great sentence, right there. Take your standard boilerplate about eeeevil and corrupt politicians hamstringing the checks and balances so that they can pillage at will without the good-hearted planning commissioners or noble professionals standing in the way, and then throw in “affordable housing” and see if anybody notices. Oooh! Evil moneygrubbing council! Always with their plans to stick it to the common man with their dastardly plans for affordable housing! Boo! Hiss! Toss the bums out! We don’t want any of their affordability about here!

    Um, no, wait. That doesn’t parse quite right.

    At any rate, I eagerly await Part Two. I’m sure this little history of deep-pocketed developers paying off the Council to allow affordable housing is going somewhere good.
       —Does that make me an insider?    Jan. 12 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  63. “The Greenbelt was a payoff to the township residents and the land speculators when hizzoner had his eye on higher office in Lansing. ”

    Nice conspiracy theory. But it’s already broken down because at least three of the Townships (Ann Arbor, Scio and Webster) have gone ahead and approved their own PDR millages to complement the greenbelt. In English, that means that they’ve approved raising THEIR taxes to help build the Greenbelt. So much for a payoff!!

    It also ignores that there was a Countywide millage proposal to protect Agricultural land (passed in the City but failed county-wide) and the approved Countywide millage for acquiring natural areas. Hmm, sounds like you need to get your Wayback machine checked out. So far, it’s generating bunk, not real history.
       —John Q    Jan. 12 '06 - 05:29PM    #
  64. I’m with Todd.

    U of M is the educational center of the region (yes, there are others, but U of M is well, U of M). Ann Arbor should be the residential and economic center of the region as well. They go hand in hand.

    We can debate all day about the specifics of the plan. The bigger picture is, we have the opportunity to get what we want as a community—affordable housing, parks, arts if we are willing to grow. It’s not easy, it’s not going to make everybody happy, it needs to be done right. It’s not bad and it should happen.

    Karen, I admire you for posting. I’m not going to argue about whether you are right or wrong, because you didn’t really argue for anything. Kudos for bringing a perspective that this group hasn’t heard from enough.
    —Brandt Coultas
       —brandt coultas    Jan. 12 '06 - 05:36PM    #
  65. To achieve that end, Hieftje stacked the Planning Commission with his appointees

    Isn’t the mayor’s job to “stack” the planning commission? To become a planning commissioner you apply at the mayor’s office – the mayor then nominates candidates at his discretion per the city code to the city council who makes the final selections.

    I think T.H.E (OutSiDeR) saw Hieftje on the grassy knoll in ‘63, but we’ll have to wait for the next chapter to find out…
       —FAA    Jan. 12 '06 - 06:15PM    #
  66. “So far, it’s generating bunk, not real history.”

    Do your homework, check the chronology of events, John Q.

    Karen Hart was perceived as an obstruction because she served the Planning commission and thus was insulated from the politics of city hall. The Mayor thought the planning staff was offering too much and too many of their profesional opinions regarding development. Shortly after that, a couple of commissioners left the PC and the mayor apppointed new commissioners who better fit his ideas. The City hall reorganization of the Planning dept was done to essentialy to reduce staff input,gain control the planning process and grease the skids for development. Those are the facts, Jack, err, John.

    The Planning Commission is now ready to rubber stamp the kinds of development that the pols desire, not necessarily what the public wants or needs. (The single party dominance in A2 allows this to happen). I guess it’s the Mayors prerogative to appoint anyone he wishes, but I would hope he would try to appoint a balanced board who represent many interests and encourage open debate. That is not what’s happening. I suggest you ask the commissioners who are no longer on the board. I think you’ll get a similar answer although much more politically correct than my take on the situation.
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 12 '06 - 06:41PM    #
  67. “At any rate, I eagerly await Part Two. I’m sure this little history of deep-pocketed developers paying off the Council to allow affordable housing is going somewhere good.
    —Does that make me an insider? ”

    Part 2 has aready happened. And don’t be disingenuous. No politicians have been paid off. No smoky back room deals needed to be made. The politicans are buying the bunk of the developers who tell them that they can put more affordable housing downtown (do you sincerely believe that’s possible or do $250,000 600 sq ft studio apartments fit your definition of affordable?) Most reasonable folks no longer believe that affordable housing is possible downtown. Land is just too costly.
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 12 '06 - 06:56PM    #
  68. You gotta love conspiracy theories. They never involve a couple of people involved in a small-time deal. It’s always some monsterous plot involving people at all levels of government conspiring to some nefarious end.

    This reminds me of an e-mail that Doug Cowherd sent off yesterday. He attacked opponents and skeptics of the Greenway proposal as “development interests and their political cronies”. Assuming that “development interests” were behind the opposition to the Greenway proposal, is there really that much real estate at stake that it would be worth the time of “development interests” to try and block the proposal? It’s not like were talking about major development opportunities flowing from the properties being disputed. Sure, someone would likely make money if portions of those properties are developed. But it just seems like a bit much in the rhetoric department when in the grand scheme of things, this stuff really isn’t. But I blame it on a full moon – check for yourself, it’s out.

    By the way, my chronology does check out. The history of the greenbelt dates back to 1995 and includes such developer interests as Barry Lonik, Mike Garfield and Doug Cowherd(!).

    http://www.mlive.com/columns/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-0/113457480949710.xml&coll=2
       —John Q.    Jan. 12 '06 - 07:15PM    #
  69. “Unless you were planning to double the population of the city, Boulder development would have made no appreciable dent in the sprawl of the entire region and even then it would have been minimal.”

    Double? Why not talk about real density? Googling around a bit…. The population density of Boulder is 1,500/km2. The densest arrondissement of Paris is at 40,000/km2. At that level you could absorb something like 2/3 the population of Colorado into Boulder.

    With all of them in the much larger city of Denver, it looks like we’d end up with 10,000/km^2.

    Too late for that, I guess. But there’s a lot of beautiful country in Colorado. Surely you can see why an environmentalist might enjoy the idea of populating .1% of it at 10,000/km^2 and then leaving the other 99.9% unpopulated? As opposed to spacing everybody out evenly and having them commute across the state?
       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 12 '06 - 08:08PM    #
  70. “By the way, my chronology does check out. The history of the greenbelt dates back to 1995 and includes such developer interests as Barry Lonik, Mike Garfield and Doug Cowherd(!).”

    Your understanding of the working of our local government over the last couple of years is naive at best and ignorant at worst. It’s not the chronology of the greenbelt, it’s the timing of the Hart firing, changes to the planning commission and the city hall reorganization that lead to the precipice, uh, current state of affairs… Calthorpe.

    Now try again until you get it right.

    IMO, Doug Cowherd was as much a dupe of the so called greenbelt initiative as the voters who passed it. He tends to get caught up in his king maker role sometimes. Hearts in the right place, but, hey we all make mistakes. At the time he was helping Heiftje get elected. Go ask Doug how he feels about about Hieftje now. Believe me, there is no love lost there. Doug helped him get elected, coined Hieftje’s slogan “Nature and Neighborhoods” and actually believed the mayors support of the greenbelt proposal. The mayor was shucking and jiving Doug. Doug didn’t realize what the mayor really wanted from the greenbelt initiative and that was a step toward Lansing. I know he has no regrets about the greenbelt, but the mayor is another story.

    Heiftje takes us from “Nature and Neighborhoods” to the Concrete Jungle.
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 12 '06 - 10:06PM    #
  71. Speaking of things that have already happened, I guess somebody missed the William Street Station proposal that’s at the top of this blog. You know, the low-income housing the city is actually trying to build downtown.

    As for “pols”, it’s a funny thing we got in this down—democracy. Voters are free to vote out of office any of their representatives that they don’t feel are representing them.

    Outsider, let’s assume that you mean well, and give you a chance to contribute constructively to this conversation—what do you think should happen do the downtown area instead of the several ideas that have been discussed here?
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 12 '06 - 10:37PM    #
  72. ‘Heiftje takes us from “Nature and Neighborhoods” to the Concrete Jungle.’

    I’m sure the Mayor can speak for himself but other than not blindly endorsing the Greenway proposal, please point us to the examples of how the City is being turned into a “Concrete Jungle”. The reality is that the City continues to acquire parkland within the City and preserve the Greenbelt properties outside the City in partnership with those wicked Townships.

    I won’t claim to be able to speak to all of the mechinations at City Hall that you allude to in your posts. But since I’ve already highlighted how you distorted or ignored history, I would say the burden is on you to back up your claims with some real examples that match your rhetoric.
       —John Q    Jan. 13 '06 - 12:51AM    #
  73. “Voters are free to vote out of office any of their representatives that they don’t feel are representing them.”

    The only way you can vote someone OUT of office is if there is a viable alternative to vote IN.

    I am not anti growth, but am afraid of government overreacting and then not acting deliberately and responsibly. What do I like? I like some of the projects that are going in downtown. Ashley Terrace on Huron (if it wasn’t so ugly), the old YMCA plan, Liberty Lofts, the condo thing next to Seva and even the one that was planned for near the hospital (I forget the name). I think that the Klines lot should be a parking structure with plenty of underground parking. The Library lot needs a 10-12 story mixed use project that includes a new city hall and underground parking. I think JC Beals Mayer Shairer project is good. I am not in favor of anything in the Allen Creek floodway and very limited use of the floodplain. I think a REAL greenway is a great idea, but the city should use some of the land along the greenway for pocket developments including dense low rise housing. I think First and William south to Jefferson along the west of AShley towards Main, across from Leopold Bro’s is a great location for a larger urban public space along a greenway. It could be multi-use for public events. I think that tall building must be proportional to their surroundings with taller building requiring more open space around them. Syndeco/DTE (Ashley Mews) is a great example of where NOT to locate a high rise. The Greek Church proposals next to Kerrytown are terrible. I think before building high and dense downtown, the city needs to explore alternatives and change the zoning to allow the granny flats and studio apartments in the close in neighborhoods including David Cahills neighborhood and the OWS.

    Most of all I believe that these things will fail if they are forced in reaction to a wrongly perceived need. Development needs to happen naturally. It’s not a build it and they will come. I just think that Ann Arbor isn’t in any great need to reinvent itself. It’s a midwest college town with all the good and bad that come with that. I believe that it’s better to play to your strengths and improve what you already have instead of trying and failing to be something you’re not.

    Don’t believe developers or builders when they say that developing in Ann Arbor is a nightmare. Frankly. it’s not the regulations, it’s the schizophrenic nature of our politicians. For all the whining, they still want to build here. There are plenty of places a whole lot worse. The problem occurs when people leave barn doors wide open and the fox gets in. (Don’t ya love mixed metaphors?)
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 13 '06 - 01:15AM    #
  74. “please point us to the examples of how the City is being turned into a “Concrete Jungle”.”

    (hey, this is a weblog, ya gotta allow for poetic license and hyperbole. I’m not the only one who does it)

    I distinctly remember the mayor stating that he thought folks in Ann Arbor don’t really know what a tall building is. That, in Chicago 15 stories isn’t tall. I think he even mentioned 20 stories. Those weren’t houses of cards he was talking about. If the ball is set rolling now, 20 years from now there will be a lot more concrete (but you probably won’t be living here then and I’ll most likely be dead.) It’s like the frog in the pot of water on the stove. It’ll happen before you know and then it will be too late.

    Killins is licking their lips.
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 13 '06 - 01:34AM    #
  75. “But since I’ve already highlighted how you distorted or ignored history”

    Sorry, I missed your yellow highlighter.

    In order for YOU to accuse me of distorting history, YOU have to have been around this town long enough to experience it and put it in perspective.
       —T.H.E (OutSiDeR)    Jan. 13 '06 - 08:45AM    #
  76. Outsider:

    60. This would allow [Council, Mayor] to roll out the red carpet for the developers (For the politically naive, developers have deep pockets for contributing to campaigns)

    The natural response to this would be, “Oh? So you’ve got the campaign finance reports to back this up, right?” Except I don’t even need to ask you for such easy proof, because you go and shoot yourself down without my even trying:

    67. And don’t be disingenuous. No politicians have been paid off. No smoky back room deals needed to be made.

    Wait, so, we’re supposed to believe that the elected officials are in cahoots with the deep-pocketed developers who have lots of money to contribute to campaigns, but then you wave off any suggestion that the developers did any such thing? Interesting. Before you go calling anybody else schizophrenic, you might want to try a mirror.

    And then, of course, there’s the gem,

    73.The only way you can vote someone OUT of office is if there is a viable alternative to vote IN.

    So…What you’re saying is that the people of Ann Arbor agree with what’s going on? Because otherwise, you agree with YUA that an opponent would appear and get voted in in their stead. Interesting.

    And then, of course, you go and say that you like pretty much every private project that’s been proposed in the last few years – even the ones that most people around here have panned for poor design (LoFT 322, by Seva) – in the same breath that you’re saying we should stop looking to increase the density of downtown and ditch the Calthorpe plan.

    Yawn. I liked listening to Cahill’s dissents better; at least he has a rational position that’s coherant enough to agree or disagree with.
       —Does that make me an insider?    Jan. 13 '06 - 10:02AM    #
  77. Yawn. I liked listening to Cahill’s dissents better; at least he has a rational position that’s coherant enough to agree or disagree with.

    Whoa there, insider, let’s not go overboard just because someone in comparison to T.H.E (OutSiDeR) appears to be okay. Cahill does post his opinions in a (mostly) coherent manner. He has, however, never been known to justify his position or rebut anyone else’s… For now I’d leave rational out of his description.
       —FAA    Jan. 13 '06 - 11:00AM    #
  78. I’ll second FAA. Give me a paranoid schizophrenic any day over a manipulative, sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing, self-satisfied, self-serving, self-righteous, self-important, selfish, self-pleasuring prick.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jan. 13 '06 - 01:45PM    #
  79. Sorry for the long post, but this was worth responding to.

    “The only way you can vote someone OUT of office is if there is a viable alternative to vote IN.”

    Fair enough. Come November I guess we’ll all find out.

    “What do I like? I like some of the projects that are going in downtown. Ashley Terrace on Huron (if it wasn’t so ugly),”

    Haven’t seen the drawings yet. Are they online?

    “the old YMCA plan”

    Which one was that?

    “Liberty Lofts,”

    Ok.

    “the condo thing next to Seva”

    Ok, though I agree the original design was better (the slightly Disney-ish “old-style” architecture—though it was retro, it looked pretty well-done)

    “and even the one that was planned for near the hospital (I forget the name).”

    Sure—and that one was shot down (for now) by the historical commission. Maybe they had good reasons, but isn’t that the kind of thing you’re asking for?

    “I think that the Klines lot should be a parking structure with plenty of underground parking.”

    Though I wish it’d be retail on the top.

    “The Library lot needs a 10-12 story mixed use project that includes a new city hall and underground parking.”

    Sure!

    “I think JC Beals Mayer Shairer project is good.”

    Yes.

    “I am not in favor of anything in the Allen Creek floodway and very limited use of the floodplain.”

    But why? Aren’t there already buildings in the floodway/floodplain? What if South Main Market got redeveloped—would you be against that or for it?

    “I think a REAL greenway is a great idea, but the city should use some of the land along the greenway for pocket developments including dense low rise housing.”

    But…that’s building in the floodway/floodplain, isn’t it? Also, why is a greenway that straddles a railroad a good idea? I realize Geddes Park is also along a railroad, but there’s plenty of space to fence it off. (I’m not necessarily against the Allen Creek greenway, I just don’t understand some of the rationale.)

    “I think First and William south to Jefferson along the west of AShley towards Main, across from Leopold Bro’s is a great location for a larger urban public space along a greenway.”

    Great, but again, that is building in the floodway/floodplain. Unless you’re talking about green space?

    “I think that tall building must be proportional to their surroundings with taller building requiring more open space around them.”

    Sure, proportional, but proportional is in the eye of the beholder. And I do not like mandating open space around tall buildings—that can create concrete plazas and useless land that just drives up the cost of other parcels. It can work, but only in some places.

    “Syndeco/DTE (Ashley Mews) is a great example of where NOT to locate a high rise.”

    It would be better if there had been more planning around it. If the Mews are there, then there needs to be a plan for South Main.

    “The Greek Church proposals next to Kerrytown are terrible.”

    Well, as I understand it the biggest problem is with their footprints. I don’t understand enough about it to know why they can’t fix that.

    “I think before building high and dense downtown, the city needs to explore alternatives and change the zoning to allow the granny flats and studio apartments in the close in neighborhoods including David Cahills neighborhood and the OWS.”

