Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Civic Facility on Library Lot?

25. September 2006 • Juliew
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At the September 11 City Council working session, the Community Services and Public Safety Task Force submitted a document recommending that the “City should develop a long-term plan to house City Hall, Police, Courts, parking, and an exterior public amenity on the Library Lot.” The document was summarized in an article in the Ann Arbor News on September 12.

This comes a year after the contentious resolution to build a new building on the current City Hall site. After that plan was scuttled due to strong negative reaction, Council created the Community Services and Public Safety Task Force to look into the issue more extensively.

Judy McGovern’s column from yesterday touched on some of the many issues involved, but surprisingly, this latest chapter has yet to generate much conversation around town.

Thanks to David Cahill for sending us the Task Force document.



  1. juliew wrote: ” ... but surprisingly, this latest chapter has yet to generate much conversation around town.”

    Perhaps not many people followed the thread of the meeting that McGovern describes this way: “When council members asked, City Administrator Roger Fraser said that the sale of the now-demolished parking deck property at First and Washington streets could provide that money. But he then suggested thinking of the First and Washington site as a ‘placeholder’ meaning the proceeds could just as easily come from the disposition of other property.”

    Isn’t there an accepted bid for First and Washington, namely the Village Green project? Or did Council ultimately postpone that decision pending possible resubmission of the ‘homegrown’ Washington Commons project? The most recent thread on AU that I found on First and Washinton was this


       —HD    Sep. 25 '06 - 11:14PM    #
  2. HD – that’s what I was wondering when I saw that in McGovern’s column, too. “Wait, what happened to …?!”


       —Murph.    Sep. 26 '06 - 12:48AM    #
  3. That’s a done deal. The question, I think, is what will the money from 1st/Washington pay for—affordable housing or some other uses (including library lot development)? Evidently there is an old resolution on the books that proceeds from the sale of “surplus” city property must go into the city’s affordable housing fund.


       —Dale    Sep. 26 '06 - 01:02AM    #
  4. Independent of the question of First and Washington, the description of the possibility of public space (e.g., a skating rink) for the library lot is at least vaguely reminiscent of a Rich Ahern design for that space, which I first heard described by Gaia Kile. The Ahern design involved residential units as well, but the common element with the current discussion was a ‘park-like’ public amenity in the center, which would tie psychologically to Liberty Plaza.


       —HD    Sep. 26 '06 - 01:08AM    #
  5. I thought the First/Washington deal got postponed until a couple of councilmembers looked the proposals over…don’t know where things are on that.

    I still don’t understand where library patrons are supposed to park in all these plans. I sort of liked the recent AANews letter-writer’s proposal—city hall could have been moved to the Y property, and the low-income housing would have gone on the current city hall property—the police would have remained there. I don’t know what the police would have thought about all that, however. (The letter-writer also sort of hinted that there is a plan afoot to replace city hall with parking for North Quad, but I have no idea if this is in any way accurate.)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Sep. 26 '06 - 02:36AM    #
  6. I am a member of the Library Board. We discussed the task force report at our meeting of September 18.

    Nobody had a good thing to say about the report. One board member said that if this police station/court is built, the downtown library will be gone from its present location in ten years; that the present facility was doomed. Another board member said it might take less time than that. The idea of underground parking was thoroughly discredited: people with some planning knowledge said that this kind of parking was so expensive that it was always deleted from downtown construction plans. Contracts with the police unions which require that the City provide parking would soak up many of the proposed parking spots. The City came in for heavy criticism for having failed to purchase the whole City Center building for $1 million some years ago; for failing to explore the Brown Block; for the apparent failure of the William Street Station project; and in general for failure to adequately plan for its facilities.

    When it was my turn, I said I wanted to address two issues: the alleged need, and the effect of a station/court on the downtown library.

    With regard to the “need”, I said the recommendation reminded me of County Administrator Bob Guenzel’s “gilded courthouse plan”, which had been repeatedly rejected by the voters. I said the report contained wishes, not needs. I said I was not interested in what judges’ lobbyists wanted. Court needs were largely driven by criminal cases. Both the raw number of crimes and the number of arrests in our county had steadily fallen since 1997. I said the report was honest enough to admit that the number of police officers in Ann Arbor has diminished [Appendix D]. If the number of employees has fallen, there should not be a large increase in the space they occupy.

    With regard to the proposal’s effect on the downtown library, I said I was not certain the facility would have to close. Right now, the downtown library’s circulation is about equal to the circulation of two branches. If the station/court is built, I expect that the downtown library’s circulation would drop to about the level of one branch. I said nobody had to come to any library at all; it was a voluntary activity. If we lose the Library Lot, and it becomes harder or more expensive to park near the downtown library, then our patrons will simply use one of the large branches that we are building around the edges of the city. I said the report warned that a municipal center with a single public entrance may “deaden” activity on the street [Appendix B]. I said there is nothing grimmer than a police station and court building. I pointed out that people coming to court are not having their best day. They will not want to drop by the library for a little light reading.

    Believe it or not, I came across as a moderate! 8-)

    On September 21, our Library Director, Josie Parker, sent the following message via e-mail and snail mail to Council, the Mayor, and the City Administrator:

    “The Ann Arbor District Library Board reviewed the recommendation of the Community Security and Public Space Task Force at its monthly meeting on September 18, 2006. While the AADL Board appreciates the time and attention made by the task force to research and produce a recommendation, the Board concluded that it could not support the Task Force recommendation to construct a court and police facility on the property adjacent to the Downtown Library commonly referred to as the “library lot”. The Board believes that a thriving Downtown Library is a critical element in a thriving downtown, and that the proposed facility would significantly diminish both the visibility of, and accessibility to, the Downtown Library. The AADL Board felt the report was lacking in substantive support for the recommendation and did not adequately address the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives, or take into account all aspects of the present situation. The Board concluded that to locate a court facility and police station next to the central location of the public library system is not in the best interests of the patrons of the library.”


       —David Cahill    Sep. 26 '06 - 06:48PM    #
  7. I always went (and thought others went) to the library because they provided a service or product that I wanted—a program, a book, a periodical, a DVD, or internet access. How would that change?

    I never got the impression that the main clientele of the central branch was WASPy suburbanites who required on-site parking or needed smelling salts at the first sign of someone poor or who had been to court.