    I would also argue for changing the zoning, but not necessarily for “granny flats”. I guess because I see those as primarily serving a student population, and I’d like to see more options for all kinds of populations.

    “Development needs to happen naturally. It’s not a build it and they will come.”

    Sure. But you don’t think 20% growth in Washtenaw county over the last 14 years is something to pay attention to? What about the fact that the Ann Arbor MSA is now over 600,000?

    “I just think that Ann Arbor isn’t in any great need to reinvent itself. It’s a midwest college town with all the good and bad that come with that.”

    Well, I hope no one is talking about “reinventing” Ann Arbor. That’s not what I’ve been hearing, but that’s just my perspective.

    “I believe that it’s better to play to your strengths and improve what you already have instead of trying and failing to be something you’re not.”

    Sure, agreed. I’ve said I’d prefer piecemeal development. But you need to look at the larger view, otherwise you can get trapped. To me, that’s what the report is about.

    “Don’t believe developers or builders when they say that developing in Ann Arbor is a nightmare. Frankly. it’s not the regulations, it’s the schizophrenic nature of our politicians.”

    Wait—so is it a nightmare, or not? :)

    “For all the whining, they still want to build here.”

    Yes, and…again, why wasn’t the Glen/Ann proposal approved, the one that you yourself say you favored?
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 13 '06 - 03:11PM    #
  80. Actually I should correct something—it’s true that the three-county Ann Arbor MSA had a population of over 600,000 in 2003. However, that was the year that the MSA boundaries were re-drawn, and Ann Arbor’s MSA now includes only Washtenaw county, though it is still a part of the larger Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint CSMA.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 13 '06 - 03:45PM    #
  81. “Karen Hart was perceived as an obstruction because she served the Planning commission and thus was insulated from the politics of city hall. The Mayor thought the planning staff was offering too much and too many of their profesional opinions regarding development.”

    Oh yeah. The citizens of Ann Arbor were following Karen Hart’s suggestions to the letter until the current Mayor stepped in and ruined everything. We don’t need a city planner. Citizens haven’t and probably never will follow the lead of a professional planner. Look at your reaction to Calthorpe. They’re pro’s, and you think that they are the worst thing to happen to this town. Citizens like yourself want to have control over each and every project. Until you step out of the way, all the planning in the world is utterly pointless.

    “The Planning Commission is now ready to rubber stamp the kinds of development that the pols desire, not necessarily what the public wants or needs.”

    Ok, how about we have at least enough development that we can at least handle the increase in enrollment at UMich. How about that? The city was static, population-wise, over the past ten years. That’s absurd. That’s zero growth, no? The public needs things like police and fire protection, and we’ve had to cut those services in a wealthy city because our tax base is insufficient. We aren’t even covering our basic needs, let alone pet projects like the greenway.

    “Development needs to happen naturally. It’s not a build it and they will come.”

    Ah, I see. So you’re in favor of letting market demand drive development? That’s what “naturally” means. That means if a property owner thinks that the market can handle a 20 story builiding, that’s what he/she builds, with no government (ie. citizens like you) interference. Works for me.

    “That, in Chicago 15 stories isn’t tall. I think he even mentioned 20 stories. Those weren’t houses of cards he was talking about. If the ball is set rolling now, 20 years from now there will be a lot more concrete (but you probably won’t be living here then and I’ll most likely be dead.”

    I have to admit that I really liked this one. This is the kind of math that would make even Cahill blush. So in your world, a twenty story building with 10 residences per floor is going to pave over more of the earth than 200 tract homes in a new development outside of town? The environmental movement needs more people like you! Oh wait, we already have them: we call them Texans.

    “The Greenbelt was a payoff to the township residents and the land speculators when hizzoner had his eye on higher office in Lansing.”

    Ah, I see. So people who push for setting aside greenspace are only doing so because they are plying for the favor of those who own property near the greenspace? Does that mean that, as an example, Margaret Wong is corrupt because the greenbelt runs alarmingly close to here home? Or heck, it’s supposed to run by my place of business. Does this mean that I gave money or favors to the Friends of the Greenway?

    Interesting theory. Of course, the problem is that I’m against the greenway as it is proposed. I’d prefer to see the money used to augment the one that we already have to the north of town. Or we could put parks in poorer areas in Ann Arbor that don’t have one. Naah. You’re right, it must be a conspiracy.

    “And if you don’t watch out, that’s exactly what the Calthorpe plan will bring to downtown. Think it’s boutiquey right now? Just wait. Calthorpe even made recommendations for more national chains.”

    Actually, it’s local business owners like myself, Bob Dascola, and Rene Greff who are asking for a handful of National Chains to be installed in new construction to help to stablize the areas retail sales by providing an anchor for demand.

    The problem isn’t having a few national chains in town…the problem is that because you have stopped any meaningful development downtown, the rental costs have skyrocketed to such levels that a local business couldn’t possibly survive here….and this is the doing of citizens like you who don’t want new construction.

    So in other words, we haven’t operated using the Calthorpe plan as of yet….look around you. Are there more chains downtown than there were ten years ago, or fewer?

    We tried it your way for the last twenty years, and as a result we have an economic environment where only national chains have a meaningful chance of long term survival. Way to go.

    Yeah, things were clearly going gangbusters in Ann Arbor before this conspiracy theory you allude to wrecked everything.
       —todd    Jan. 14 '06 - 01:13PM    #
  82. So, here’s a question that I would have thought somebody would have mentioned already:

    If the citizens of Ann Arbor are so uniformly opposed to development in general, and buildings above four stories in particular, why is it that a proposal to add three more stories to the Collegian (on Maynard) breezed through both CPC and Council without a peep of protest?

    Well, not quite zero – the new site plan involves 27 studio apts, and one speaker wanted fewer, larger units; another asked about parking. But also praise – the owner of NYPD is quoted in the CPC minutes as saying that “three more floors of residential units was a good idea, as it would be a boost to the businesses in this area”.

    One would expect David Cahill, Outsider, Downtowner, and the Silent Majority they claim to represent would be up in arms about a new 8 story building with 27 new residential units and no on-site parking. (The agreement requires the developer to provide 15 parking spaces to receive Occupancy Certs, expected to be permits in a DDA-run facility.)

    The Council meeting at which this 8 story building passed without protest was, interestingly, the same Council meeting at which the proposed Lower Town Historic District hearing drew dozens of comments against, strongly outnumbering supporters of the new district.

    I had been looking forward to the revolution that Cahill keeps promising, but I’m starting to think there won’t be much to see. Oh well.
       —...Insider?    Jan. 14 '06 - 07:09PM    #
  83. I think the Collegian is fine because it is in keeping with the scale of the nearby buildings. It’s next to the gargantuan Maynard Street parking structure and less than half a block from the monumental Tower Plaza. In these surroundings you hardly notice the Collegian.

    As to revolutions – the Calthorpe Report seems to have laid such an egg that City Council may largely ignore it. So the torches and pitchforks may be superfluous. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Jan. 14 '06 - 11:02PM    #
  84. Calthorpe Place Unveiled!

    What would a large downtown mixed-use building look like if it were designed according to the maximum values allowed by the Calthorpe Report, without any negotiations with the City? What income would it generate? What about parking? This is an attempt to answer these and similar questions.

    I am calling this building “Calthorpe Place”.

    I – Building Design

    On page 54 of the Report, Calthorpe recommends: “Develop the Brown Lot at 1st and Huron Street as a gateway feature for the Downtown. The development proposal should include a mix of uses.” So I am locating Calthorpe Place on the Brown Block. This block is an almost-perfect square, 263.5 ft. x 264.0 ft. So from the area within the lot lines is 69,564 sq. ft.

    Calthorpe Place is in the Huron Corridor area (p. 53) and so the zoning overlay form requirements are from page 20, figure 20, second line:

    Minimum Height (Stories) = 3
    Maximum Height (Stories) = 10

    Maximum Lot Coverage = 100%
    Floor Area Ratio (FAR) = 660%
    Upper Floor Setback – Front (Feet) = 10 – 20
    Upper Floor Setback – Side (Feet) = 5 -10

    These upper floor setbacks apply to floor above the minimum height; i.e, above 3 stories (p. 20).

    Figure 20, on p. 24, lists a variety of FAR bonuses for design features that meet a variety of community goals. Our hypothetical developer chooses only one:

    Ground Floor Retail 100% FAR Bonus

    Our developer isn’t interested in any of the other community goals. S/he doesn’t want to bother with affordable housing, open space/pedestrian amenities, tower design, transfer of development rights, or underground parking. S/he isn’t including any parking at all. S/he wants to just walk into the Building Department with the plans, not negotiate about anything, and say “give me my building permit”. And, under Calthorpe, the developer would have a right to the permit without any quibbling by the Planning Commission or Council.

    Our developer chooses the following mix of uses:

    First Floor: Ground Floor Retail
    Second through Fourth Floors: Office
    Fifth and Higher Floors: Market Rate Condos

    The developer decides to allocate space to the various uses according to these calculations:

    The first floor is built to the lot lines, as figure 20 allows. Some square footage will be used up with walls, a lobby, elevators, stairs, maintenance, building management, an atrium or other means to provide light to interior spaces, and other areas which cannot be rented out. Let us assume that 75% of the gross square footage can be rented to retailers. That is 69,564 sq. ft. x 0.75 = 52,173 sq. ft. of rentable retail.

    The second and third floors are built to the lot lines, giving us 69,564 sq. ft. x 2 = 139,128 sq. ft. Let’s keep the same 75% availability figure. This gives us 139,128×0.75 = 104,346 sq. ft. of rentable office space for these floors.

    The fourth floor requires minimum setbacks of 10 feet on the front and rear, and 5 feet on each side. So the maximum dimension of the fourth floor is (263.5 – 20) x (264 – 10) = 61,849 sq. ft. Available office space = 61,849 sq. ft. x 0.75 = 46,386 sq. ft.

    Total available office space for rent = 104,346 sq. ft. + 46,386 sq. ft. = 150,732 sq. ft.

    How much space do we have left for our market-rate condos? The maximum FAR is the basic 660%, to which we add 100% for our ground floor retail = 760% of the lot size = 7.6×69,564 = 528,686.4 sq. feet of total floor space for Calthorpe Place.

    We have already used up 69,564 sq. feet for each of the first three floors, plus 61,849 sq. ft. for the fourth floor, or (3×69,564) + 61,849 sq. ft. = 270,541 sq. ft. Ergo, we have remaining for our market rate condos 528,686.4 sq. ft. – 270,541 sq. ft. = 258,145.4 sq. feet.

    Assuming that we build to the maximum square footage for upper stories of 61,849 sq. ft., these 258,145.4 sq. feet are the equivalent of 258,145.4/61,849 = 4.2 stories. Since we have 6 stories left, our developer does not have to build to the lot line. Instead, s/he could make Calthorpe Place look like One North Main, with a stepped design on the upper stories.

    Keeping the same 75% availability ratio, there will be 0.75×258,145.4 sq. ft. = 193,609 sq. ft. for sale as condos.

    II – Income

    Income is from both rental of the retail and offices, and sale of the condos.

    The developer of William Street Station (the redevelopment project on the Old Y site) is trying for rents of $25 – $27 per sq. ft. per year for both retail and office uses. Calthorpe Place should be comparable. Let us use $25 in the hope that all this new space will keep rents down, and assume full occupancy.

    So annual income from retail = 52,173 sq. ft. x $25/sq. ft. = $1,304,325.

    Similarly, annual income from office = 150,732 sq. ft. x $25/sq. ft. = $3,768,300.

    Total annual rental income, therefore, is $1,304,325 + $3,768,300 = $5,072,625.

    William Street Station is hoping for condo sales at $300 -$325 per sq. ft. Let’s assume full occupancy immediately, and assume $310 per sq. ft. Since there are 193,609 sq. ft. available, the condos will sell for 193,609 sq. ft. x ($310/sq.ft.) = $60,018,790. But that will all come in during the first year.

    III Parking

    Under the present rules, our developer would have to pay for parking for most of the building. However, Calthorpe recommends (p. 47): “Eliminate parking requirements on new projects in Downtown Ann Arbor”. Most surface lots in Downtown are targeted for development. When a project replaces a surface lot, parking needs fall into two categories: replacement parking (to make up for the parking lost by the development) and project parking (parking needed for the project to succeed).

    Under Calthorpe, the costs of both replacement parking and project parking will be borne by the public. I will assume this means by the DDA’s parking system.

    For Calthorpe Place, the DDA will have to build a structure which will both replace the 198 spaces currently in the Brown Block lot, and provide the needed parking for the project.

    How many spaces will project need? I will use space requirements set by section 5:167 of the City Code. These have been carefully set to minimize impervious surface; a couple of years ago City staff even did an on-site count of spaces for various uses.

    Calthorpe Place has less than 300,000 sq. ft. of retail, so it will need one parking space per 310 sq. ft. of floor area. There is 52,173 sq. ft. of retail, so we need 52,173/310 = 168 spaces for retail.

    For offices we need 1 space per 333 sq. ft. of floor area. We have 150,732 sq. ft. of office, so we need 150,732/333 = 453 spaces for the office.

    For our condos, Calthorpe Place is a multiple-family dwelling located in a nonresidential zoning district, so we need 1 space per dwelling unit (condo). We have 193,609 sq. ft. of condos available. Their sizes will probably vary widely. Let us assume 2,000 sq. ft. as the average condo size. There will then be 193,609/2,000 = 96 condos. They will require 96 spaces.

    So the total project parking for Calthorpe Place is 168 (retail) + 453 (office) + 96 (condos) = 717 parking spaces.

    The total amount of parking needed is 198 (replacement) + 717 (project) = 915. This will probably have to be in an off-site parking structure near the site, since the developer is not required to provide any parking, and s/he has chosen not to do so.

    Although there are 198 spaces in the Brown Block surface lot, I expect the number of spaces per story in a structure of the same over-all footprint as the Brown Block will be about 150. So we will need a parking structure of 915/150 = 6 stories.

    Let us set an optimistically low cost for construction of these spaces. I will use $30,000 per space, which is in the DDA’s request for proposals for surface parking for First and Washington.

    The cost of our new DDA parking structure will be 915 spaces x $30,000/space = $27,450,000.00.

    And that’s for just one project….

    Comments? Questions? Suggestions for modifications?
       —David Cahill    Jan. 16 '06 - 11:28AM    #
  85. Dave, I don’t mean to mock you (this time), but you did not give the Calthorpe report a careful reading.

    The p. 24 table that you cite is explicitly labeled “Example Community Incentive FAR Bonus.” What this means, of course, is that this table does not endorse or recommend these community goals and does not recommend these bonus values. It is merely giving examples of potential goals and bonuses. Setting these goals and bonuses for Ann Arbor will require public input and debate, which has been a promised part of the process all along.

    Thus, one of the foundational assumptions of this assessment is wrong. Comically so.

    I might note that many of your other assessments and assumptions are wrong, as well—when you say “under Calthorpe” you are again, in your wacky way, trying unsuccessfully to characterize this set of recommendations as a set of imposed restrictions, which they are not.
       —Dale    Jan. 16 '06 - 11:56AM    #
  86. And that’s just from one post…
       —Dale    Jan. 16 '06 - 11:57AM    #
  87. “Comments? Questions?”

    1. Don’t you need to factor in income from the parking structure? (How much is that likely to be?)

    2. I thought part of the argument for moving parking to DDA structures was that it would allow businesses and residences to pool parking, hence to make more efficient use of it. How would we calculate the appropriate number of parking spaces given that?
       —J. Bruce Fields    Jan. 16 '06 - 01:08PM    #
  88. Though we should all be wary of “ground floor retail”. 301 W. Liberty has ground floor retail, and look where that has gone. There’s more to good planning than designing whatever first floor you want, leaving it empty, and calling it “ground floor retail”.

    Also, I drove by the Glen/Ann site the other day, thinking about the proposed 10-story building, and I can see how it would be rather towering. But a 6-8 story building wouldn’t be so bad, IMO.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 16 '06 - 03:16PM    #
  89. “Comments? Questions? Suggestions for modifications?”

    The only thing that I find gratifying about your constant posting on this parking “subsidy” obsession is that members of Council and the Planning Commission frequent this site, and they will see for themselves why during public meetings when Dave C. is at the podium, they should be thinking about what to wear to work the next day.

    I suppose it’s time to break out the puppets to explain again why your assumptions are (for the 4th time now) sophomoric and in error….and this is if you ignore Dale’s post that points to your other errors.

    I’ll keep it really simple this time:

    1. Before you leave one of Ann Arbor’s numerous parking garages, does the atttendant in that little box say “that’ll be two dollars, please”? Or does the attendant simply laugh and say “heh, heh, heh, we just screwed the public out of millions of dollars”, and send you on your way?

    2. If you wish to obtain a monthly parking permit at one of these parking structures, do you need to give the parking manager money, or can you just laugh and say “I’m an evil developer, and this parking is free, heh, heh, heh”, leading to a smirk from the manager on duty and a free unlimited parking pass?

    Take your time answering, Dave.

    3. When you go into your local bank to take out a loan, and they ask you to list your assets to provide collateral for a loan, do you leave your home off of the ledger? And if you list your home, as opposed to leaving it off, do you suppose that it is more or less likely that the bank will give you a better interest rate?

    Again, take your time…...

    Now if this doesn’t dial it in for you, you’ll be pleased to know that I give up.
       —todd    Jan. 16 '06 - 03:38PM    #
  90. Of course Calthorpe is just making recommendations. I have no idea what Council will do with the recommendations. Calthorpe Place is just a “what if” scenario: What if Council approves the recommendations in the report?

    Bruce, thanks for thinking of factoring in the income from the parking structure. How should this be done? Should we assume the present fee system would be used?

    Yes, we could adjust for the savings of spaces using “pooled parking”. I don’t know the formula for this. Does anyone else?

    I would really appreciate someone checking out my arithmetic. I found and corrected one mistake before I posted this. There are probably others. I also may have misinterpreted the City’s parking requirements. Remember, this is not my area; I’m just taking this one step at a time.

    I also plan to add property taxes and their capture by the DDA. But first I want to make sure I haven’t made a dumb calculation mistake. I don’t want any error to propagate itself any further.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 16 '06 - 03:39PM    #
  91. Oop! Todd slipped in. Sure, I intend to figure in the costs of the parking system as well as the income from it. Plus yes, I want to figure in the value of the project and its cost of construction.

    And I didn’t use Todd’s s****** – word even once! 8-)

    I was intending to use a construction cost of $300/sq. ft. Is this reasonable for a project of this size?
       —David Cahill    Jan. 16 '06 - 03:44PM    #
  92. In answer to some of the parking questions, here is some data I compiled from 2004 DDA parking financial data.

    Structure (annual per space):
    Revenue: $1788
    Expenses: $893
    Expenses + debt: $1836
    Net income: -$48

    As a point of comparison, here is the same data for street parking:

    Revenue: $1503
    Expenses: $789
    Expenses + debt: $820
    Net income: $683

    Of course this info is basically useless without a deeper understanding of the goals and policies behind the parking system. From this info alone, it seems best to provide all parking on the street.

    Also, the averages for structures hides large variations in income and costs (especially debt) across the collective. Liberty square netted over $1,000 per space that year. All were profitable before debt. Large scale upgrades were the big profit killer.

    As to the total number calculated by Dave, the industry standard for parking provision is to provide 100 spaces for every 120 permits. That would bring down the number of spaces required for resident and office parking from 620 to 500. Considering all the ways that overlap could happen (workers live there, shoppers live there or nearby, workers shop there, workers day space used by resident at night, etc) I’d expect at least a 25% overlap in the total number of parkers and likely much more. These two options would reduce the parking need from Dave’s original estimate of 915 – 120 – 200 = 595.

    This ignores many factors such as the impact of nearby street parking, which people always seem to prefer over structures and the opportunities to use other alternatives such as the wonderful go!pass program and Parking Cash-Out to begin to develop the transportation system in new directions. Studies indicate that new developments are the best places to implement these programs because they are not already entrenched in a particular travel routine.

    It should also be noted that the overlap effect would be compounded as more of the same buildings are constructed nearby. So while one building may require 600 spaces, a second similar project may require only 400 more spaces. So we can probably accommodate a lot more development in Dave’s structure. The efficiency could not be realized if each development provided its own parking.

    While there is currently no good mechanism to do so, the cost to the city of providing similar parking outside of town (lost revenue downtown, more through town traffic, more and longer private automobile trips, increased impervious surface and resulting impacts on surface water, the list goes on…) should be considered.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 16 '06 - 11:34PM    #
  93. Dave didn’t mention any square footage in his building below ground level. I’m guessing that a developer seeking to maximize value in the Ann Arbor context would have an incentive to provide at least some underground parking on site, even if none was required.

    The “worst case” would be that each space would be permanently assigned to one of the market-rate condos, and hence not subject to the savings of pooled parking or normal turnover. But even under that extreme assumption, every space provided on-site would reduce the parking demand impact on surrounding streets and blocks.

    Just a thought.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jan. 17 '06 - 12:07AM    #
  94. is that $30K/space figure for real?

    i googled parking space size and found something from leesburg florida in the top five that says a parking space is 10 by 20 feet.

    so it costs $150/sq. ft. to build a concrete slab, but william st. sta. condo space will retail for $300-$325/sq. ft.?

    looking at the leesburg article again, they describe a $1.1M design/build project for a 204 space parking garage.

    in leesburg, it costs $5.4K/space.
       —peter honeyman    Jan. 17 '06 - 12:22AM    #
  95. Florida isn’t necessarily comparable, because they don’t use much road salt there.

    It used to be the conventional wisdom that parking structures in Michigan had an uneconomically short lifespan (or require costly ongoing structural repairs) due to the heavy use of corrosive salt here to de-ice roadways.

    But then somebody came up with a new method of building structures to be less vulnerable to the salt problem. Presumably this new way is more expensive than what they do in Florida.

    On the other hand, perhaps Florida’s damp climate presents other challenges for parking structure durability.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jan. 17 '06 - 01:32AM    #
  96. a little more googling …

    in traverse city four-stories, $8.3M, 540 spaces comes to $15K/space.
       —peter honeyman    Jan. 17 '06 - 03:07AM    #
  97. My initial response to Peter’s posts was that it is standard to calculate costs of structured parking at between 20 and 40 thousand dollars per space with the higher end associated with underground structures. I my effort to back that claim up, I also found a bunch of projects that were far less than the cost Dave quotes.

    http://www.tp.ohio-state.edu/planning/southcampparkplan/SectionVI.htm#FinancialConsiderations
    $12,500 per space for 3,500 spaces at University of Ohio (projected as $20,000 in 2005)

    http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/mc/news/press/02-321.html
    about $16,700 per space for a 1,500 space garage in at the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metrorail Station

    http://www.stephensengineers.com/projects.shtml
    $12,500 per space for a 1,200 space garage in Framingham, Massachusetts.

    http://www.bju.edu/giving/garage/
    $7,000 per space for 550 spaces in a garage at Bob Jones University.

    http://www.vtpi.org/tca/tca0504.pdf
    Todd Litman provides a nice table here that doesn’t forecast prices beyond $10,000 per space.

    So what is it about Ann Arbor that requires such expensive structures? Don Shoup points out that the jump in parking structure cost (per space in the 1970s at UCLA was a result of a movement toward smaller structures. The larger ones were more economical to build. This would support the decision to provide large blocks of parking instead of having each developer do their own at a higher cost per space.

    Size of the footprint (land value) and height above/depth below ground are both cost factors. Usually they are made of precast concrete slabs. The mix of concrete should accommodate Larry’s salt issue at a minimal cost.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 17 '06 - 03:46AM    #
  98. that article about the traverse city parking structure includes this quote:

    At more than $15,000 a space, the Larry Hardy deck represents an investment that is roughly double what an unadorned concrete parking deck costs.

    it’s all about the adornments.
       —peter honeyman    Jan. 17 '06 - 10:52AM    #
  99. Everything costs more to build in Ann Arbor. I say that with complete sincerety. Ask any builder.

    Parking construction costs vary wildly based on land costs, footprint (larger footprint means elevator/stairwell/ramping sq-ft are amortized across more spaces per floor), what’s above it (more superstructure requires more and bigger support pillars – u/g parking is much more space efficient under a short building), how snazzy it looks (compare Fourth & Washington to First & Washington), and what “extras” you’re rolling into the cost (such as the DDA’s park, soil remediation, and rail crossing updrages back in the Three Site Plan).

    The Wm. St. Station developers are saying their underground parking will cost something like $70,000 / spc. The City’s RFP for 1st & Washington offers a City/DDA purchase price of something like $35k above and $40k under for public parking included in that development.

    Costs in Florida and Traverse City are pretty meaningless if you just look at dollars and spaces – there’s a lot of information that’s needed.

    And thanks to Scott for the numbers.
       —...Insider?    Jan. 17 '06 - 11:00AM    #
  100. There’s a bunch of reasons that it is so expensive to build in Ann Arbor, and I’ve explained this before. Many, many contractors refuse to work in Ann Arbor because they’ve been jerked around by the City and the various departments. Without going into too much tedious detail, let’s just say that Ann Arbor can ruin a construction company in a big hurry.

    The other two reasons are the inflated cost of land (you know, how I keep saying that we’ve refused to build, leading to expensive lots etc. etc.), and the fact that Michigan is such a heavily unionized state. Union construction is expensive. Really expensive.

    But this is sidestepping David C.’s initial assertion that we will be subsidizing parking. This is patently untrue. Put out proper bids, build the structure, establish a professional management and maintenance contract, set the prices per space/visit. A parking structure will, over the life of the structure, yield a profit and leave the city with a valuable financial asset.

    I’d like to point out, as Dale did earlier, that the Calthorpe report does not recommend that the public install the parking structures (or at least I couldn’t find this anywhere). The report merely states that we don’t need to mandate parking for new DDA buildings. That’s it.

    Setting this aside for a moment, here are the two worst things that we could allow, given this language:

    1. UMich builds a few structures downtown. This does many things that citizens don’t want. It pulls more land off of the tax rolls, it removes the city from the process of choosing the location of the lots, allows parking use by UMich and UMich only, and it removes citizens from participating in its design (things like height, appearance, and pedestrian amenities).

    Look at how po’ed people are about the Frieze building. What are they gonna say if UMich decides to solve the parking problems in that area by buying up nearby land and building their own structure that only UMich can use?

    2. A private firm decides to install their own parking structure. They would retain contol over who parks there and when. A developer can (this happens quite a bit) choose to use the parking section as a loss leader, particularly in a (somewhat) large project like Dave’s Calthorpe place, and allot more spaces for the building’s occupants. This is bad for obvious reasons…..without mentioning the revenue that the city would lose, nor the value of the asset after it is constructed.

    We’d be fools not to install the parking structures ourselves…..we retain the revenue, gain an asset, and we can control and integrate their location and size given a larger set of urban design goals (like TenBrink’s suggestion to place a few out of the downtown area).
       —todd    Jan. 17 '06 - 11:14AM    #
  101. Thanks for the research, people! I based my $30K/space on what I thought was the First and William figure for surface parking. So the real figure is $35K? Food for thought. I should have actually read the RFP, rather than relying on what people told me about it.

    As to “shared parking”, people should remember that Calthorpe Place’s office use, apparently the most parking-intensive, will be a daytime use, completely filled with office workers who will stay put during the day. So I don’t think we can reduce the number of spaces for this use due to “shared parking”. The condos, maybe. Retail – I’m not sure. I thought the City’s requirement for retail already took into account the fact of customer circulation.

    As to absorbing these parking needs by relying on surface parking or other structures, I don’t think this is practical. These other facilities are already full, or close to full, during the daytime.

    Oh – there is another negative story by Tom Gantert about Calthorpe in today’s AA News called “Mayor Hit on Downtown”. Sorry, I don’t know how to link it here. Essentially, it quotes 3 former Planning Commissioners (Hanson, Blake, and Thorp) to the effect that the Calthorpe process is a deliberate end-run around the Planning Commission because the Commission only wanted 4-6 stories downtown.

    Whatever Gantert writes, most of Ann Arbor’s “chattering classes” will believe. This guy is good.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 17 '06 - 01:50PM    #
  102. “As to “shared parking”, people should remember that Calthorpe Place’s office use, apparently the most parking-intensive, will be a daytime use, completely filled with office workers who will stay put during the day.”

    Geez. So now you’re trying to say that we are going to build a new parking structure just for Calthorpe place?

    When we talk about shared parking, Dave, we’re talking about building a somewhat centralized parking structure where Calthorpe Place and several other users share the parking structure.
       —todd    Jan. 17 '06 - 02:35PM    #
  103. “Essentially, it quotes 3 former Planning Commissioners (Hanson, Blake, and Thorp) to the effect that the Calthorpe process is a deliberate end-run around the Planning Commission because the Commission only wanted 4-6 stories downtown.”

    I find it utterly depressing that intelligent people seem to think that the height of structures is the controlling factor in maintaining a small town feel.

    What about a financially diverse population? Healthy local businesses? Walkability? Avoidance of cars? Low taxes? Protection of greenspace?

    Nahh. Why even waste your time considering these other factors? 4-6 story buildings is the only way to go. Yep. It’s obvious that that’s the only thing that makes Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor.

    Sad.
       —todd    Jan. 17 '06 - 02:41PM    #
  104. Gantert is far from good. If one wants to write an unbiased story, one doesn’t base it on the word of three disgruntled former employees. From the article:

    Braxton Blake, Steve Thorp and Bill Hanson served on the Planning Commission at one point or another from 2001 through 2005. They said they eventually resigned in part because of a shared belief that the city went around the Planning Commission and found a way to bring a rush of high-rise buildings to the downtown.

    Where is this rush of high-rises? What are the other circumstances surrounding the trio’s resigning?

    And my favorite:

    Hanson is concerned that if the city follows the Calthorpe recommendations, it will change the downtown for the worse.

    This is, of course, said on the basis that a few tall buildings will ruin everything. Note that Gantert neglects to report on Hanson’s reasons, or Hanson just plain neglects to provide any. Either way, it’s a lame source making a lame article.
       —FAA    Jan. 17 '06 - 02:46PM    #
  105. I think this type of article is what distinguishes Gantert and the News from credible and valuable newspapers and reporters.

    Since when is a conversation in a diner worthy of its own article? Here’s a free tip to the News editorial staff: write an article about Hieftje’s evolution as a mayor. Using evidence discovered by reporting, establish his message at the beginning of his political career. Examine political and economic factors in the intervening 6 years that may have guided this evolution. Interview a couple planning commissioners as background and maybe quote one or two. Look at actions Hieftje has taken while on council or as mayor (including ones that happened more than 6 months ago). Recap and analyze his campaigns and elections, tracking this evolution in the campaign rhetoric. Then write a good story.

    Blake, Thorpe, and Hanson sound like hacks to me. I’m still trying to figure out how either nature or neighborhoods are endangered by downtown development.
       —Dale    Jan. 17 '06 - 03:53PM    #
  106. I completely respect these former commissioners’ concerns about preserving neighborhoods. If I thought that council had a plan that would mean destroying neighborhoods, I’d be firmly against it. But as far as I can tell, no one in Ann Arbor actually wants to do such a thing. I also have a hard time seeing how the Calthorpe plan amounts to such a thing, but then I also think that council has made it clear they’re going to take the plan’s recommendations with a lot of skepticism. They have stated they’re in favor of maintaining local character. The boundaries of the area under consideration by the DDA are drawn pretty firmly, and so far I haven’t seen anything suggesting that local housing will be torn down to build anything. I haven’t seen anyone’s suggestion that the Calthorpe plan will drive anyone’s agenda. Instead, it’s a tool for us to use.

    Now, maybe they’re talking about the attempts to build on N. Main and in the OFW. The OFW building is gone for now, and the N. Main building hasn’t been approved in any form yet either, so I’m not sure what the concern is here. It seems to me that the city bureaucracy is operating as planned; neighborhoods have power to change the plans for developments (using the HDC, for example.) I’m unaware of any realistic proposals to eliminate this power, unless there’s some plan that I’m unaware of (and if there is, feel free to speak up.) No one is specifically advocating this (I certainly am not.) I might like to see some changes in the approval process, but that doesn’t mean ordering neighborhoods around (at least not in my opinion.) Any changes should be made in order to support the neighborhoods. At least, that’s one of my motivations.