       —Dale    Sep. 26 '06 - 07:08PM    #
  8. I have heard that the circulation at the downtown library goes up every year, and with lots of new people moving into downtowm, I would predict that that trend would continue. As for underground parking, where else could you put it?


       —a voice    Sep. 26 '06 - 08:04PM    #
  9. It is interesting to note that Josie Parker is one of the members of the Task Force making the recommendation as well one of the members of the Library Board coming out against the recommendation of the Task Force. I wonder what she personally thinks about the plan.

    I think the downtown Library is somewhat more resilient than stated at the Library Board meeting. As Dale mentioned, people go there for specific reasons and those reasons will remain. As a matter of fact, I think people will feel less threatened by having a police presence next door to the Library. Many people don’t go there now because they are nervous about the homeless population there and the somewhat threatening behavior of people who often hang out outside the Library and I think a strong police presence next door might make people feel better about coming to the downtown Library.

    Same is true of underground parking, yes, a lot of people don’t like underground parking because it feels dangerous. Well, if there is a police station on top of it with people there round-the-clock, most people would feel better about parking there, and the recommendation at least would be to greatly increase the number of parking spaces. I would hope the parking would include similar concessions to what the Library currently has in terms of being able to run in and out without having to pay. And certainly not everyone in the Library Lot goes to the Library and not everyone who goes to the Library needs parking. I actually know very few people who drive to the downtown Library and a lot of people who walk or take the bus.

    It seems to me that the Library could actually benefit greatly from a partnership with a large City building on this site. The building could actually enhance the visibility of the Library, which is currently a rather nondescript building with no signs seen usually across a sea of parking. A well-designed, creative, green, building, especially if there was a civic amenity such as a skating rink or place for a movie screen could actually provide the Library with the link from Liberty that has been so lacking and maybe even a safe and comfortable outdoor space.

    I think the business of a City should take place downtown and it makes a lot of sense to me to have the Federal Building, City Hall, Courts, the Police, the Bus Station, and the Library together in one area. It is a somewhat different model for us in Ann Arbor now, but was certainly the norm in the early days of the city and still is in many places. It seems like people are really only worried about the loss of 193 surface parking spaces. I’ve been in both the Courthouse and the City Hall and yeah, they aren’t such good spaces for what needs to happen there. As a bonus, I think that the current City Hall land would be a really good place for a lot of creative, attractive housing (Firehouse Lofts, Council Co-ops, Old City Hall Terrace). There are a lot of opportunities on that site which could tie well into the old Forth Ward houses across the street.

    Now, if only we can make it work, and work well. What it will take is having a lot of different groups actually working together to make something better, rather than spending the next five years accusing each other of nefarious deeds and underhanded agendas.


       —Juliew    Sep. 26 '06 - 08:45PM    #
  10. I would agree that parking is not necessary at a downtown library. We live a mile away and walk several times a month even in winter. I also stop by on my way home from work. Can’t think of a time I have used the “library” lot. People that want to park will go to the branches and I would concur with a voice that with more downtown residents, it will balance out any loss of the “drivers”.

    I don’t care either way about development of that lot but to say that the library MUST have SURFACE parking right next to it is very short-sighted.


       —Jackson    Sep. 26 '06 - 08:49PM    #
  11. I wonder if it would be helpful to have two agenda items for issues like this—the first for “Feelings about X” and the second for “Thoughts on X”. Thanks for doing thinking on our behalf in addition to feeling, David.

    Could the “visibility… of the Downtown Library”, in terms of actual physical visibility, be much lower than it currently is (assuming it stays put)? “Accessibility to” it would only impact those who drive there. Those who bike, walk, or bus (all of which will increase in the future, regardless of the parking situation—more downtown residents, among other factors) wouldn’t be negatively impacted. If anything, bikes might get covered parking.


       —Steve Bean    Sep. 26 '06 - 09:05PM    #
  12. The Library lot may or may not be the best place for the city to build but the message from the Libraty Board sure sounds self serving.

    The Brown Block is privately owned. What should the city do, buy land for millions so the library can use the city property as a surface lot?

    Wasn’t it over a decade ago the city had a chance to buy the city center building? The library board is blaming them for not doing it? No one currently in the city administration or serving in elected office was around back then.

    The William St. Station was held up because they did not immediatly win the tax credits. Word on the street is they just got them and are going forward.

    The county is throwing the city courts out of their courthouse. State statute says the city needs to house the courts. The city needs a courthouse. The city has needed a police station for 40 years as the Larcom building was never designed to house the police.

    Planning is what the city is doing now, a task force just gave this report.

    Underground parking is used around the world. If parking is underground, the real estate is still there to be used! Get it? If library patrons can’t stand having a brand new underground parking lot plus a new park-plaza next door and maybe a skating rink, they should just pack it in and move to the burbs where they belong. Maybe start calling it the “Ann Arbor Area Suburban Library.”

    Things must go smoothly on the library board where they are rolling in dough. Quite a few years ago they got a “boost” to their millage to make up for failing to catch embezzlement and poor accounting before the loss was up in the millions. They paid themselves back for the shortfall but it was supposed to be a “temporary” measure. Now they just go on building…


       —Dustin    Sep. 26 '06 - 09:17PM    #
  13. I think probably the biggest draw of Library Lot Parking is the 15 minute grace period – good for swinging in to return books or pick up a book on hold. That kind of parking, I think, would be hard to serve in an underground lot – you start to soak up too much time in getting in and out of the structure.

    However, the DDA hopes to add on-street parking to Fifth Ave in front of the library, which could serve some of the very-short-term demand. (Maybe we install a few parking meters right there which don’t take coins, but just have a 15-minute dial on them?)


       —Murph    Sep. 26 '06 - 09:19PM    #
  14. Parking is essential next to the library. Not necessarily a surface lot, but I won’t park underground. Sorry. I don’t care what’s on top.


       —Just a homeowner    Sep. 26 '06 - 10:59PM    #
  15. “The main clientele of the central branch” used to be the entire city. Of course, things have been changing for a while now.

    I am really not sure that underground parking would be suitable for the library. For example, there are many car-owning elderly and handicapped who not only use the library’s regular services, but also come to the Friends’ book sale, and would probably not be well-serviced by underground parking. (I realize there isn’t even a Friends’ sale at all right now, but surely it will eventually return.)