    So I think that the kind of controlled, moderate development we’re talking about here is (or should be) intended to strengthen neighborhoods, by giving them access to more good and services, and by giving them even more neighbors in the downtown area. Again, no one is talking about losing Ann Arbor’s “small-town feel”. No one wants to drive any of our wonderful local businesses from downtown. Instead, we want a downtown that will support even more local businesses. That may mean more downtown residents, it may mean more downtown services, and it may even mean more retailers from out of town here and there. But I think most people on all sides would agree that would only be acceptable if it meant supporting, or increasing, the number of local retailers. That’s just not at debate here. I’m not trying to shill for council, or for Calthorpe, or for anyone but myself, but I just don’t think that it’s anyone’s intention to do anything that doesn’t support the character of the city, as it is now, and as it always has been. The only intention is to improve it, or even to get back what it used to have (again, if downtown once supported two or more department stores, why is it wrong to create an atmosphere where that could happen again?)
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 17 '06 - 04:00PM    #
  107. So far I haven’t seen anything suggesting that local housing will be torn down to build anything.

    YUA,
    The Calthorpe report says,
    Some of the buildings within historic districts are of ordinary quality. The City and the Historic Commission could allow the removal of these historic structures to provide for new development.

    If we use the Calthorpe report as a tool to, say, tear down houses on Ann street for new development, how does that get Ann Arbor back to what it used to have? It gets rid of what it used to have!
       —David F    Jan. 17 '06 - 04:21PM    #
  108. David F—the current historic district ordinance allows for the demolition or removal of structures. The excerpt you cited is no more than a suggested continuation of the current policy.
       —Dale    Jan. 17 '06 - 04:58PM    #
  109. Agreed, but Calthorpe’s report does want to take it a step further, namely, consolidate historic districts into one or two historic districts. Calthorpe’s common set of evaluation criteria to which development proposals must adhere will have to cover districts which vary from residential to commercial and beyond. I’m not sure if that will protect the character of the districts.
       —David F    Jan. 17 '06 - 05:29PM    #
  110. So the former planning commissioners are hacks? I’d call their resignations examples of their ethics.

    Now, didn’t I call this scenario (Mayor prefers concrete to Nature and Neighborhoods) before Gantert? Just last week IIRC. And no, I didn’t make Tom drink the Kool Aid.

    But you guys still don’t get it. There is/was no conspiracy, no back room deals. However, the firing of Karen Hart, the changes to the Planning Commission and the city hall reorganization that silenced the planners and put a couple of “YES” people in charge of Planning and Development services were mainly done to clear the path for developers. I’m not accusing anyone of anything nefarious and I really don’t care one way or the other, tall buildings, more/less parking, affordable, blah blah blah, BUT these things WERE done to make it easier for developers to, uhh, “develop”.

    Council then had to fabricate the backstory of how to convince people that we HAD to build tall buildings or the boogie man would come to town. First it was linking thre Greenbelt to downtown density. Then it was to increase tax revenues. Then it was affordable housing. And the old saw, Main Street is going downhill. Yeah all these things are true to a certain extent, but they were blown way out of proportion to cover for their desire to make it easy for developers to, uhh, “develop”.

    What’s the mantra of the DDA and the prodevloppment crowd? “Just get out of the developers way and everything will be fine.” There’s not much difference between that and the crap that Bush and Cheney are feeding the gullible public.

    Unless you are blind deaf and dumb, naive and ignorant of how the world works, Ganterts article and the words of former commissioners should give some of your more clear thinking readers and writers food for thought.

    Instead of thinking for yourself, connecting the dots, you kill the messenger. Gantert’s not the problem, you just don’t like what he’s reporting.
       —Son of T.H.E OutSiDeR    Jan. 17 '06 - 05:36PM    #
  111. What the report is getting at is we need to give developers a clear sense of what is allowable and what is not allowable in historic districts (and there should be some development in historic districts; the question is how much and what type—infill, replacement, expansion, etc).

    In some cases, the ordinary/extraordinary consideration makes sense; in other cases, it is the collection of ordinary buildings that makes the neighborhood. I think there are different ways to handle this, including a set of “urban design guidelines” for, say, different types of districts, eg small setbacks, address to the street, and scale of construction (not explicitly size).

    I don’t want preservation for preservation’s sake—preservation is a means of serving broad community goals like community identity, housing affordability, and pedestrian vitality. Crying about houses that the working class used to live in a hundred years ago does nothing for the working class today who can’t afford to live downtown (or even in the city). Ann Arbor was very clever in implementing the districts at a vulnerable period in the city’s history. However, we need to continue to develop innovative ways of preserving the city’s character—economic and social diversity, street vitality, etc.—and in many cases the historic distric ordinance is not a good way to do this.
       —Dale    Jan. 17 '06 - 05:49PM    #
  112. “Instead of thinking for yourself, connecting the dots, you kill the messenger. Gantert’s not the problem, you just don’t like what he’s reporting.”

    Stop the presses! Three former planning commissioners are having a conversation at a diner! Rush these notes to Jimmy in the press room!
       —Dale    Jan. 17 '06 - 06:02PM    #
  113. One of the issues with Ann Arbor’s historic district ordinance is that there is a different ordinance with different rules for every district.

    Communities with newer historic district ordinances may have many districts, but one ordinance. There may be varied design guidelines for districts, depending on their historic character, but all are part of the same basic framework.

    Moving toward that model for Ann Arbor (what I assume Calthorpe means by “consolidation”) would make things easier for everyone, including for the Historic District Commission.

    It’s not preservationists who stand in the way of this reform. After all, preservation folks are using the single-ordinance model everywhere else. Rather, each Ann Arbor historic district was founded on a different political deal, and most of the actors are sure that attempts to conform each ordinance to a citywide standard would upset the terms of those deals and arouse furious opposition.

    Moreover, Ann Arbor’s ordinances are typically a lot less stringent (and less stringently enforced) than historic districts elsewhere in Michigan. For example, try comparing Ann Arbor’s lax approach with the strictness of nearby Ypsilanti. Ann Arbor’s historic district ordinances are horrendously complicated by all the elaborate limits on the HDC’s authority; most other cities have a broader grant of authority to their commissions. Simplifying Ann Arbor’s ordinance would make it much stronger, at least on paper.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jan. 17 '06 - 06:22PM    #
  114. Wow, Dale! That’s really witty and insightful! heh.

    “Stop the presses! Three former planning commissioners are having a conversation at a diner! Rush these notes to Jimmy in the press room!
    —Dale”
       —Son of T.H.E OutSiDeR    Jan. 17 '06 - 06:34PM    #
  115. I, too, am a former planning commissioner, though I am not so lucky as to have a reporter following me to a diner to ask my opinion. And yet I generally think the Calthorpe plan is a good plan for our downtown. It lacks details and a clear method of implementation, and suffers from a few too many generic platitudes, certainly. But the core principles – allowing a little more height at certain sites, focusing on infill and getting rid of surface parking, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment, preserving the Allen Creek valley, etc – are nothing new. Much of the Calthorpe report actually echoes the Downtown Plan currently in effect, and that was written back in 1988!

    I think the so-called article about the Mayor was ridiculous, and seemed nothing so much as a way to fan a weak flame of controversy. I would much rather have read a well-researched article that looked at how the Mayor and Council both have bent to neighborhood pressure in the past, and instances where they didn’t. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few cases where the neighborhoods won (Accessory Dwelling Units, project at the corner of Pauline & Maple) and projects that passed despite neighborhood opposition (Glen Ann Place, Carrot Way, Greene St. apartments). And then there are the ones settled in the courts (big housing project on Liberty right before Stadium, Cornerhouse Apts). Do their votes on these cases really give a clear indication of being ‘pro-development’ or ‘pro-neighborhood’? I don’t think so. As is so often the case, I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between.

    Can anyone recall projects that are within the Downtown area described by Calthorpe that were challenged by the neighborhood groups? other than Cornerhouse Apts, I can’t think of one. The issue seems very much like a red herring to me.
       —KGS    Jan. 17 '06 - 06:43PM    #
  116. todd, you are completely clueless about construction.

    “Many, many contractors refuse to work in Ann Arbor because they’ve been jerked around by the City and the various departments.”

    And what have you actually BUILT in Ann Arbor? I don’t think that converting a warehouse into a brewpub qualifies as “building” something.

    So where are the names? Joe O’Neal, Bill Martin, Ed Shaffran and others seem to have done ok. And frankly their complaints are NOT about the construction process, but the POLTICAL process. They complain that there’s too much interference from polticians with their own agenda.

    “Without going into too much tedious detail, let’s just say that Ann Arbor can ruin a construction company in a big hurry.”

    Ya got no details! Businesses fail everyday for all kinds of reasons. Construction is heavily dependent on the general economy and Ann Arbor’s construction economy is a whole lot healthier that most of the surrounding communities.

    There are loads of union and non union contractors who work successfully in the city every day and have done so for many years. Why? Because this is where the demand and the money is!

    “The other two reasons are the inflated cost of land (you know, how I keep saying that we’ve refused to build, leading to expensive lots etc. etc.)”

    Pfizer paid the UM $325,000 an acre for their property on Huron and Plymouth. That set the benchmark.

    “and the fact that Michigan is such a heavily unionized state. Union construction is expensive. Really expensive.”

    Heavily unionized? Last time I checked Michigan was a right to work state and a developer, contractor or property owner could hire whomever they choose. Don’t forget that there is a thing called competitive bidding and a builder can choose a contractor based on their competitive bid and their track record. No one is holding as gun to a builders head to hire a union contractor. So why do they do or don’t do it? It’s about competitive bidding and a successful track record.

    I guess you’d turn away the plumbers who drink beer when their convention comes to town in the summer because they’re unionized.

    You are soooooo Republican! You should run for Mayor against Hieftje!
       —Real progressive    Jan. 17 '06 - 07:06PM    #
  117. I just finished watching the joint working session. I felt embarrassed for Joey Scanga and the other participants. He had trouble answering the simplest questions.

    The meeting started off with someone asking about the legality of Transfer of Development Rights in Michigan. Scanga said that if there were a “stumbling block at the state level”, that this recommendation could drop out and still leave the policy.

    Jean Carlberg said that it was so hard to build to even 6 or 8 stories in downtown that it was hard to see how we could accommodate any extra height through TDR.

    It kind of went downhill from there. People would ask for examples of various ideas; Scanga wouldn’t have them.

    With regard to the legality of consolidating historic districts, Scanga said “I’m not a lawyer.” Could it be done in Michigan? “I wish I knew.”

    Someone mentioned the recommendation of pedestrian walkability. Scanga said that most buildings above 6 stories were not pedestrian friendly. And yet he is recommending 10 stories as a “base” height!

    Scanga was unable to explain how the FAR recommendations were supposed to work together with the maximum and minimum heights.

    He repeatedly said that certain things were “tough” and that the City should work on them.

    So – tell me again what we got for our $198,000.00.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 17 '06 - 09:30PM    #
  118. According to Cahill’s example, the parking structure is located on property currently owned by the city so land value should not be a factor in the cost/space of the structure.

    Dave, the largest part of the space sharing I was referring to would come from spaces abandoned by workers and then refilled be residents returning from work. An even better situation would be if the workers lived in the building… This type of sharing is not obstructed by workers parking for the duration of their shift.

    I’ve found that construction costs for parking structures are broken down into two categories: hard (the cost of materials, equipment, and labor for the building of the facility) and soft (the costs associated with permit applications, legal fees, design fees, etc). I’m not sure which category the land value fits into. An increase in hard costs would be associated with construction design and site conditions such as difficult soil, flood plain, minimal access, etc. Increase in soft costs would relate to delays in issuing permits, expectations of difficulties with council approval, increase in overhead costs such as insurance. It would be interesting to know in which category Ann Arbor structures vary from the other examples above. It may prove (or disprove) Todd’s point that building (at least parking structures) is difficult downtown.

    One other argument for city-owned parking is to discourage private auto use through incremental pricing of parking. If the developer builds the parking, that cost will be transferred to the residents and businesses in the development as a sunk cost. They will pay for the parking provided whether they use it or not. In contrast, a lot provided by the city would provide a permit that the resident could choose not to pay for. Those who do not own or choose not to drive a vehicle would not have to pay the parking cost. Of course the current parking permit system could be altered to significantly increase the current benefit to occasional drivers.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 17 '06 - 11:39PM    #
  119. Michigan is not a “right to work” state as that term is generally understood.

    The “right to work” states, generally in the South and the Rocky Mountains, are the states that ban the “agency shop”.

    An agency shop is a workplace where all the employees are either members of the union, or pay an “agency fee” to the union for representing them in collective bargaining.

    Chances are, if your workplace is unionized, it’s an agency shop.

    The Taft-Hartley Act (federal labor law) banned the former “closed shop” (where all employees were required to belong to the union), but allowed the agency shop. However, the infamous section 14-B permitted individual states to make the agency shop illegal.

    To prohibit the agency shop is effectively to prohibit most unionization.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jan. 18 '06 - 12:31AM    #
  120. I was at the joint working session last night, and contrary to David’s opinion, I think it went rather well. There were a few questions that Scanga couldn’t answer, but they were requests for very specific examples and information that he couldn’t possibly have on hand unless he had received a list of questions ahead of time. He didn’t, obviously. He did the right thing though, by saying ‘I don’t know, but I’ll get back with you on that’ most of the time.

    Someone mentioned the recommendation of pedestrian walkability. Scanga said that most buildings above 6 stories were not pedestrian friendly. And yet he is recommending 10 stories as a “base” height!

    This is incorrect. He was asked what specific buildings downtown do not meet the phrase ‘pedestrian friendly’. In his opinion, almost every building over 6 stories IN OUR CURRENT DOWNTOWN are done badly. More specifically, the architecture current in the 1970s and 1960s are particularly unfriendly to pedestrians. He did not say that 6 story buildings were not pedestrian friendly! They can be, if properly designed.

    And I thought the discussion of FAR and maximum heights was well explained, though Bob Johnson obviously didn’t understand it. Scanga said that ideally both a 650% FAR and a 10-story height limit would be in effect. That means that you could build a 6-1/2 story building that covered the full lot, or a building that has setbacks and is under 650% FAR that reaches a maximum of 10 stories. If you reach 10 stories and are only at 500% FAR, too bad – you’ve reached the limit you can go.

    So – tell me again what we got for our $198,000.00.

    The point of the plan, as was said in the beginning of the meeting, was to create a document that would provide a list of the best and most important policies that would improve the Downtown of our city. What is done with those policies now that they have been recommended is up to the people in the room last night: DDA, Council, and Planning Commission. They have to come up with the standards for what is affordable housing, they have to come up with the standards for how much affordable housing should be in a given project, they have to decide to re-write the zoning ordinance, and so on. As Scanga pointed out, he isn’t going to re-write our zoning code for us. We have to do it ourselves, or hire someone else to do it. The job of Calthorpe Assoc. was to point out the various areas where it really doesn’t work now, and to recommend areas of improvement. They did that. If the city wanted more than they got, they should have asked – and paid – for it.

    Will it be easy to implement? well, no. Things that are good for us to do are rarely easy. That’s why he kept saying it would be a tough road for the DDA/Council/Plan Comm in the future. A lot of decisions need to be made to follow this plan even halfway. I can only hope we have the good leaders to do it.
       —KGS    Jan. 18 '06 - 09:56AM    #
  121. Real Progressive,

    Construction doesn’t occur only when you have a new project downtown. What Todd is talking about is what developers, businesses and non-profits that open in Ann Arbor experience—you have no idea of when your permit or project might get approved or what it is going to cost. That affects everybody—the retailer downtown, the brew pub and the developer who wants to build a building. At the Chamber of Commerce, we have businesses that have to cancel grand openings, businesses that find out at the last minute they have to put in a new staircase or a bathroom. Don’t believe me, ask somebody you know who has gone through it. They will tell you. This is something the city is working on and there is a lot of room for improvement. It doesn’t just affect developers, it affects anybody that does anything with land or a commercial space in Ann Arbor.

    Brandt Coultas
       —brandt coultas    Jan. 18 '06 - 11:44AM    #
  122. David Cahill,

    So by way of example, what your saying is, not only should the City of Ann Arbor set the zoning, the master plan and approve the projects, we should be the developer too and decide what gets built and how much money they make?

    Brandt Coultas
       —brandt coultas    Jan. 18 '06 - 11:45AM    #
  123. “And frankly their complaints are NOT about the construction process, but the POLTICAL process. They complain that there’s too much interference from polticians with their own agenda”

    Uh huh. Yeah, one thing’s for sure, it’s a breeze getting throught the building and planning departments. Scoll down to Brandt Coultas’ (from the Chamber of Commerce) reply, and that’s really all that you need to read. He is in a pretty unique position to know the real deal. Or do you not believe him either?

    “I guess you’d turn away the plumbers who drink beer when their convention comes to town in the summer because they’re unionized.

    You are soooooo Republican! You should run for Mayor against Hieftje!”

    Boy, I got a kick out of this one. Yep, the Leopold family is as Republican as you can get. We’re not hardcore environmentalists, that’s for damn sure. Take a second and google our last name and words like sustainable or environment. You obviously haven’t a clue as to what we’re about.

    From my above post #103:
    “I find it utterly depressing that intelligent people seem to think that the height of structures is the controlling factor in maintaining a small town feel.
    What about a financially diverse population? Healthy local businesses? Walkability? Avoidance of cars? Low taxes? Protection of greenspace?

    Yep, those are the words of a Republican all right. Ya caught me. It’s funny but one of the biggest “Republicans” in town, Rene Greff, seems to be on the same page that I am on these issues.

    If you’re going to try and call me a Republican, at least take the time to read my posts. I didn’t say that Unions are bad, or plumbers are evil. All I said was that Union workers are expensive. Are you trying to tell me that they aren’t?

    Our bar was built entirely by unionized workers. We asked for them because we had specialized work that needed to be done (sustainable and energy efficient design. You know, things that us Republicans are likely to do), and we knew that they’d actually know what they were doing. We were right. It cost more, but for us it was worth it.

    Republican?! Wow. I’ve got to send this one to my dad.
       —todd    Jan. 18 '06 - 01:22PM    #
  124. More evidence that I’m just making all of my development theories up as I go. You’ll note that this was published in the same AANews issue that contains the diner story that Dave C. quoted above.

    Why didn’t you post this story too, Dave?

    http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/business-0/1136821257284680.xml?aanews?BU&coll=2
       —todd    Jan. 18 '06 - 01:35PM    #
  125. “Some of the buildings within historic districts are of ordinary quality. The City and the Historic Commission could allow the removal of these historic structures to provide for new development.”

    Alright, fair enough, it does say that. Though it offers this as an option—which would always have been one the city could exercise anyway. Besides, he is certainly correct that some houses that are in historic districts are of ordinary quality. If nothing else, then those 2-3-story apartment buildings from the 60’s and 70’s that you find in every neighborhood, including historic ones, are examples of this. Who wouldn’t want to tear those down and build something nicer? I guess I’m with Dale on this: it doesn’t call for any new initiatives in this regard. It studed the DDA area, and so far I can’t find anything on the map suggesting that current neighborhood housing be removed to make way for new buildings. Current commercial buildings, sure. Some change is inevitable. It’s a question of what’s worth saving. Obviously a lot in Ann Arbor is worth saving, but not everything. Are gas stations worth saving? What about vacant lots? Parking lots? City halls?

    “If we use the Calthorpe report as a tool to, say, tear down houses on Ann street for new development, how does that get Ann Arbor back to what it used to have? It gets rid of what it used to have!”

    Well, if houses were torn down for that project (I think that’s correct, though I’m not sure) for one thing they weren’t in a historic district. And for another thing, that project wasn’t approved, cleared, and begun under the Calthorpe plan! It was all begun before the plan. So I’m not sure it applies in this case.

    On the other hand, that project is a good test case: is it a good project? I’m not sure, and only time will tell. It’s not great architecture, but it’s not terrible architecture, either. I hope it will benefit both the downtown and the neighborhood. Only time will tell, I guess. Again, I fully support slow, controlled growth. But if Ashley Terrace isn’t what the city as a whole wants, isn’t this a great opportunity to figure out what the city does want? Was the old Kleinschmidt building plus a gravel parking lot really what the city wanted on that parcel for the next 50 years? Maybe it was, but it can’t hurt to ask.

    Finally, I of course don’t know for sure what the true motivations of either Council or the DDA are. But if you’re right, why would they suddenly turn gung-ho on development? The claim is being made that the mayor and council have suddently caught the Development Bug or something like that, and have no interest in justifying their actions. But no reason is given for this apparently irrational change in policy. Again, if this is the case, then why? Why should I take this claim seriously?
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 18 '06 - 06:30PM    #
  126. Brandt, my point is that if the Calthorpe recommendations are adopted as is, the City loses all control over large developments, as long as they are within the new Calthorpe zoning scheme.

    If you like this idea, that’s your choice. But if people want something like the present system of control over these big projects to continue, that’s fine, too. I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss the implementation (if any) of the Calthorpe concepts over the next few months/years.

    I sent the Calthorpe Place plan out to a variety of people, including involved with the DDA. Nobody found any mistakes. In fact, one person said my project might be required reading for those about to start a study of downtown parking. Quite a compliment!

    So I am going to leave the plan as is for the time being. The next step is to deal with the tax implications.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 18 '06 - 08:22PM    #
  127. I can’t believe that 3 hours have gone by and no one has commented on the rousing support Dave seems to have received for Calthorpe Place. I greatly appreciate the work that Dave put into this exercise, especially since he has a reputation for not providing evidence for his claims. This gave us more concrete model for considering the possible implications of Calthorpe as well as the arguments for and against.
    However, if a variety of people received this plan and nobody found mistakes, chances are they either didn’t understand it or didn’t actually read it. A number of concerns have already been mentioned in the above posts. Here are a few more things that the reviewers should have come up with regarding parking.

    Considering:
    1)The Calthorpe Recommendations suggest providing incentives for including parking in new development projects.
    2)The city (or DDA) is not, at least according to the Calthorpe Recommendations, required to accommodate the parking needs of new development projects.
    3)The developer has chosen specifically not to provide parking or any other transportation facilities.
    What idiot is funding this project? Who is betting their hard earned money that the best real estate investment downtown is a building that does not accommodate automobiles or any other mode of transportation through provision of facilities? Who are they expecting to rent or buy at this location?
    The Calthorpe Recommendations do not require the city or the DDA to provide parking for new development projects. Such provision would be a point of negotiation for any proposal, maybe not to get a permit, but still to make the project viable. I think a lack of investment interest would kill this project before it ever made it to the permit stage.

    The recommendation that Ann Arbor eliminate parking requirements on new projects downtown, must be considered in the larger context of the Mobility section of the report. Dave has applied this recommendation without any of the others from the same list such as transit promotion, off-peak parking permits, pedestrian and bike improvements, go!pass and parking cash-out promotion, etc. The context of Calthorpe Place is far from a scenario where “Calthorpe recommendations are adopted as is.” Clearly there are a number of ways to selectively apply a small number of the reports recommendations in a way that would be not only detrimental but also ridiculous. The policy context behind the Calthorpe Place is a good example.

    As previously highlighted (post 92), the parking requirements are overestimated. Dave’s refusal to adjust them doesn’t make them any better. Designing, approving and constructing a parking structure involves much more than a knee-jerk reaction to a new building permit. The Calthorpe Recommendations would not change this. Specifically in this point, it would be important to distinguish between Joe Moorehouse, who runs the DDA parking permit program, saying, “Dave’s proposal is not only sound, but clearly describes the only path available to us given the oppressive requirements on the city mandated by the Calthorpe Recommendations. If such a project were approved, the DDA would definitely and immediately invest in a structure to accommodate 915 required parking spaces” and a buddy who goes to DDA meetings saying, “Yeah, looks good to me, Dave. This should be required reading for those parking guys.”
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 18 '06 - 11:33PM    #
  128. Scott, I blame Cahill Fatigue for the lapse. “Rousing support” certainly isn’t what I’ve heard, from those who could even be bothered to comment.

    Even if David were right about what the Calthorpe report says, and it would allow his Tower of Babel to be constructed unchallenged, I think you’ve hit the important point – what idiot is going to build this thing with no parking? It would have to be an independently wealthy idiot – no bank would agree to finance it. Any lender is going to demand that either the project include a few hundred parking spaces on-site, or is going to demand that the idiot display a contract from the DDA that those spaces are going to be forked over, in a public structure, as soon as the project is finished.

    Oh-ho, we’ve found ourselves a control mechanism! There’s nothing in Calthorpe, or anywhere else, that says the DDA has to kowtow to any request for a parking contract, and I can tell you what the DDA would say if this idiot came before them demanding David’s structure: “No.”

    But then, of course, there are things like site plan reviews in there as well, and who’s even saying that this would be straight zoning in the first place? It’s been a while since I read through the final report, but didn’t Joey Scanga mention overlay zoning at some point? Which means that we’d put together these new, oh-so-scary-and-unchecked zoning requirements, and have them floating in space – but that the developer would have to seek a rezoning in order to build this little vanity project. Hmmm, another checkpoint.

    There’s nothing in Calthorpe saying we shall pre-approve any project that comes our way. We’re simply going to create a process that’s more transparent and understandable than, say, the current PUD process. And no amount of FUD-spreading (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) is going to turn this into the Frankenstein that Cahill wants us to think it is.
       —...Insider?    Jan. 19 '06 - 10:48AM    #
  129. “But if you’re right, why would they suddenly turn gung-ho on development? The claim is being made that the mayor and council have suddently caught the Development Bug or something like that, and have no interest in justifying their actions. But no reason is given for this apparently irrational change in policy. Again, if this is the case, then why? Why should I take this claim seriously?”

    They haven’t gotten the development bug. There are a few concrete reasons that they are changing the way things are handled.

    1. They know the current system is beyond broken. JulieW asked a pointed question a few threads ago where gave a few examples of some larger buildings she liked and asked “how can we get more buildings like these?”. Well, we don’t have a concrete system or design criteria in place right now, so we really have to rely on dumb luck to get a building that is subjectively beautiful, or fits in a neighborhood well. We need to implement some sort of design criteria to give us a fighting chance at good design. Calthorpe recommended that we do just this, and told us that it was up to us to decide what we want.

    2. Despite the notions of the genius who called me a Republican, all of the departments who handle building approval (this can include parks, building dept., planning dept., city council, planning commission, building inspectors, etc.) don’t have a concrete way of communicating with each other, and they don’t have a fixed Master Plan (which includes things like a parking plan or a current zoning plan) that they consistently work off of….

    As a result, they can make it up as they go, and quite frequently one department will tell you do one thing with your project, while another department will tell you to do the complete opposite. This gives you projects without a predictable finishing date or a predictable build out cost. Try spending ten thousand dollars making an security door and accessible ramp swing one way according to a plan approved by the building dept. only to have an inspector tell you “hey, this is all wrong, you need to change this in order to get your occupancy permit” the week you are supposed to open. If you are a typical restaurant, you just lost $10K, plus two to three works of revenue that you lost while fixing the ‘problem’. Total shaft? $100,000 out the window. Sweet.

    This crap kills many projects, and can leave a small local business owner nearly broke….giving them precious little chance of surviving the start up phase. In other words, it’s not just those accursed developers who get the shaft….it’s also the projects that Ann Arbor is supposed to be behind.

    We need transparency so you can know what’s expected in advance. Calthorpe recommended this too. Those bastards.

    3. Um, we’re almost broke. You know, all those cuts to the fire department and police department? Stuff like that. Some people say that “well, the State is cutting funds, all Mich. cities are broke”. Well, that’s terrific. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re struggling with our budget. Even if you argue that we don’t need more density, the current system screws the city out of money because it takes so long to approve many projects. Let’s say it takes a year to approve a project that citizens like Dave C. actually wind up liking. That’s about 11 months worth of taxes (assuming it would normally take 30 days for approval) that we lose out on for no reason at all. Dumb.

    4. We need to recognize the region’s economic and demograpic situation and adjust accordingly. This point gets into my assertion that we need to prepare for the coming retail and restaurant invasion in Wash. County. Do we put it downtown, or do we force it elsewhere? Despite what some think, we can’t afford to not, at the very least, address this question.

    I could go on, but these are the tangible reasons that Council and the Mayor called Calthorpe and asked for public input. The insider is right. What a bunch of jerks.
       —todd    Jan. 19 '06 - 11:47AM    #
  130. First, a comment on University parking structures: The University is building/just completed two parking structures and has approved the construction of an additional four structures in the next 5+ years and are looking at other areas. These are all going to be built on land that is currently owned by the University so no additional land will be taken off the tax rolls. Many of the University structures actually do work on the shared parking system people are advocating. They are used by University employees during the day and open after five or six and on weekends for use by anyone.

    1) Ann Street Parking Structure
    2) Palmer Drive Parking Structure
    3) 465-space parking structure at the Cardiovascular center (open in 2007)
    4) 440-space structure Division Street addition to the Thompson St. structure (open in 2008)
    5) 600-space structure on North Campus (open in 2009)
    6) 600-space structure on Wall Street (open in 2010)
    7) Longer-range ideas that have been identified include options for additional structures in the South (athletics) Campus.

    Second, I think the biggest concern I have seen people express about the Calthorpe report is not the contents, but just exactly how anything will get done from here. As KGS pointed out, a lot of what is in the report is already in the downtown plan and the central area plan. The Calthorpe report might have things stated slightly differently, but it is not as different from what we already have as some people want to believe. What we are lacking is good zoning and good ordinances with some teeth to back them up. If anything can be built because a developer threatens the City with a lawsuit or just doesn’t build what they say they are going to and the ordinances (or zoning, or PDU, or design criteria, or whatever steps we take to influence building) aren’t written and implemented in a way that is legally binding, then this is all just a random exercise.
       —Juliew    Jan. 19 '06 - 12:46PM    #
  131. The person who said the Calthorpe Plan might be required reading was Ray Detter.

    And most of the “incentives” for parking are already in place, such incentives can be discounted for Calthorpe Place.

    The Calthorpe recommendation that developers no longer be required to provide parking means that there would be nothing to “negotiate” if the new owner of Calthorpe Place decided to build without parking. The Main Street merchants, deprived of that surface parking, would insist that the DDA replace those 198 spots with a new parking structure. Since Council would have already paid the political price for relieving developers of any duties on parking, they would have bitten the bullet and agreed to fund structures for projects like Calthorpe Place.

    Remember – I didn’t write the Calthorpe Report. I’m just following its recommendations to their logical conclusions. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Jan. 19 '06 - 06:58PM    #
  132. No David – you took one recommendation and made an extreme example. If you read the actual policy recommendation in the Calthorpe report, you will find the following:

    Policy: Pursue a comprehensive parking strategy for Downtown:
    * Eliminate parking requirements on new projects in Downtown Ann Arbor;
    * Provide incentives to development proposals that incorporate parking into the proposal;
    * Work with AATA and the Link to increase the attractiveness of transit options;
    * Encourage companies and the university to reduce the number of employees arriving in Downtown by automabile by sponsoring transit voucher programs (go!pass);
    * Promote the purchase or renting of off-peak parking stalls within Downtown structures; and
    * Encourage a car-sharing program with free, priority parking Downtown.

    If all of those sub-policies were implemented, not just the one you’ve chosen, we could very well find that we need much less parking than you have estimated.

    Moreover, Calthorpe also mentions using parking cash-out policies, where the developer would pay a fee per parking spot for parking they want but can’t provide, whatever the reason. A few projects have done this in the past, like Cornerhouse Apts, but a cash-out policy could codify it and make it a known quantity for the developer rather than something to be negotiated. This would also allow many smaller sites to be redeveloped, since most properties in the downtown could not possibly hold parking efficiently. After all, the average lot size is 20’ x 120’, making it nigh impossible to park more than 2 cars! not everyone has the luxury of a full city block to work with.
       —KGS    Jan. 20 '06 - 10:41AM    #
  133. “My point is that if the Calthorpe recommendations are adopted as is, the City loses all control over large developments, as long as they are within the new Calthorpe zoning scheme.”

    David,

    Now we are starting to get to the real issue 120 posts in—control. The current system, which you favor, means every project is a political issue that the City tries to control. It is a system designed to stop development or make decisions about it based on how the political winds are blowing that day. That process is a mess, it is not transparent and look at what you get—a downtown where development is completely constipated, and a downtown that is developed parcel by parcel and doesn’t make sense.

    It is disingenuous for anybody to say they support downtown development (regardless of if it is 2 stories or 20), and then stand by a system that either stops it, or controls it in a political manner that causes problems.

    The City needs to use the Calthorpe Plan and all the rest of the work they have done on downtown development to set up a system that results in the type of development that our leaders agree is what will provide the most benefit to the community. They need to set a vision, make some decisions about it, and let the development they want to see happen, happen. That is not losing all control. It is taking control.
       —brandt coultas    Jan. 20 '06 - 01:15PM    #
  134. Brandt –

    Well said. A set of consistent, good guidelines about what is allowed to be built/remodeled in the different zones of downtown would allow the development of good projects to go forward more easily and affordably. In particular, small local businesses and developers would benefit, because they are the ones who have the most difficulty affording the long, arbitrary project approval process right now.