    I suppose things like the sale could move to a branch, but it would be a shame.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Sep. 26 '06 - 11:22PM    #
  16. One proposal, which I think is great, is to run a new street between the two buildings (from Division to Fifth and maybe Fourth). This would include not only parking along it (as well as along Fifth) but also a cut in for library patrons for drop off & pick up. This goes along with Jane Jacobs’ idea (“The Death and Life of Great American Cities”) of the best city blocks being short blocks.

    Had anyone thought there could be an elevator directly into the library from the parking underground – protection from the weather… ?

    Too many good ideas to dismiss this out of hand.


       —a voice    Sep. 27 '06 - 12:18AM    #
  17. I think some people don’t fully understand the relationship between the downtown library and the branches. The downtown library isn’t just another branch of the library, it’s the hub of the entire system. The branches primarily focus on popular reading materials and Internet access to the public. They do have other services like programming and limited reference services. But they come nowhere near providing the range or depth of services available downtown nor are they intended to.

    Residents who live downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods most likely view the downtown library as their home “branch”. But that doesn’t mean that other users who live outside downtown don’t use the main library. Many of the specialized services and collections downtown are not available elsewhere in the system. So whatever plans are made for the library need to recognize that fact and not simply treat the downtown library as another branch that only has to serve residents in the immediate area.


       —John Q.    Sep. 27 '06 - 04:20AM    #
  18. “One board member said that if this police station/court is built, the downtown library will be gone from its present location in ten years; that the present facility was doomed.”

    The Library Board’s statement is not specific enough to determine which aspects of the project would be detrimental to patronage, but it seems a large part of their concern is over the impact on parking. As far as that goes, the specific use of the property is irrelevant. They would oppose any change that eliminates the surface lot. As most speculation on that property does not revolve around maintaining its current use, this argument is sort of a bluff. If the library can’t survive without adjacent surface parking, downtown probably isn’t the best place for it, unless we are operating on a no-growth assumption. Residential, low-income housing, mixed use, police station, or a new South Fifth Greenway would all eliminate or drastically reduce surface parking on that lot. Something is likely to change there in the next ten years. The Library must be aware of the possibility.

    The board opposes the project because it “would significantly diminish both the visibility of, and accessibility to, the Downtown Library”. This criticism is too broad and further indicates to me that the library would oppose any change in use to the adjacent lot. A better respone would include specific features that obstruct the view, indicating concern that short term parking continue to be close and free, recommending space for a pick-up/drop-off lane, or suggesting alternate features or layout that better integrate the library into the new development.

    “the report was lacking in substantive support for the recommendation and did not adequately address the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives, or take into account all aspects of the present situation.”

    This vaguery further suggests a general unwillingness to cooperate with any change to the lot. The board could have pointed out specific concerns and/or potential solutions, but they chose to voice general disapproval in broad strokes. The above statement gives me no indication on how to improve the proposal other than to completely scrap it.

    I’m sure that the board has a much more subtle and detailed response than what comes through in their official statement. Too bad it didn’t come through.


       —Scott TenBrink    Sep. 27 '06 - 10:03AM    #
  19. There is no free parking near the library, except on Sundays. There is, and could continue to be, a ten minute “grace” period for pick-up and drop off in the parking facility. Although I live closer to a branch, I don’t use it because it indeed does not have the depth of collection and services that the main library offers. Good points, John Q!


       —a voice    Sep. 27 '06 - 10:57AM    #
  20. Here is Tom Gantert’s article about this controversy from today’s AA News.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 27 '06 - 03:04PM    #
  21. I tend to disagree with John Q and a voice who say that the branches to not have the depth of collection. You can browse the entire library online, select your material, and have it ready for pick-up at any branch you choose. While some probably go to the library to browse, the use of libraries is changing. Heck, you could have a warehouse to store books and have a small amount of browsable material available (sounds like the branches). Traditionalists will respond negatively, of course.


       —Jackson    Sep. 27 '06 - 03:11PM    #
  22. If that is the case, it doesn’t matter to the library’s future what we put on the lot next door.


       —Dale    Sep. 27 '06 - 03:31PM    #
  23. Parking is essential next to the library. Not necessarily a surface lot, but I won’t park underground. Sorry. I don’t care what’s on top.

    OK, JAH, from this I assume you would be willing to park in an above-ground lot? This is what I am talking about when I say all the groups have to work together to find something that will work relatively well for most people. What kind of parking would work for you? Right now the Library has a few street spots on the South side, Division will most likely have a parking lane in the near future, and the Library has a dock area with a few parking spots that possibly could be made available. In addition, the report says there are “opportunities” for other land (Credit Union?) that could be a small surface lot. The main civic building could have two floors of parking space underneath, but also a small parking structure attached to one side. There are options, some of which would be cost effective, some not, but at this point, all of them are possibilities.

    Scott TenBrink is right though, this isn’t a question of surface lot or no surface lot, there will be something built on that land sometime in the near future. It is too valuable to remain as it is. I would far rather see the City own the Library Lot space and sell the current City Hall land than see the Library lot become property of an individual who might have little interest in working with the Library, DDA, or citizens at all. It could be that instead of a 400-space underground lot with monthly parking and Library parking, there ends up being a 50-space lot available only to residents of whatever condos or office building goes up. That would be much worse for the City as a whole.

    I do agree that the Library needs parking nearby, but I don’t think it is required to have a surface lot right next door (other than for handicapped parking and a few drop-off spaces). It will take some adjustment, but most people will figure out something that works for them. The Hands-On Museum is an example of a place with similar clientele to the AADL that doesn’t have on-site public parking (just a few drop-off spaces), but families still manage to get there in droves. The UM Art Museum, the UM Exhibit Museum and Planetarium, and all of the University Libraries have no public parking within blocks, but they are thriving (and not only with students). Lack of on-site surface parking is not necessarily a nail in the coffin, especially since the AADL is so very good.


       —Juliew    Sep. 27 '06 - 03:38PM    #
  24. While some probably go to the library to browse, the use of libraries is changing.

    Yes, library use is changing, but not how you might think. It is true that people want and use ever more online resources, but they are also going to libraries more than ever and checking out physical resources more than ever. Contrary to what you might believe, almost every library around the country has steadily increasing circulation and gate counts. The AADL is no exception as you can see by their circulation report from last year.


       —Juliew    Sep. 27 '06 - 04:01PM    #
  25. “You can browse the entire library online, select your material, and have it ready for pick-up at any branch you choose. While some probably go to the library to browse, the use of libraries is changing.”

    Again, missing the point – I agree that you can select and order whatever you want BUT only for the materials that can be shipped out to the branches. Much of the stuff that I use and peruse downtown is only available downtown and can’t/won’t be shipped out to the branches. When everything is digitized, maybe that won’t be an issue but right now, there are many items that don’t fall into that category.


       —John Q.    Sep. 27 '06 - 05:32PM    #
  26. Right, John Q: my last dozen-plus visits to the library have all involved either looking at old newspapers on microfilm (a resource available only downtown), or bringing my daughter to the children’s library (she strongly prefers the one downtown).

    I think most downtown library patrons are regular users who would quickly become accustomed to inside parking.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Sep. 27 '06 - 06:02PM    #
  27. Especially if that inside parking were connected directly to the library. The circulation for downtown in 2005 was up 41% over 2004. That ought to tell us something. I agree with Larry – the downtown library has much richer resources.


       —a voice    Sep. 27 '06 - 06:17PM    #
  28. Juliew, I don’t like underground lots. They look dangerous to me. Maybe that’s irrational, but there it is. I don’t mind aboveground garages and am happy to park in them.

    When my kids were younger, we spent many hours at the library, especially in winter. We live too far to walk, so we drove. We needed a place to park.

    For the record, that area does not need a police station. It would create something of a dead zone.


       —Just a homeowner    Sep. 27 '06 - 07:15PM    #
  29. JAH, I’m not sure I grasp your distinction between parking in an inside space above ground and parking in an inside space below ground. What if you’re five stories up, but there are no windows or outside openings nearby? Do you object to parking in the dental school/Top-of-the-Park structure because it’s mostly below grade?

    When I park in the 4th and Washington structure, I always take the down ramp to park underground, since that puts me only a few steps from the street—as opposed to a long wait for an elevator, or many flights of stairs. Admittedly, the glass elevator has a great scenic view, but the basement is much quicker when you’re in a hurry.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Sep. 27 '06 - 07:40PM    #
  30. I think having City Hall near the library would be OK. But police and the court? Both would likely generate high volumes of traffic, especially vehicular traffic and emergency traffic. That doesn’t seem very conducive to creating an attractive environment for those who do walk to any of those services.


       —John Q.    Sep. 27 '06 - 08:10PM    #
  31. Wow – a whole bunch of comments!

    Let me clarify what is and is not on the table with regard to the task force report.

    The only recommendation with present relevance is the construction of a police/court facility. A future City Hall on this site is not being recommended now because the report says doing so would require an increase in property taxes.

    No parking for the library would be provided in the proposed new building.

    There is no thought of any linkage between the new structure and the library.

    The other side of this coin is that the library has no duty to the City. It is an independent organization with its own millage. So of course we are acting in the interests of our patrons in trying to protect access to the downtown library.

    The library has no duty to provide opinions on what other kinds of projects might possibly go on the Library Lot. The Library Board only had this particular proposal before it. We turned it down because it was fundamentally flawed. After all, “you can’t patch cr*p.”

    Yes, the major issue is parking. The “dead zone” is also important, but I think it is less important than what the disappearance of public parking would do to the library.

    Some of us on the Library Board feel that it was a serious mistake for the School Board to have constructed the downtown library decades ago without providing a single space of free public parking. Ever since, library parking has been at the mercy of the City and the DDA.

    We seriously underestimated the demand for parking at our new Malletts Creek branch. We have tried to correct this situation at the Pittsfield and proposed Northeast branches. But make no mistake: Auto travel is the primary and vastly preferred method people use to reach the branches and the downtown library. “Behavior modification” of our patrons is not an option. If parking is not easy, many simply won’t come.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 27 '06 - 08:20PM    #
  32. But make no mistake: Auto travel is the primary and vastly preferred method people use to reach the branches and the downtown library. “Behavior modification” of our patrons is not an option.

    David, I’m going to go Friends of the Greenway on you and ask for some data to back that up or call bullshit, because I’m skeptical about the claim for the downtown library.


       —Dale    Sep. 27 '06 - 08:54PM    #
  33. David Cahill says: “No parking for the library would be provided in the proposed new building.” but the report calls for a minimum of 400 below grade public parking spaces. Also “There is no thought of any linkage between the new structure and the library.” but surely David knows, as a library board member, that the library was originally designed for access to an underground garage next door.

    “The only recommendation with present relevance is the construction of a police/court facility. A future City Hall on this site is not being recommended now because the report says doing so would require an increase in property taxes.”
    The report actually recommends (verbatim): The City should establish a funding plan to reserve for the replacement of the Larcom building on the library lot without seeking a special millage from the taxpayers.


       —a lurker    Sep. 27 '06 - 09:22PM    #
  34. Hi. I mean, I like lots where I can see out. Where I feel as though if I am (and I know this sounds crazy, but I am a small woman, mom, slightly paranoid but not really) likely to be heard by someone if I called for help.

    Underground lots remind me of NYC, to places where valet parking attendants go. But not the car owners.


       —Just a homeowner    Sep. 27 '06 - 09:58PM    #
  35. JAH- If you are truly concerned about safety, parking underneath a police station is about as safe as you can get. Especially if some of those parking spots are used by cops. And just remember that the surface lots and above-ground parking structures you like are not the best land use, i.e., not the “green” thing to do.

    Cahill- Your lack of knowledge about this is frightening. Did you not READ the report? Perhaps you think we’re all stupid? Or maybe you’re just a moron.

    Scott T and Julie W- Good comments.

    Seems to me this proposal needs more detail, but there’s no harm in taking the next steps and looking more closely at it.


       —Bill T.    Sep. 28 '06 - 03:04AM    #
  36. Bill T has a point – police officers all over, with connection to the police station. And the court staff as well. However, there is a 1000 car facility a block away at Fourth & William that is above ground, if that makes you more comfortable, JAH.

    There is public parking proposed for the underground structure, and for Mr. Cahill to say there is not is just not true. Where does he get that information? What could be better and more convenient than underground access to the library – away from the weather, with an elevator to the library which would acomodate strollers and wheel chairs? Cahill sounds very short sighted and unfriendly to us library users.