    I think the key is in making sure there is a forward-thinking vision for what Ann Arbor COULD look like in 20 years, that guides these policies and has concrete incentives for projects to happen. Without that, we’ll get more of what we’ve gotten over the past five years – chain restaurants.
       —Lisa    Jan. 20 '06 - 02:31PM    #
  135. I have news from Susan Pollay. She just told me that she cannot access ArborUpdate.com from her city computer. She said she was trying to reach this discussion, and ArborUpdate comes up as a site that is blocked.

    She does not know when this change took place, but it was probably within the past month. At my request, she is now checking to see if AnnArborIsOverrated.com is also blocked.

    She said it could be that the City doesn’t want the staff reading blogs.

    I had noticed the absence of Councilpeople and current Planning Commissioners from ArborUpdate. Now we know why.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 20 '06 - 02:49PM    #
  136. Dave—you’re clowning around, right? Because that post, if serious, is even more nonsensical than most of what preceded it.

    Do you think that anyone who wants to read this site cannot do so from his/her own home? Do you think city Councilmembers (who SET policy) are blocked in some fashion, though they all have full lives and careers outside their public roles?

    That was a bizarre statement.
       —Dale    Jan. 20 '06 - 03:57PM    #
  137. “Do you think that anyone who wants to read this site cannot do so from his/her own home?”

    Well, I think something like 80% of the posts on this thread are before 6pm. If you eliminated all the activity that happened during work hours, it’d be pretty quiet around here.
       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 20 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  138. I’m just trying to follow Dave’s words to their “logical conclusion.”
       —Dale    Jan. 20 '06 - 05:37PM    #
  139. I’m quite serious. Following my chat with Susan this afternoon, I made a FOIA request of the City about this matter.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 20 '06 - 06:25PM    #
  140. (sigh.) I love a good conspiracy theory. When I can figure out what the theory is. So the idea here is, what, that the City is explicitly – and exclusively – blocking AU and AAiO because they’re afraid that if City Council and Planning Commission were allowed(?) to read what people were saying here, they’d realize what a terrible mistake they were making? Which presumes, since Council are the unwitting victims in this scandal, that there’s some higher decision-making power in “the City” that’s acting to keep information from Council?

    What exactly do you FOIA to verify this kind of theory?

    Just to save time – the City has a new super-strict web system that blocks basically every outside site unless it’s on a very short list of pre-approved sites.
       —...Insider?    Jan. 20 '06 - 06:35PM    #
  141. “the City has a new super-strict web system that blocks basically every outside site unless it’s on a very short list of pre-approved sites.”

    How useful….
       —J. Bruce Fields    Jan. 20 '06 - 07:06PM    #
  142. i think bruce means to say “hmmm, interesting threat model.”
       —peter honeyman    Jan. 21 '06 - 08:56AM    #
  143. Insider, what’s the source for your statement that the city is blocking everything except a short list of pre-approved sites?

    Here is what I requested under FOIA:

    “All records, including but not limited to all e – mails, memos, notes of meetings, telephone message slips, or other communications from or to any city staff, from and after December 1,2005, about any change of city policy or practice governing the accessingof web sites from city computers.

    “A copy of the policy or practice governing the accessing of web sites from city computers in effect December 1, 2005.

    “A copy of the policy or practice governing the accessing of web sites from city computers in effect on today’s date.”
       —David Cahill    Jan. 21 '06 - 09:53AM    #
  144. One more thing on the blockage: Susan was surprised by her inability to access ArborUpdate. She is high up in the city administration. If the city had a policy such as Insider describes, one would think that Susan would have known about it, if only because she would have been asked to pre-approve a “whitelist” of web sites. But time will tell what the real story is.

    Back to Calthorpe Place, etc. There was a typo in my comment 131. I meant to say that Ray Detter said that my Calthorpe Place plan might be required reading.

    Now, about those other recommended parking policies in KGS’ comment 132. Would KGS (or anyone else) care to estimate the number of parking spaces for Calthorpe Place that would be saved by each one?
       —David Cahill    Jan. 21 '06 - 10:35AM    #
  145. I’m FOIAing the Cahill FOIA request.

    We in this city cannot sit idly by and listen to Dave’s unsubstantiated claims about wanting transparency without giving his actions direct scrutiny as well. We MUST have openness and accountability in this FOIAing process. And if the city will not give me everything I want about the Cahill FOIA request, I will only be able to conclude that Cahill is in cahoots with the city’s FOIA officer. While it may seem ridiculous that I used an acronym as a verb and that I’m requesting useless information about a private citizen, I assure you these are Serious Times for the city requiring Serious Actions.

    I invite any and all similarly to FOIA my FOIA on Dave’s FOIA, so that we can be sure of the motives behind this process.
       —Dale    Jan. 21 '06 - 12:36PM    #
  146. Parking estimates are tough, particularly when you are trying to guess at the impact of a broad a group of policy changes. However, if we are claiming a reduction in demand, we should be able to show some quantified impact. I make no claim that these numbers are accurate. They do include some corrections to my earlier estimates. I encourage a critical look and my math and reasoning. With that caveat, here are my quick and dirty estimates on parking reduction factors.

    * Eliminate parking requirements on new projects in Downtown Ann Arbor
    While I believe that this would, in the long run, reduce demand when done in conjunction with other transportation improvements, I don’t recommend attributing a specific number to this one.
    * Provide incentives to development proposals that incorporate parking into the proposal;
    This one would vary by project since, as KGS notes, many lots don’t have space to provide parking. If Calthorpe place could provide one level of underground parking, it might amount to 100 spaces (just a guess)
    * Work with AATA and the Link to increase the attractiveness of transit options;
    This category is too broad with too many possible conditions to make an accurate prediction. But along with limited available parking we could probably count on 5% reduction.
    * Encourage companies and the university to reduce the number of employees arriving in Downtown by automabile by sponsoring transit voucher programs (go!pass);
    The research on the go!pass has indicated that it saved the city from building one parking structure. That’s about 10% of currently available parking
    * Promote the purchase or renting of off-peak parking stalls within Downtown structures;
    This is a potentially big one. As far as I know, it has yet to be implemented, but the DDA was talking about issuing pm parking permits for residents who don’t need weekday parking. As I mentioned in post 92, I think we could expect a 25% decrease in permit (resident and office) spaces from this option alone.
    * Encourage a car-sharing program with free, priority parking Downtown.
    I don’t know that there are any numbers on this yet. How about we keep it low for now at 2%
    * Parking Cash-Out program
    The PCO program I’m referring to is different from the one KGS mentions above (post 132). I’ve never heard that referred to as parking cash-out, but I think it is accommodated by the assumption that new parking demand is provided via permits. The PCO programs I have looked at offer residents and work staff the cash equivalent of the parking space that they are often provided as an amenity by employers/landlords. The program has been shown to reduce parking demand by 20% for participating employers. In referring to rental units, this concept is often called “unbundling parking”. If half of the employers offer PCO and rental unit parking is unbundled, that would be about 15% of resident and employee parking.

    These are all after we have reduced the number of spaces provided for permits by the industry standard 17% (1 – 100/120), as I mention in post 92. Of all the numbers presented here, this one is the most reliable.

    550 permit spaces (residential and office)
    Reduce by 17% = 458
    Then we have 15% PCO, 25% off-peak, 10% go!pass, 2% car sharing, and 5% transit improvements. I can think of some other ways to reduce parking demand (like improved NMT facilities). But considering only the Calthorpe recommendations, this adds up to 57% of parking demand. Clearly there would be some overlap in the impact of all these programs. There may also be a cumulative effect that actually raises this amount once we hit a critical amount (or tipping point for Gladwell fans) of alternatives. Let’s just call it 33% for now.
    Reduce by 33% =305

    168 retail spaces.
    Since retail isn’t permit parking, the reductions are less. If we consider that those who work and live in the building account for some of the retail business, we could probably hit a 10% reduction between that 3%, the car sharing 2%, and the transit improvements 5%.
    Reduce by 10% = 151

    198 Replacement parking
    Since the DDA is not required to accommodate parking needs of new development, the number Dave gives is arguable. But let’s say that we do build a structure at this site. It is hard say exactly how this would pan out because hourly lot parkers might be better off with permits in the new structure. We can make a rough estimate at half way between 33% and 10%.
    Reduce by 20% = 158

    So Replacement (158) + Retail (151) + Permit (305) = 614

    If the developer provides 100 spaces on site, that leaves 514 spaces of demand.

    Note that this does not include the reduction in demand caused by potential renters being informed that there is no parking available. I imagine that would have a significant impact on mode choice/ type of renter.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 21 '06 - 01:08PM    #
  147. Yeah Dale, I find it really weird that a workplace would block access to non-work related websites. That never happens.

    Except for sometimes. And also often.

    And, once in a blue moon: frequently.

    But, as we all know, filling out a FOIA form is much easier to use than, say, common sense.

    Or a phone. But those can be a bother since you have to interact with other humans in a rational manner.
       —todd    Jan. 21 '06 - 01:14PM    #
  148. I have to admit that I find it funny that some of the same people who, when discussing the DDA’s three-site plan, argued that (either or both) we had plenty of parking downtown or needed a comprehensive study on downtown parking are now fixated on Caltorpe’s recommended removal of parking requirements for a specific site. (And no, I’m not talking about you, ScottT).

    So, in short, we have plenty of parking if that means that we get a park near our homes (1st and William), but we don’t have nearly enough parking if it means that a developer can install a more dense development? And in one case, we don’t need to have a parking study, while in the other we’re going to try and create one of our own….to ostensibly prove that these developments should not be allowed?

    Kinda like when we started the Residential Parking Permit program without putting together even a half-assed parking study?

    Do I have this right?

    Sometimes I forget that you need to use frivolous things like math or studies only when it applies to what someone else wants to do. If it’s something that you personally want, then hey, by all means go right ahead.
       —todd    Jan. 21 '06 - 01:36PM    #
  149. “I encourage a critical look and my math and reasoning.”

    If program A reduces parking by 20%, and program B reduces parking by 20%, then A+B only reduces parking by 40% if none of the people who use program A also use program B. At the other extreme, if program A and B appeal to exactly the same group, then A+B is no better than just A or B on its own. If the appeal of the two programs was totally independent, then you’d multiply the two percentages (for a 36% reduction in this case).

    So it’s bogus to just add the percentages.

    Also, where are all these estimates coming from? Someplace you can point us to?
       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 21 '06 - 02:16PM    #
  150. David,

    I’m curious why you felt a FOIA was necessary to gain the info. Why didn’t you just ask someone in IT?
       —Brandt Coultas    Jan. 21 '06 - 02:17PM    #
  151. After looking at Bruce Field’s homepage: mathematical sparring with a guy with PhD in Mathematics? Thanks but no thanks.

    Bruce: Are you one of those guys who can mathematically prove that I am not a flesh and bones human, but, according to current quantum theories, a probability curve?

    Advice to ScottT: change the subject.
       —todd    Jan. 21 '06 - 03:12PM    #
  152. “Advice to ScottT: change the subject.”

    Hey, you’re interfering with my evil plan: in exchange for some cheap shots at Scott’s math, I figured I could trick him into explaining the mysteries of parking to me.

    Like any normal person, I get around under my own power, so I wouldn’t normally give a crap about parking. Except people claim that this is somehow, in some contorted way, tied up with the reason we don’t have grocery stores downtown. Which is a pain in the butt (actually, mainly the shoulders) for us normal folks.
       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 21 '06 - 06:29PM    #
  153. Brandt, I filed my FOIA request because (1) I don’t know anyone in the City’s IT department; and (2) I wanted the full background behind this policy change.

    Scott, I appreciate your parking reduction estimates. I will study them carefully and post comments, probably tomorrow or Tuesday.

    By that time I also hope (not promise) to have something ready on property taxes. Property taxes on the rental part of a project like Calthorpe are determined by a simple calculation based on the rents. Taxes on the condo part of the project are figured by treating each condo as if it were a standing house.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 22 '06 - 10:33AM    #
  154. Bruce makes good points. I meant to emphasize that there would probably be overlap in the programs. Sorry that didn’t come through. At the same time, I wonder if Bruce would agree that improvements to bike facilities and transit service might have a cumulative effect beyond the sum of their separate totals because they improve the overall transportation system. Clearly the figures should be taken for the late-night caffeine-driven estimates that they are. Thanks for clearing up the errors, Bruce.

    I have sources for some of the figures. Don Schoup provides the reduction in parking demand from PCO programs. The go!pass impact is provided in Jonathan Levine’s report on the getDowntown program. Phrases like “increase attractiveness of transit options” are too broad to base anything more than a guess on, but I figured that the effort would have some impact. Off-peak parking was another guess. I couldn’t find studies, but I think this must have a big impact on parking requirements in a mixed-use context.

    My intent was to provide some kind of evidence that the original parking calculations were an overestimate. Downtown parking, being a complex system that is impacted by and impacting on, many other issues, probably cannot be based on any single calculation. Bruce’s grocery store dilemma is a good example.

    The figures are not meant to advocate one way or another on the Calthorpe recommendations, but simply to help Dave (grossly) adjust the work that he has done. My position of advocacy is that Ann Arbor (to use an amalgam of often opposing organizations) could do a lot more to reduce parking demand and I think that new employers and residents (be they moving into new or re-used space) present a good opportunity to make headway.

    Ps- I have to admit, I’m curious to hear the results of the city website policy investigation.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 22 '06 - 11:49PM    #
  155. The “investigation” will yield nothing.

    Insider nailed it in one sentence:

    “Just to save time – the City has a new super-strict web system that blocks basically every outside site unless it’s on a very short list of pre-approved sites.”
       —Dale    Jan. 23 '06 - 09:20AM    #
  156. I’ve (sadly) not had a lot of extra time lately to keep up on the discussions on Arbor Update … being a full time mom to a 19 month old, very active little girl doesn’t allow too much extra time for reading on the computer.

    I find this ongoing discussion and debate on the Calthorpe report very exciting. Not every conversation and thought on this report needs to be endorsed by an official city body. In fact, I think the discussions are more real when they are not “official”. I know there are people talking about this in coffee shops, at dinner parties, while getting their hair cut, and during play groups in the park. All of this conversation will funnel it’s way down to the particulars of implementation (which will take years to complete, by the way). I was a bit surprised that our planning commission public hearing only had about 25 people present (and my notes show slightly more positive comments than negative, despite what the paper reported). Given the attendence at the lectures and workshops, I had thought we’d have more people attend the public hearing. We’ll see what the attendance of the remaining 2 public hearings it like … but I suspect that many people feel that they’ve been heard already. I think that’s a sign that the process was well designed to get the public involved.

    I have no information about they city’s website policy or whether or not Council members have access to Arbor Update. I do know from personal conversations that some city councilmembers and some planning commissioners do read Arbor Update. City Planning Commissioners, as well as all other members of the City’s numerous boards and commissions, rely on our own home computers for our work. We do not even have access to the City’s server. I can’t speak for other Planning Commissioners, but there are 2 reasons that I don’t post here more frequently … [1] time and [2] sometimes it would be inappropriate for me to comment on active development petitions. My infrequent posts are not because someone told me not to and not because I’m not interested and certainly not because I’m afraid of someone judging my thoughts and opinions.
       —Jennifer Hall    Jan. 23 '06 - 01:27PM    #
  157. There has been a lot of comment about “shared parking spaces” You need to know that the DDA has had in place since Feb. ‘05 a residential permit plan where downtown residents may purchase a permit for $50.00 a month. This enables them to enter a parking structure after 4 P.M. as long as they exit the next day by 9 AM. It also provides users a single grace day per month when they don’t have to move their cars at all. This would give them flexibility on the day that they are home ill or have to be there for the plumber or the cable guy. The DDA is flexible on this as well.

    At this time, we have only 6 users, 4 at Ann Ashley, one at Fourth and William and one at Liberty Square. The Operations Committee reserved the right to lower the price if there were not many takers. Obviously, this appears to be the case.

    In my opinion the lack of usage is not so much because of the cost, but because people who live downtown either already have their own private parking, or they find innovative ways to handle parking their cars. If a patron pulls a ticket in the evening and leaves before morning opening, it would count as a “dead ticket”, but the parker would not have to pay.

    There are also many other lots and places to park that residents have made use of.

    So, the “shared parking” concept is already in place.
       —Leah    Jan. 23 '06 - 07:23PM    #
  158. Leah,
    Do you have an estimate of the number of spaces available for this program?