       —a voice    Sep. 28 '06 - 11:28AM    #
  37. JAH has valid concerns. Some people will just be uncomfortable parking underground, and there’s really nothing that can be done about it. These people will use above-ground structures, street parking, the bus – or not come downtown. We can’t make everybody love underground parking, and have to recognize that.

    However, I agree that some better use of the Library Lot could be found. Whether that’s park, civic building, Google East, or quaint, haiku-worthy four-story buildings, any of these things would provide intrinsic value to the people who use downtown. Parking does not have value in and of itself – it’s only of value because of what’s around it.

    I would prefer commercial/residential options to civic center, myself. As noted, City Hall and the Court aren’t exactly window-shoppable uses (well, except for some of us…), and I don’t feel like a civic complex there would make Fifth Avenue any friendlier. On the other hand, freeing up the Larcom building lot would enable that architectural accident to be replaced with something that fits a little better.


       —Murph    Sep. 28 '06 - 12:39PM    #
  38. Bill T.: I hear you and rationally it makes sense. But I cannot see myself driving down to level 5 with my two kids. It’s irrational, I know. But there it is. I also don’t believe that the cops will ever get down to level 5. They will be at the surface, or maybe one level down. Cops will not park at the bottom; the rest of us will.

    Maybe I should just take my phobias over to the parking lot on 4th and William….


       —Just a homeowner    Sep. 28 '06 - 12:40PM    #
  39. What I said in #31 above was “No parking for the library would be provided in the proposed new building.”

    What the report (p 6) says is “The DDA should build a minimum of 400 below ground public parking spaces on the library lot that can support buildings for police, courts, City Hall and possible private use on top of it.”

    There is no conflict between these two statements. There is no parking to be provided for the library. That is, there is no parking to be reserved for library users as distinguished from the general public.

    Also, there will almost certainly not be 400 spaces open to the public in reality. Police union contracts will gobble up a substantial fraction. I expect that the District Court will also grab a big slice for its staff and users.

    So library users will have to fight for a reduced number of spaces in an underground parking structure.

    Sorry, that doesn’t work for the Library Board.

    With regard to an underground link, all I can say is that such an idea is not being recommended in the report.

    The financing of this project is also a questionable. The report (again, p 6) says “The police/Court facility should be 80,000 to 100,000 gross square foot and be built for approximately $25 million (in today’s dollars) with the joint financial support of the City and DDA (excluding the below ground public parking structure funded only by the DDA).”

    According to Appendix F, the DDA is supposed to make a $5 million cash contribution toward the $25 million.

    Plus, the DDA is supposed to construct the underground parking structure. Assuming a reasonable $40,000 per underground space, the DDA would have to spend 400 x $40,000 = $16,000,000 on the parking structure.

    So the report is recommending a total DDA expenditure of $5,000,000 + $16,000,000 = $21,000,000.

    Am I reading the report correctly?


       —David Cahill    Sep. 28 '06 - 01:26PM    #
  40. JAH,

    There are certainly more irrational fears than yours. I wouldn’t sweat it.

    As usual, Julie’s right: if the City, the Library, and the DDA work together, I think that we could come up with a little something for all the parties involved.

    And also as usual, (what is it with them?) the AANews has decided to emphasize differences between development visions in their articles, rather than similarities.


       —todd    Sep. 28 '06 - 01:34PM    #
  41. But make no mistake: Auto travel is the primary and vastly preferred method people use to reach the branches and the downtown library. “Behavior modification” of our patrons is not an option.

    Data, Dave? What can you offer to justify these claims?


       —Dale    Sep. 28 '06 - 01:44PM    #
  42. The library has a surface parking lot behind the building where employees currently park. Why not have employees park in a structure and use that for customer surface parking if they need it so bad?


       —dennis    Sep. 28 '06 - 02:31PM    #
  43. “The library has a surface parking lot behind the building where employees currently park.”

    For one, I think there’s only a handful of spots. From what I know, few, if any, employees park there. Also, it’s the back of the building. That’s like telling people who want to run in and buy some milk to park in the back of the grocery store.


       —John Q.    Sep. 28 '06 - 02:51PM    #
  44. Actually, to a certain extent, I agree with JAH. Most underground parking structures are dank, airless, clammy, dirty, and creepy. The only bad experience I have ever had in a parking structure was in the second basement of Ann Ashley. That said, I don’t think we have a lot of choices. It is either four stories up or four stories down, because people love their cars and won’t be without them. 400 spaces is a lot—it would be hard to fit this many spaces in an above-ground structure on a site that also includes a large building. Maybe there is some way to do both or put some levels underground, some above, or do what they did at the court building and put a small surface lot on top of underground parking (anyone know how much parking is there?). But a basement parking structure doesn’t have to be horrible. More lighting, better ventilation, light tunnels, lighter colors. Something like this on a much smaller scale. You could make it better looking using tiles or bricks as facades inside. Heck, you could even have a fairy door. As far as who parks where, it is almost always the case that any monthly parking permits are restricted to the less desirable and harder to get to floors, while the easier access floors are for the shorter-term parking. Since the 4th and William lot is close by, there are other options.

    One thing that is important to remember too, is that although the current Library lot is called that, it isn’t specifically for the use of the Library now. I don’t think anyone knows just how many people park there who go to the Library at all. So the Library may be fine with 25 spots, or 30, or 10. We really don’t know. Seva, the Comedy Club, and Herb David are probably going to be more adversely affected by a loss of parking. The Library “staff” lot has 25 spots so it isn’t tiny. If staff don’t park there, I don’t know who does because it certainly is not public parking (big signs saying “Library Staff Parking Only” are pretty effective). Parking behind the building shouldn’t be a problem, since all the parking is behind the building now.


       —Juliew    Sep. 28 '06 - 04:01PM    #
  45. ” Ideally, the library would like a space with the qualities of Main Street.
    ‘Lively street action,’ Leary said.
    [...] She said it is important that libraries have public parking adjacent to the them.”

    Ah Main Street, with the lively street life and the adjacent public parking.

    I agree with Dave that having property with little to no space for parking does put the library in a bind. They have relied on the city lot next door for so long that they developed a sense of ownership or entitlement over it now. I’d be in a bit of a panic in that situation too. However, even though David points out that the Library is under no obligation to contribute constructive comments and alternative proposals, I think it would be to the libraries advantage to do so.