    I was under the impression that this was a trial program. Is it available in all structures?

    It is a good point that the lack of success may be related to residents already having parking solutions. This is why I think the program would be much more popular and effective in conjunction with new development than current residents.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 23 '06 - 10:08PM    #
  159. I have studied Scott’s ideas in 146 above, plus comments on his comments. Here are my thoughts on each parking recommendation in the Calthorpe report:

    ** Eliminate parking requirements on new projects in Downtown Ann Arbor.—This is already figured in to Calthorpe Place.

    ** Provide incentives to development proposals that incorporate parking into the proposal.—We have no ideas what those “incentives” might be, other than the FAR bonus. Joey Scanga says it is up to Council to flesh out such recommendations. Our hypothetical developer has already decided not to avail him/herself of the underground parking FAR bonus, which is his right. Plus, since our developer has used up the entire area of the Brown Block, I don’t know what other incentives there could be. So I don’t see a realistic way of putting a number on the reduction of the spaces needed in a structure somewhere nearby for Calthorpe Place. (By the way, I am not assuming that the spaces would be in only one structure, or that the structure would be reserved for Calthorpe Place use only.)

    ** Work with AATA and the Link to increase the attractiveness of transit options.—I’m willing to go along with Scott’s 5% reduction in project parking on this one. But remember that these improved options will cost the AATA something, so we have to add that cost (whatever it might be) to the price the public will pay for Calthorpe Place. Can anyone help with costs?

    ** Encourage companies and the university to reduce the number of employees arriving in Downtown by automobile by sponsoring transit voucher programs (go!pass).—This is included in the “Work with AATA…” recommendation above. Since there is some actual data about go!pass, I think it would be fair to allocate another 5% to go!pass. Again, though, the public will pay for the cost of go!pass. Such a subsidized service is not really free, even though its users are not charged for it.How should we determine this cost?

    ** Promote the purchase or renting of off-peak parking stalls within Downtown structures. – Scott suggests a 25% decrease in permit (resident and office) spaces from this option. I can’t agree to any reduction with regard to office spaces, because all the office workers have to be there in the daytime. With regard to resident spaces (those market rate condos), I’ll accept his 25% decrease, although my original estimate allowed only one space per condo, anyway, which I think is a low figure.

    ** Encourage a car-sharing program with free, priority parking Downtown. – I agree that we should allow a 2% reduction in project parking spaces for this program.

    ** Parking Cash-Out program. – This might work for some developments, but our developer is unwilling to pay his/her tenants for reducing their parking uses. He feels that parking is “not his problem,” and since Calthorpe says he has the right not to pay for parking, he isn’t going to.

    These are the reductions for the project parking. While Scott wants reductions for the replacement parking, doing so upsets one of my initial assumptions: that the users of the present Brown Block surface lot will be no worse off than before, which means that all 198 present spaces will be replaced. Ergo, I will not award any reductions in the replacement parking.

    Here are my revised parking calculations according to the above:

    Retail: 168 spaces originally, -5% of this for AATA – 5% of this for go!pass – 2% of this for car-sharing = 88% of 168 = 148 spaces.

    Office: 453 spaces, minus the same percentage reductions as for retail = 88% of 453 = 399 spaces.

    Residential: 96 spaces, minus the same percentage reductions as for retail, minus another 25 for off-peak parking = 63% of 96 = 61 spaces.

    Replacement: Stays at 198 spaces.

    Total revised estimated parking spaces for Calthorpe Place = 148 (retail) + 399 (office) + 61 (residential) + 198 (replacement) = 806 spaces.

    Also, I checked my sources on the cost of an above-ground parking structure space. I was mistaken when I used the figure of $30,000 per space. It is indeed $35,000 per space.

    Hence the revised cost of the parking needed for Calthorpe Place is 806 spaces x $35,000 per space = $28,210,000.

    This figure does not include the extra cost for the AATA and go!pass programs, which we will have to add on later.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 25 '06 - 02:48PM    #
  160. Scott – the spaces are indeed not limited, except in those structures that fill up at night such as Fourth/Washington and Maynard. Also, it is obviously not well known.

    I think the DDA might look at reducing the price to make it more attractive. And, we should market it more vigorously. Thoughts?
       —Leah    Jan. 25 '06 - 05:00PM    #
  161. Re: “shared parking spaces”

    1) If I currently live downtown, I most likely either already have a parking space, or do not need one. This supports Scott’s assertion of marketing this toward new residents.
    2) If I live downtown and work downtown or use alternative transportation to go to work, I actually need to store my car at exactly the hours I won’t have parking.
    3) What is the definition of downtown? I live two blocks from the DDA boundaries and several of my neighbors work late nights downtown. Even though it is only four or five blocks, they drive downtown because they don’t feel safe walking. Can they get this deal too? Can anyone? What defines a downtown resident and why do they get these special privileges?
    4) Are any steps being taken to make sure these structures are safe and well-lit during these off hours?
    5) What if I am sick for two or three days? What if I am on maternity leave? What if I get laid off? What do I do with my car then?

    Leah, has the DDA polled the people currently using the system to see if it is working for them? $50/month seems pretty reasonable to me. I agree that I am not sure you will get a lot more people if it is lower (unless you open it to downtown employees too). I think there just may not be much of a need for this kind of parking in this area. Working on a larger car-sharing initiative might be more useful.
       —Juliew    Jan. 25 '06 - 06:10PM    #
  162. I live two blocks from the DDA boundaries and several of my neighbors work late nights downtown. Even though it is only four or five blocks, they drive downtown because they don’t feel safe walking.

    Who doesn’t feel safe in Ann Arbor? Especially within four blocks of their own home, regardless of the hour? Do they take some sort of weapon with them should they let their dog out in the middle of the night, just in case?

    If there are valid concerns for safety in downtown Ann Arbor perhaps this should be a discussion of public money for bars on windows rather than parking systems.
       —FAA    Jan. 25 '06 - 07:41PM    #
  163. A little dramatic there FAA. Regardless of the realities of safety, there are a lot of people who don’t feel safe walking down Main Street at 2:30 in the morning.
       —Juliew    Jan. 25 '06 - 08:45PM    #
  164. I know well that unwarranted paranoia over personal safety and wasteful behavior are prevalent in today’s society. If ever hyperbole could be expected, though, it would be following a statement that one doesn’t feel safe in a low crime area and chooses to drive ridiculously short distances which are easily traversed on foot.

    To be semi-constructive; I would much rather see programs in place that discourage driving when walking or alternative transportation are viable – be they PSA’s that Main St is safe at night or later running busses – rather than accommodating the “four block drivers” of Ann Arbor (I shudder to think how many there are…).
       —FAA    Jan. 25 '06 - 09:42PM    #
  165. There have been a number of sexual assaults and robberies of people walking alone in Ann Arbor. I’m guessing you’re a man, FAA?
       —ann arbor is overrated.com    Jan. 25 '06 - 11:08PM    #
  166. I don’t know why I posted that as “ann arbor is overrated.com”...I should stop posting drunk.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Jan. 25 '06 - 11:16PM    #
  167. Generally speaking, I’ve felt safe walking around Ann Arbor at all hours of the night. However, I had a classmate who was viciously mugged by a couple of guys around 2 AM by the Michigan Theater. It was many years ago but was a wake-up to me that strolling by myself downtown at night wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing to be doing.
       —John Q.    Jan. 25 '06 - 11:34PM    #
  168. In response to David Cahill:

    Thanks for considering my comments. I note that you did not include the DDA 120% overbooking policy for permit parking. Of all the figures I gave, this one is the most accurate and probable. The 2% attributed to carsharing is just a guess, but I’m certain that the DDA will plan for the 120% overbooking, which amounts to a 17% reduction in spaces required for permit (office and resident) parking.
    The off-peak permit program is designed to accommodate residential parking by selling the spaces that are vacated by daytime users (office and possibly retail). This means that new spaces are not required for participants. The 25% reduction that you include would suggest that 25% of residents would participate. This does not fully account for the general overlap that would occur from regular permit holders who share a space. If half of the office workers park only during regular office hours, and at least the same number of residential parkers only use their parking outside those hours, then the total number of spaces required can be reduced by half of the office parking demand. I am assuming that with some improvements to the off-peak permit program, the reduction could be greater.
    But check with Bruce first.

    Leading to a response to Leah regarding the off-peak permits:

    I think reducing the price would have a limited impact. The cost is already less than 50% off a normal permit. If one’s parking schedule fits (or could be adjusted to fit) with the off-peak requirements, there is already plenty of financial incentive.
    The market for this program consists of two types:
    1)people who could be accommodated but don’t know about or understand the program including:
    a.many who currently have a regular permit
    b.Many who are currently on the waiting list for a permit
    c.all residents of in the DDA who don’t have parking bundled with their lease (or some other permanent parking arrangement)
    d.new residents that have not yet arranged for parking
    I would argue that this last group presents the greatest potential for growth in participation.
    Education/advertising is the best way to get these people interested. The DDA has contact info for all permit holders and waitlisted parkers. With a little effort, a pretty complete list of all residences in the DDA could be assembled and landlords and residents could be mailed a flyer. This program is a great way for landlords to offer a more competitive rent and accommodate extra vehicles. (I don’t support this program as providing storage space for cars downtown, but it would probably attract those with one parking space and two cars.)
    Also, the variety of transportation solutions that Ann Arbor offers should be a marketable item for developers. This should be part of a larger package offered by the DDA via the getDowntown program including parking cash-out, Bike and ped facilities, go!pass, and carsharing.
    So definitely market it to developers of the new Calthorpe place. They can include it in the selling points for the condos. God knows they’ll have to do something since they didn’t provide any parking!
    2)people who do not meet the requirements of the program or would not be fully accommodated by the program including:
    a.Downtown evening employees (right now many park on the street for free, but there is pressure to free the street spaces for customers)
    b.JulieW’s list of “almost accommodated” people who may need just a little more latitude in the rules, or are afraid to commit because they don’t think it would work. Her list also includes some people who just won’t fit into this program.
    As for the questions, “What if I am sick for two or three days? What if I am on maternity leave? What if I get laid off? What do I do with my car then?” hopefully we are moving in the long term to people actually deciding that the transportation package offered by A2 allows them to live car free. In the short term, well off-peak parking won’t solve all social ills.
    c.People outside the DDA
    This program should be available to everyone. I can see the argument that this program is run by the DDA for the benefit of its service area, but I think this requirement only adds to the administrative burden. The residents and businesses would benefit from employees and non-DDA residents parking in the structures instead of on the street. Besides, capturing new revenue in the existing space is good for the parking system. If we made this change, the marketing could expand to DDA businesses.
    A good incentive might be “Try it for a month, and if you don’t like it, we will move you to the top of the waiting list for a regular permit”. This would be a big draw for people who are not sure if the program would work for them.

    I could go on, but my posts are already way too long. Leah, if you would like to discuss this idea further, I can be reached at SCOTT at PEDALSONG dot NET.
       —Scott TenBrink    Jan. 26 '06 - 12:15AM    #
  169. i live downtown with a car and no place to park it. this is the first i have heard of the program. i don’t think my neighbors know about it, either.
       —peter honeyman    Jan. 26 '06 - 08:34AM    #
  170. Scott – you have a lot of good ideas about the program, and I think you are right about the lack of marketing. I will bring these suggestions to the Operations Committee which meets today.

    Peter Honeyman – call the DDA at 994-6697 to inquire about the program.
       —Leah    Jan. 26 '06 - 09:46AM    #
  171. I do agree that the program needs more marketing. I hadn’t heard anything about it either.
       —Juliew    Jan. 26 '06 - 10:56AM    #
  172. I will get with Scott, either via e-mail or phone, and try to straighten out our differences over parking.

    People should check out the front-page article in the January 25 issue of the AA News. It is yet another negative piece by Tom Gantert called “Architects’ tour takes in downtown sites.”

    Chris Grant, who essentially runs First Martin Corp. (which owns the Brown Block, where Calthorpe Place would be built), said “I think anyone who builds office space downtown has a screw loose.”

    Doug Kelbaugh said that he didn’t like the fact that Calthorpe bonuses were allowed to be cumulative. “These bonuses could be abused,” he said.

    And Marc Reuter had prepared drawings of a hypothetical 13-story building that could be built at 313 S. Main, saying that’s “what would happen if you unleashed Calthorpe.” Great minds run in the same channel! I e-mailed him a copy of the Calthorpe Place plan. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Jan. 26 '06 - 04:08PM    #
  173. Somebody needs to fuck that smarmy, smegma-oozing scoundrel in the ass with a thirteen story building.

    I’d do it myself, but I’m on an electronic tether. 8-)
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jan. 26 '06 - 05:06PM    #
  174. There have been a number of sexual assaults and robberies of people walking alone in Ann Arbor.

    There are nearly identical crime statistics per capita in Ann Arbor as in my former town, Toronto. Not a single friend or coworker of mine there – male or female aged mid-twenties to mid-forties – had any reservation about walking alone at night. And why should they? The city is touted as remarkably safe.

    Crime happens anywhere and everywhere. You can live a paranoid existence where you perceive yourself to be unsafe mere feet from your pad-locked front door, or you can happily go about your daily life knowing that you are 99.999833% guaranteed to not be a victim of violent crime any given month in Ann Arbor (statistic based on latest census and December 2005 crime reports).

    I’m guessing you’re a man, FAA?

    I’m guessing you’re a misandrist, AAiO? Unless, of course, you were just making a drunken, innocent guess at my gender without any negative connotation towards individuals with XY chromosomes with regards to not delving into sex difference issues in public safety within a single ArborUpdate comment.

    Please note that Julie made no mention of her friends’ gender, that I noted walking when viable, and that I included alternative transportation in my wish-list in lieu of four block driving and parking. Gender aside, I would argue that Julie’s friends are safer walking four blocks down Main St than they are driving as I believe a higher percentage of crimes occur in parking lots/garages than on well lit thoroughfares – but I don’t have the local stats to back that up right now.

    I don’t know why I posted that as “ann arbor is overrated.com”...I should stop posting drunk.

    Ohhhhhhh! I take back the misandry comment, then.
       —FAA    Jan. 26 '06 - 05:17PM    #
  175. Chris Grant, who essentially runs First Martin Corp. (which owns the Brown Block, where Calthorpe Place would be built), said “I think anyone who builds office space downtown has a screw loose.”

    You know that Jon Stewart guy, the one with the night time show? You know how he says “Reeeeeeeaaaaallly?” and “Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaat?” with sarcasm on a comedy genius level? Keep that in mind as you read this quote from the First Martin web site:

    “201 Depot Street – Currently under construction in downtown Ann Arbor

    Sounds to me like Chris Grant has a screw loose!
       —FAA    Jan. 26 '06 - 05:27PM    #
  176. Actually I appreciated the article—I’m glad to see this discussion is taking place publicly, at the community level.

    I don’t know if there’s too much office space downtown, but it’s definitely something that the city needs to keep in mind. You can in fact build too much office space.

    I also agree that policies and guidelines can be abused. Whatever guidelines the city uses, it needs to make sure it doesn’t get taken advantage of.

    But then I also think a 13-story building where the M-Den currently is would be fine.
       —Young Urban Amateur    Jan. 26 '06 - 06:57PM    #
  177. “I’m guessing you’re a misandrist, AAiO?”

    I’m just going to let that one go. I think that those who dismiss safety concerns as part of some culture of “unwarranted paranoia” are generally those who, for whatever reason, feel reasonably safe themselves and don’t understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Jan. 26 '06 - 07:00PM    #
  178. Tom Gantert is a hack. You heard it here firs—... well, you heard it here.
       —Dale    Jan. 26 '06 - 09:56PM    #
  179. A point we should keep in mind is that what is deemed newsworthy, by reporters generally (and Tom Gantert in particular), is often the negative or sensationalist aspects of a story rather than the positive. “Good news” is not really news people want to read.

    The tour and discussion following actually had a lot of good things to say about Calthorpe’s vision for the downtown: density where the services are, improved pedestrian experiences, more coherent streetscapes and neighborhoods, a potential greenway, ways to retool the development review process to make it faster, more determined, and maybe including design review. None of those things were mentioned in the article, so going by that snippet is misleading at best.
       —KGS    Jan. 27 '06 - 09:56AM    #
  180. David, it is interesting that you quote Chris Grant, in control of the Brown Block, as saying that building more office space downtown makes no sense – and then, in the next breath, continue your fear-mongering about how the Brown Block is instantly going to spring up a million feet of office space if we implement Calthorpe’s recommendations.