       —Scott TenBrink    Sep. 28 '06 - 04:26PM    #
  46. John Q,

    You are wrong. If people have a choice between underground parking and a surface lot behind the building, they are going to park behind the building. Just having that for customers would be a luxury compared to most locations downtown.


       —dennis    Sep. 28 '06 - 06:16PM    #
  47. The small parking lot in back of the downtown library is indeed for the staff. However, it contains too few spots for the staff. There is a complex rotation system, and nobody has a reserved spot.

    With regard to auto use by patrons, we were only able to have adequate parking for patrons at our new Pittsfield Branch by making a space-sharing agreement with the Ice Cube.

    Patron transportation to and from the downtown library should be more auto-intense than for many other downtown organizations because of the nature of our clientelle and the nature of their business at the library. We serve a lot of seniors and parents with small children. Plus, patrons are likely to withdraw good-sized stacks of materials. Combine these factors and you will see why autos are so heavily favored.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 28 '06 - 06:28PM    #
  48. “With regard to auto use by patrons, we were only able to have adequate parking for patrons at our new Pittsfield Branch by making a space-sharing agreement with the Ice Cube.

    “Patron transportation to and from the downtown library should be more auto-intense than for many other downtown organizations because of the nature of our clientelle and the nature of their business at the library.”

    David, my appreciation level for your civic service just dropped. The first paragraph above is irrelevant. The second is speculation. Please either make the effort to get the relevant data, allow someone else to do so (and withhold comment on it in the meantime), or just state that it doesn’t exist. (If you’re collecting anecdotal input, I visit the downtown library every couple weeks, walking or biking about 80% of those trips, and plan to drive less in the future. My 13-yr-old bikes or rides the bus once or twice per month. I drop off/pick up once or twice per month.)


       —Steve Bean    Sep. 28 '06 - 06:50PM    #
  49. Okay, here’s a thought. What’s the chance of me and my former 8-year-old and her 5-year-old sister loading up our armloads of books and walking nearly 2 miles to the library in January? About zero. I hate my car. I hate to drive it. But I have to. Please save the “when I used to go to school, I walked both ways, uphill, in the snow…” comments. Yeah, I get it, you’re better than me. So how about the rest of us poor slobs who barely deserve to live because we have to drive places?


       —Just a homeowner    Sep. 28 '06 - 06:59PM    #
  50. Jah, ignoring how off-base your defensive response is (assuming it was directed at me), and assuming that you are aware of AATA service and simply can’t or won’t use it, I’ll just say that you’re welcome to use the parking space that I don’t. Nice that we can both have what we want, isn’t it?

    Now back to our regularly scheduled, non-personal discussion of community matters…


       —Steve Bean    Sep. 28 '06 - 07:18PM    #
  51. There are 400 parking spaces in the new development! The parking is not going away, it will just be underground and underground parking can be very nice (again, anyone been to Toronto? Paris?) and in this location, especially safe with police officers coming and going.

    Nothing has been drawn yet and there is no reason the library cannot have their own entrance and elevator for all those folks with armloads of books.

    The library has a sweet deal, loads of surface parking right next door maintained by the city. The city is saying we will still provide the parking we just need the surface space for another vital community need. The library board should get over it.


       —Dustin    Sep. 28 '06 - 07:33PM    #
  52. Steve, why don’t you do a survey of downtown library users’ transportation modes as part of your work on the Environmental Commission?

    Like it or not, IMTCBNWWTC (In Michigan There Can Be Nothing Wrong With The Car).


       —David Cahill    Sep. 28 '06 - 07:40PM    #
  53. As in post 51, the task force did not mention taking the parking away, only building it underground.

    It would be foolish of this community to continue to take up valuable downtown real estate with surface parking or structures. Building a new surface parking structure takes that land out of productive use for 50 years. Underground parking is the only logical way to go.

    Saying everything must continue to revolve around the automobile only leads us to create a future that looks much like the past and present. Why not plan for a future that takes into account that there will not be cheap fuel or as much room to park cars and there will be rail service. Why doom ourselves to repeating the past?


       —Dustin    Sep. 28 '06 - 07:53PM    #
  54. Michigan, meet Peak Oil and Climate Change. They’re together.

    The library’s not in our purview, David.


       —Steve Bean    Sep. 28 '06 - 08:00PM    #
  55. David – what’s the argument for staff having any parking spaces reserved in the rear surface parking lot at the downtown library branch?

    It seems to me that prime spaces aren’t in their highest use if they’re used for holding one car all day, as opposed to being used for multiple visitors to the library.

    For the same reason, I wonder why the City would allow staff, including police and firefighters, to have parking spaces in anything but the least useable parking structure downtown if they put their office space on the library lot.

    Does anyone know what incentives the City uses to try to get its own employees to not use cars to commute to work?


       —ak    Sep. 28 '06 - 09:03PM    #
  56. I think we need to accomodate all modes of transit to and from everywhere. In the case of the Library, it can be reached by AATA (just across the street), walking, biking or by car. (Or by skateboard if you are young and agile.) Even with the new condos taking up spaces these days, the lot next to the library is rarely full. If it is, the huge structure a block away serves for additional parking, and I have noticed that it empties out at about 5 or so.

    As for underground parking, it exists all over the world and people seem to be able to use it easily – and if this plan is developed, there will be COPS in the structure, for heaven’s sake! How about painting it in a bright color and having good lighting? That can be done easily.

    Library employees are eligible for the GoPass which means they can park for free at Main and Stadium and get a free bus ride to work.

    All options should be taken care of, and with this plan they are.


       —just me    Sep. 28 '06 - 09:06PM    #
  57. Personally, I prefer a nearby parking structure space, at least if I can be on one of the first 3 or 4 levels (up or down) over a more distant surface parking lot space. This is especially true when the weather is bad.

    Has anyone seen any research on generational differences in views of various parking alternatives. I’ve heard people suggest that younger people aren’t as fixed on flat lot parking compared to older ones, but I don’t know if this is true or just what some of us thing based on the views of the people we hang with.


       —ak    Sep. 28 '06 - 09:09PM    #
  58. ak – re, “fixation on surface parking”, I recall somebody at Ann Arbor’s DDA tell me that a lot of monthly permit holders will specifically request permits in a structure – and will pass up surface lot permits to wait for structure permits. They don’t want to deal with snow, ice, or bird poop landing on their cars, or with being rained on while getting out their keys or loading up the trunk. I expect an underground lot would offer the additional pragmatic benefit of staying above freezing during the winter, depending on how maniacally the ventilation system was run. How convenient your parking space is includes more than just its altitude, and many people behave accordingly.