    Do you understand how the market works? My guess is no.

    Do you understand how zoning works? No, apparently not that, either.

    Why do you continue to claim that planning/rezoning is going to somehow force property owners to do irrational things with their property? (And lenders to go along with those irrational things?) Remember Lower Town? Over in your neighborhood? You notice it hasn’t gone up yet. Why? Because the lenders haven’t released the money yet, because the developer hasn’t proved they can fill it. Why do you suppose the Brown Block would be any different?

    Honestly, if you would just pick one attack or the other, I think everybody would be a lot happier. But you cannot simultaneously claim that the Calthorpe recommendations are bad both because the market is not there for them and because the market will instantly push up 20-story buildings on every block.
       —...Insider?    Jan. 27 '06 - 10:24AM    #
  181. A few side notes:

    * To FAA and AAIO on the crime issue: keep in mind that the largest defineable category of violent crime in Ann Arbor this past year was 30 or so instances of lone, young, male pedestrians being beaten up and robbed. Let us not so hastily assume that nighttime crime is something that only women are concerned with (or that concern over is unreasonable – fear is not something you can explain away with statistics).

    * Has anyone looked at the series of reports that the EPA has just released?
    http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/

    They look like they will be interesting reading for most of us here, with titles like “Protecting Water Resources with Higher Density Development” and “Parking Spaces/Community Places: Finding the Balance Through Smart Growth Solutions”
       —...Insider?    Jan. 27 '06 - 10:32AM    #
  182. I think that those who dismiss safety concerns…

    To be clear, AAiO, I wasn’t attempting to dismiss safety concerns – it was an attempt to rationalize them in two very small paragraphs (and no, I don’t believe for a moment that a few sentences would sway people on the issue or put fears at ease).

    I predict the matters of public and personal safety will come to greater attention and debate as downtown density and walkability are realized, as well they should. What good is a pedestrian-friendly downtown if half the inhabitants don’t want to walk, for whatever reason, after the sun sets? People probably will want to see a correlation between population growth and the size of the police force, among dozens of other scenarios to quash fears for safety (whether perceived or reality).

    I’m just going to let that one go.

    Thank you – I was hoping you would see that was meant in humor and not in earnest (I did “take it back” as if it were said on a grammar school playground). I prefer to reserve harsh language for people I actually know, and know they deserve it.
       —FAA    Jan. 27 '06 - 12:37PM    #
  183. Hey, insider, I haven’t claimed that Calthorpe Place would instantly spring up with a million square feet of office space. Or that we will instantly see 20-story buildings. That may be someone else’s fantasy, but it’s not mine.

    I’m pointing out what the Calthorpe report would allow. I’m also making the obvious point, with Chris Grant’s comment, that the market won’t support it. So, why should the City change the zoning to allow irrational projects? I suggest you ask your local Councilperson. 8-)
       —David Cahill    Jan. 28 '06 - 01:10PM    #
  184. Cahill, there is not a single point to be made at all with Chris Grant’s comment. Do I need to point out again that the man contradicted himself, insulting himself in the process? I suggest you read comment 175 again. 8-)
       —FAA    Jan. 28 '06 - 06:12PM    #
  185. I just got a response to my FOIA request about the City’s blocking ArborUpdate. It turns out the City has a new filter set which is being implemented “through computer upgrades.”

    It blocks blogs, but allows “sites that promote change or reform in public policy” – like ours.

    Some unknown person “exalted form over content” and decided to block us because we are a blog, disregarding the fact that we promote change or reform in public policy.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 31 '06 - 03:01PM    #
  186. I think it’s imperative that you use the FOIA process to smoke out that unknown person.
       —Dale    Jan. 31 '06 - 04:22PM    #
  187. Actually, steps are being taken to convince the “unknown person” to change his/her mind and allow us to be reached by City computers.
       —David Cahill    Jan. 31 '06 - 10:27PM    #
  188. I figured I’d drop a quick comment regarding the ability of city personnel to access arborupdate from city computers. In fact, I’ve never had any problem doing so. Furthermore, just because I don’t make a practice of being a regular contributor to the blog, doesn’t mean that I don’t read it. Indeed it’s on my list of favorites. Lastly, it seems kind of a waste to FOIA something that easily could have been answered through a phone call. You conspiracy theorists give us to much credit – I wish I had the time in the day to conjure up plots, backstories, etc. related to any issue before us on Council, not the least of which downtown development. Thanks for the opportunity to respond…but I got to run and have lunch with a developer.
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Feb. 3 '06 - 01:31PM    #
  189. Bob Needham, in his column in today’s AA News, “Downtown plan could benefit arts”, says:

    “There’s been an illuminating public debate over [the Calthorpe report] on the Arbor Update Web log at www.arborupdate.com – it’s worth checking out.”

    I’m still working on the property tax calculations for Calthorpe Place. An important point to remember is that all property taxes from this project will initially go to the DDA, and none will go to the City government itself. In the out-years, as Calthorpe Place’s assessed valuation grows, the net increase in property taxes will go to the City (and other taxing units). But the original property tax “capture” amount will continue to go to the DDA.
       —David Cahill    Feb. 5 '06 - 12:29PM    #
  190. David,

    You have that backwards. Normally, the DDA captures the net increase of property taxes while the base value continues to go to the various taxing jurisdictions.
       —John Q.    Feb. 5 '06 - 01:52PM    #
  191. Nope, our DDA captures the base value, not the net increase.
       —David Cahill    Feb. 5 '06 - 07:15PM    #
  192. If that’s the case, I don’t understand your complaints. The knock on most DDAs is that the local community doesn’t capture any of the direct benefit of new development since the tax dollars are routed to the DDA. If that’s not the case, it sounds like Ann Arbor is making out better than most communities with DDAs.
       —John Q.    Feb. 5 '06 - 09:26PM    #
  193. Point of clarification – As I understand it, Ann Arbor’s DDA has a TIF capture that includes only the increase in value from new construction. Increases in value from appreciation and things like (I believe) new tenant build-outs go to their normal taxing entities.

    There are three slices of value here, which apply to David’s Calthorpe Place as following:
    * Base value – what the land is worth – goes to all the normal places.
    * Value of new construction – the cost of building C.P. – goes to the DDA
    * Future increases in value – appreciation – go to the standard entities.

    Most TIF arrangements include the DDA capturing the latter two categories; A2’s only captures the middle one.
       —Murph    Feb. 6 '06 - 12:30PM    #
  194. Right, Murph. That’s what I meant. 8-)

    John Q., I made the point about the DDA “capture” because some folks think, incorrectly, that the City government will get a lot in taxes if Calthorpe Place or similar projects are built. These people believe that the taxes the City will receive will be more than the cost of the services a project needs, and that therefore the City will get a big tax surplus if the Calthorpe Report is put into effect.

    Instead, the City will get only a small amount in taxes, and only in the out-years.
       —David Cahill    Feb. 6 '06 - 01:00PM    #
  195. But as Murph pointed out, Ann Arbor’s DDA doesn’t capture as much revenues as other DDAs do. How much that adds up, I can’t say but it’s more than the City would see in most communities.
       —John Q.    Feb. 6 '06 - 01:23PM    #
  196. I’ve got the figures on property tax for the Calthorpe Place condos. This is the easiest part to calculate.

    The market value of the all the condos combined is $60,018,790. The taxable value is half of this, or $30,009,395.

    The homestead property tax millage for 2005 is 47.3625 = .0473625.

    So the total property tax, for the first year, paid by all our condo owners, will be $30,009,395 x .0473625 = $1,421,319.90.

    All of this will go to the DDA because this is the tax from the new construction, as Murph has said.

    Let us assume a 3.5% annual increase in the value of the condos. During the second year, the DDA will get the same $1,421,319.90. All of the taxing units combined (the City, the County, the Library, the Community College, etc.) will get 3.5% of this amount in taxes, or $49,746.20. I think. Murph, have I done this correctly?

    Sorry I don’t have the amounts of the individual millages handy. Can someone post them here so that we can determine how much each taxing unit will get in the second year?
       —David Cahill    Feb. 7 '06 - 05:41PM    #
  197. Dave C. “I didn’t mention building heights, Todd.”

    I know you didn’t specifically mention building height’s this time, Dave. I’ve explained why we need reform in the city many, many times.

    Pretend that City Council is going to cap downtown building heights at 4 stories. The city is still going to need to spend money on shaping the city in the way that you want it to look….that’s my only point. This stuff isn’t free, no matter what you want the city to look like.

    Erica Briggs “If we do not consciously plan for our downtown, we can not expect to have a healthy, vibrant downtown in the future. Healthy downtowns do not just happen, people make them happen…... Currently, there’s 350,000 square feet of downtown office vacancies and 7 retail stores will be closing in the Main Street area this month.”

    Thank you, Erica. I was really happy to hear how many people support using the Calthorpe report as a framework for action.

    And action, Dave C., even means getting more input from people like you…..even though I’d rather just use eminent domain to turn your house into a 1/2 story tall building with fairy doors and a plaque reading “in memoriam of short buildings, Dave C., and magic calculators”.
       —todd    Feb. 7 '06 - 05:54PM    #
  198. It seems to me that however much money the DDA would theoretically get if Calthorpe Place were built would be a good thing for this community. Some might not like everything the DDA spends their $$ on … but they do a lot of good in this community that might never get paid for if the DDA didn’t exist. I believe it was the DDA that paid for all the pedestrian improvements to Main Street. And their project for Fifth, Division and Huron improvements seems long overdue and much needed to me.

    I was actually a bit disappointed by their recent decision to NOT fund the units at the William Street Station project. I’m not sure the city will find the money to make this kind of affordable housing happen. If we really want to address affordable housing in this community, we need to have a comprehensive approach that will address all needs. The William Street Station project has a number of green building, stormwater management, and pedestrian improvements that they are hoping the DDA will fund. Planning Commission has already indicated their support for these amenities. I really hope that DDA will contribute funding to these project aspects. They aren’t required by our ordinances … but they certainly make the project much better for our community.
       —Jennifer Hall    Feb. 7 '06 - 05:59PM    #
  199. I was actually a bit disappointed by their recent decision to NOT fund the units at the William Street Station project.

    I think the DDA was right to reject the money to fund the 45 units of “workforce” housing (this is part of the second tower and not at all related to the Y replacement housing) at WSS. I think that money could be better used to provide real workforce housing in existing units around the downtown (many of which are currently empty). HDC is asking for $1,000,000 from the DDA to provide 45 units at a “less expensive workforce” type rent. When we asked Bob at HDC how much that rent would be, he said in the $700/month range for a 1-bedroom and $900/month range for a 2-bedroom. This is slightly more than average rent for one and two-bedroom units in my neighborhood (four blocks from William Street Station), which also include parking. Parking is important because many of the jobs at the lower incomes: hospital orderlies, custodians, and restaurant workers, have non-standard schedules and have to get to work when the AATA does not run. So if we really wanted to provide workforce/low-income housing in the downtown area, we could use $1,000,000 in better ways. For example, take $100/month off the rent of 45 existing lower-rent units and give cooperating landlords some one-time money for upgrades in exchange for not raising rents more than the cost of living. You could provide actual, decent workforce housing in the $500-$700 range, update some of the existing housing stock in the downtown area, and the $100,000,000 would last longer than the 15 years proposed by HDC (that is how long they would keep those 45 units at the lower rent). But unfortunately, we advocate spending a lot of money to build new affordable housing that isn’t particularly affordable, while existing low-end housing sits empty. Seems like we could be more creative and get better results.
       —Juliew    Feb. 8 '06 - 11:31AM    #
  200. Not so, Julie. By your own admission, there is something special about downtown. Despite the limitations of AATA, downtown units are less reliant upon cars for transportation.

    If we believe your comment from a week or two back (was it on AAiO?), people who live just 4 blocks from WSS do not feel safe walking there after dark, so they need a car. The same cannot be said about a downtown residence because it allows walking and biking to work in a more populous, well-lit area. Even if rent is marginally higher, living costs in these downtown residences can be lower because it does not require a car.

    Additionally, you have noted that the units in your neighborhood are already affordable to potters and workers—why would we subsidize already affordable units that are undesirable? I submit that we must improve options and serve demand.
       —Dale    Feb. 8 '06 - 12:36PM    #
  201. Put simply—the option you espouse investing in already exists with low demand; the WSS option does not, with unsatisfied demand.
       —Dale    Feb. 8 '06 - 12:39PM    #
  202. Juliew: William Street Station’s workforce housing deal was about as “creative” a deal as you could want. For their money, the DDA were going to get 45 workforce housing units at the absolute most car-free lifestyle supporting point in Ann Arbor – something which lots of people here seem to like to talk up – and then were going to get their money back in 15 years. The DDA wasn’t talking about paying $1 million for 15 years worth of affordable housing, as you suggest – they were talking about foregoing the interest on $1 million for 15 years of affordable housing.

    Not such a bad deal, and a little disappointing that they passed it up.

    (Note that I’m not saying your idea is bad – just that what the DDA passed up was a better deal than it looked like.)
       —Insider...?    Feb. 8 '06 - 02:57PM    #
  203. Julie, I think your idea is a great one. But, the DDA didn’t reject the WSS proposal for workforce housing and decide to give the $$ to some other worthwile affordable housing project in town. They just rejected it. So now the community gets no units for workforce housing – in your neighborhood or downtown at WSS (I guess unless the city finds the $$ to subsidize them).
       —Jennifer Hall    Feb. 8 '06 - 04:21PM    #
  204. the option you espouse investing in already exists with low demand
    Not quite, because the rent would be lower than it is currently and that might help fill vacant space. Vacant space just isn’t a very good thing downtown or in the near downtown neighborhoods. I guess either way, we can’t say what will happen because this type of housing has not been built right downtown so it might fill a need or might not.

    they were talking about foregoing the interest on $1 million
    Hmmm, I guess I don’t understand this. It isn’t the way I had heard it discussed.

    But, the DDA didn’t reject the WSS proposal for workforce housing and decide to give the $$ to some other worthwhile affordable housing project in town.
    Well yeah, I know. It just seems like we go around and around the same options when maybe there are alternatives. The DDA is putting up significant money in the form of parking for this already, right? Or at least that is one of the options, that a floor will be added to the Fourth and William parking structure.

    I like the WSS project and I think they are being very creative in what they are doing, but they are counting on a lot of subsidies just to get the project off the ground with the Y replacement housing, much less the 45 units of workforce housing. I would rather it get built with condos than not built at all. Besides, wouldn’t condos make more money for the city than rental units?
       —Juliew    Feb. 8 '06 - 05:52PM    #
  205. Todd,

    You assume, as a reflex, that Comments on Palestinian human rights should be choked off.

    Yet you yourself have been the 197th Commenter, barely a week ago, on one of the many Calthorpe threads.

    Why did you make no overheated pleas then, to shut off public discussion of Calthorpe?

    Hmm?

    Yet the very millisecond that an Arabic name appears on ArborUpdate, as a Commenter, you plead for censorship.

    Why no pleas for censorship when Calthorpe comments exceed 200 per article, on ArborUpdate?

    Is there something about Palestinian human rights that you can’t bear to see in print?

    Do Arabic names just bug you?

    What kind of reflex is that?

    What can I fairly call that censorship reflex?

    Why does that censorship reflex seize hold of you, just when an Arabic name appears on ArborUpdate?


       —-Blaine. (Palestine)    Feb. 13 '06 - 09:06PM    #
  206. Sigh.

    Post away, Blaine…...


       —todd    Feb. 13 '06 - 09:22PM    #
  207. Back to the topic of this item.

    I have the breakdown of the various tax millages, for both homestead and non-homestead property.

    I hope (not promise) to post the amount the City would get in the out-years from the Calthorpe Place homestead properties tomorrow.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 14 '06 - 02:16AM    #
  208. Yes, but will you post the tax millages, for both homestead and non-homestead property confiscated from Palestinians by the cruel and vicious Zionist regime?

    Or do you approve of the Zionist regime’s hateful, disgusting, and abominable genocidal millage rates for the homeless, voiceless Palestinians?

    When will you publishers of ArborUpdate take a principled stand, instead of continuing to grind into dust with the your jackboot heels of squalid indifference the legitimate rights of Palestinians, as expressed in UN resolutions (cited elsewhere to save space, sorry!)


       ——Bliane. (Palsetine)    Feb. 14 '06 - 02:39AM    #