    As for the City’s incentives for not driving, I don’t know if there are any. (City employees, please correct me.) The unionized employees, I believe, all have free parking permits written into their contracts, and the non-union employees have to pay up to half the cost of a downtown permit. They all have go!passes, of course.

    (Here in Ypsi, I’m annoying my co-workers by suggesting that City employees shouldn’t get free parking, but should have to pay the same amount as downtown business owners and employees pay for permits.)


       —Murph.    Sep. 28 '06 - 10:54PM    #
  59. The preference for structure parking makes quite a bit of sense to me Murph. I’m curious if others have different reasons for preferring parking in a structure to a flat lot.

    After the endless statements about how we need more parking downtown that come from City officials, I’m disappointed to hear that it’s standard operating procedure to hand out free parking permits, or even subsidize permits at all. Is this simply hypocritical, as it seems? Or are there other explanations that justify this practice?

    It seems to me that part of leadership is modeling the behavior you claim to be for. Does Ann Arbor’s City Manager, who chooses to live outside of Ann Arbor for some reason, ever take a bus? How about the City Councilmembers?


       —AK    Sep. 29 '06 - 12:15AM    #
  60. I believe city employees pay to park at the Ann & Ashley Structure, they also use the Go Pass. Only a few top administrators have parking spaces at city hall. Decades ago it was written into the contract of the Fire Fighters that they could park under the downtown station, the other stations all have surface parking. The police contract also had parking written into it years ago. The reasoning may have been that they are sometimes called in for emergency duty so needed to have spaces set asside for them. There are 180? police officers so it seems like only 40 – 50 or so would be on duty at any one time.

    Council member Carlberg is a big bus rider when she is not in her Prius and the mayor rides a bike a lot. Don’t know about the rest of council but then they don’t go into the office every day. The city won the Bike to Work Challenge this year because a lot of people bike.


       —Erica    Sep. 29 '06 - 01:00AM    #
  61. When you think about it, many of the city employees do not park downtown. They are at the two garages, the water and waste water treatment plants, the MURF facility, the fire stations, etc. The city has something like 5 unions? I think it is only the police and fire unions that have parking in their contracts and only a few of the police would be taking up structure spaces someone else might use as the firefighters park under the fire station.


       —Erica    Sep. 29 '06 - 02:53AM    #
  62. Not to nitpick but there’s no way there are 25 spaces in the library staff lot. As to the comment that people would choose to park in that lot – I’m sure they would. But I don’t think the library wants non-employees wandering and walking through their service areas. Also, I still don’t think that putting the police and all of the related traffic from cars, especially those responding to calls, makes sense in that location.


       —John Q.    Sep. 29 '06 - 03:20AM    #
  63. AK,
    Location and availablity of parking probably have a large impact on the surface vs structure choice.
    Opposing Murph’s #58, I don’t think permits are available for any surface lots. The DDA info says so, too. If you want a permit, you have to park in a structure.
    Depending on your destination, a specific structure or surface lot is likely to have the advantage of proximity. Proximity to destination probably over-rides other preferences.
    There are certainly other factors that play into the decision of where to park. These are just two important ones that haven’t been mentioned yet.

    JAH, I appreciate your difficulties in managing family mobility. Switching to car-free trips is not always as simple as “just leave the car at home”, especially when kids are involved. There are, however, solutions and we try to point them out in an Ann Arbor specific context over at carfree ann arbor. Check it out. I’d be happy to post your questions and concerns there to see if others have suggestions.
    Contrary to Cahill’s opinion, we believe YCLCFIAAETIIM (you can live carfree in ann arbor even though it’s in Michigan).


       —Scott TenBrink    Sep. 29 '06 - 03:50AM    #
  64. Murph—do DDA employees have parking permits? Or are they ‘walking the talk’?

    Erica—what about the senior people like Roger Frasor and the ones that report to him? Car or alternative modes?


       —AK    Sep. 29 '06 - 04:24AM    #
  65. John Q – I think the library parking spaces probably do amount to something approaching 25. Perhaps some would be required for Library trucks doing deliveries. If spaces were limited to something like 45 minutes on a meter, with the first 15 free if that’s possible, this would allow for a lot of quick stop and drops and medium length visits. That seems like an efficient use of the space.

    I don’t see any need to allow patrons to walk through the back of the library. It’s not much of a hike around to the front. Those who strongly prefer surface parking might be quite willing to do this. It’s about the same distance as the average open parking space in the existing lot.


       —AK    Sep. 29 '06 - 04:29AM    #
  66. One other issue that was touched on earlier – does it make sense to locate City Hall or the Police station on prime downtown real estate? I realize that the lot isn’t currently paying taxes and if it was a private parking lot, it wouldn’t be paying much more. But isn’t the city giving up potential tax revenue by keeping this property off the tax rolls? I’m sure it would be more valuable to real estate interests than the current city hall site.

    Guess I’ll have to check out the library staff area again. It sure didn’t look that generous the last time I went by it.


       —John Q.    Sep. 29 '06 - 05:04AM    #
  67. I don’t know anything about Roger Fraser’s commuting habits. The DDA only has 3 or 4 employees.


       —Erica    Sep. 29 '06 - 11:56AM    #
  68. AK – when I was at the DDA, I didn’t have a parking permit, but I was just an intern. I assume the other DDA employees have permits, though I will note that Susan Pollay is a total walking machine – nobody can keep up with her, and she’s certainly not one to drive from place to place in town.


       —Murph.    Sep. 29 '06 - 12:06PM    #
  69. And, since Roger Fraser lives out in Scio Twp, in an area unserved by transit, I’m assuming he drives.


       —Murph.    Sep. 29 '06 - 12:08PM    #
  70. Where is Jennifer Hall, a freshly-minted DDA board member, when we really need her? 8-)

    Hey, Jennifer, what is the status of DDA support (if any) for the task force report?

    Is the DDA prepared to make a $5,000,000 “cash contribution” to the police/court building which would sit on top of the underground parking structure?

    Is there any cost estimate for the 400-space underground parking structure? Can this be built with the DDA’s existing fiscal constraints?


       —David Cahill    Sep. 29 '06 - 12:44PM    #
  71. This is a very convenient city lot for people to visit the library or to do business along Liberty street. I agree with Library Board Chairwoman Margaret Leary in that such a move would isolate the Main Library. And I feel it would condemn it. Many residents use that lot to go to library events along with just going in to pick up materials. And when the Federal Building lot across the street is full (as it often is), that lot is critical to doing business there. And I’m sure patrons of the nearby Afternoon Delight and Seva restaurants would also be heart broken. This city parking lot is absolutely needed and a pox on the city official who tries to take it away.


       —A2 Guy    Sep. 29 '06 - 01:28PM    #
  72. Ahem. The library is ACROSS THE STREET from the city’s central transit hub. Libraries, by their nature, are especially useful for those with less income, the elderly, or handicapped folks… all groups with less auto access. There are numerous suburban library branches for those so inclined to drive their SUVs to a surface lot out front. There is an enormous parking structure one block west of the libary. There is a curbside 15-minute parking area for quickly dropping-off books. The library is located in the “dense” urban, pedestrian-oriented core of the metropolitan region.

    There is abosultely no reason that there should be a surface parking lot next to it.


       —Brandon    Sep. 29 '06 - 02:01PM    #
  73. With regard to auto use by patrons, we were only able to have adequate parking for patrons at our new Pittsfield Branch by making a space-sharing agreement with the Ice Cube.

    And I have never seen the Pittsfield branch parking lot full, or even half full. It seems to me that the parking standards – and the so-called “need” for parking – must be very out of whack from reality.

    I don’t see why people can’t park at the 4th and Washington structure and walk a block. They do it all the time to get to restaurants on Main Street! even with small children and bags of materials. Of all places, an urban library should have the least need for their own private parking lot. Frankly the Library needs to conduct a survey of their downtown patrons and find out who is driving, why, and where they would park if the library lot were unavailable.

    All that said, in my opinion the library lot is a terrible place for city hall. It is smaller, I think, than the lot it is on now. But the real reason is because the library lot is the single best opportunity for a downtown park. None of this westside park crap. I mean a REAL park DOWNTOWN. Even if you installed a street running along the library for patrons to park for 15 minutes and drop off materials, there is a lot of land left. There could be an outdoor auditorium, a plaza which would make a better place to protest than the dinky Federal Plaza. It would link the small park at Liberty and Division to the library. And a park here would provide great synergy with the library – think of all the activities that could be done outside! concerts, kids activities, small group readings in summer, etc. That would be a much better use than a desolate parking lot.


       —KGS    Sep. 29 '06 - 02:17PM    #
  74. While I am certainly not one to advocate for parking~ I would suggest that the needs of the Library, one of the major anchors downtown, should be taken into account. Not to say that we neccessarily need a huge surface parking lot there, but if we’re going to discourage library patrons from visiting one branch, I personally would prefer not to have it be the downtown branch.

    However, I am personally less concerned with the impact of removing parking than I am with putting another huge government complex on that block. It will, unless planned incredibly well, further deaden that block. Kirk Westphal, a recent graduate of UM’s MUP program, produced a brief documentary on downtown A2 called “Insights into A Lively Downtown” which reinforced the need for activity (outdoor cafes, people, interesting window displays) to enliven a downtown. This project is simply not what that block needs.


       —Erica Briggs    Sep. 29 '06 - 02:35PM    #
  75. The “dead zone” issue is significant, Erica.

    Do you when (or whether) the Chamber will be taking a position on the proposed project?


       —David Cahill    Sep. 29 '06 - 03:32PM    #
  76. How about a mixed-use building on the site with groundfloor storefront retail/dining and civic uses upstairs?


       —Brandon    Sep. 29 '06 - 03:56PM    #
  77. Wow. I amazed at the anti-parking lot sentiments. As a far west-sider, I always drive into downtown. The bus is not convenient and is not a valid replacement for my drive into town. The library lot is nearly always full. Why? Because people use it! (And no, I don’t drive an SUV but a gas-sipping Ford Focus). Downtown parking in Ann Arbor is a problem. Let’s not make it worse.


       —A2 Guy    Sep. 29 '06 - 04:01PM    #
  78. “I amazed at the anti-parking lot sentiments.”

    Excepting one poster’s underground parking phobia, these aren’t anti-parking lot sentiments: they are anti- surface parking lot sentiments. Big difference.


       —todd    Sep. 29 '06 - 04:27PM    #
  79. As a far west-sider, I always drive into downtown. The bus is not convenient and is not a valid replacement for my drive into town.

    A2Guy, I’m betting you just haven’t looked. I live on the far west side too and take the bus daily to go to work. There are a lot of bus routes out that way. And todd is right; the issue is less the problem of general parking than it is that surface parking is a colossal waste of a limited resource, i.e. land.


       —KGS    Sep. 29 '06 - 05:37PM    #
  80. A2 Guy, you should know that a lot of contributors here have personal and/or professional interests in new construction. There is nothing wrong with this. My personal interest is in maintaining the downtown pretty much the way it is. Who can say who is right? That’s what the discussion, and the political process, is about.

    Since new construction in downtown AA is made much easier if the developer does not have to provide parking, you will see a lot of arguments here against providing parking, and even against driving!

    Strange, but true. 8-)


       —David Cahill    Sep. 29 '06 - 06:24PM    #
  81. David, the discussion is not about “who is right”. It’s about sharing all available information and hearing a wide variety of opinions. Things only seem “strange” when you practice willful ignorance.

    Furthermore, I have no economic interest in reducing downtown parking. My wife owns a downtown business that relies on people who drive to and park in the area. Yet I’m aware of current realities that indicate that our collective long-term interests will be served by reduced driving. A vision favoring the status quo—in downtown Ann Arbor or just about anywhere else in the US—is a vision favoring widespread suffering.


       —Steve Bean    Sep. 29 '06 - 06:48PM    #
  82. A2 Guy, you should know that a lot of contributors here have personal and/or professional interests in new construction.

    And you brought this up why? it is irrelevent and untrue. But then that’s trademark David Cahill, to cast aspersions on people just to sidetrack the discussion.

    I have a professional interest in making downtown Ann Arbor the best designed, most lively, most livable, and most sustainable place I can, and I devote a lot of time to that effort. I have a personal interest in making any place I live in better than when I arrived. How is this different from anyone on this board?!

    So let’s hear it David. Where are the studies that prove downtown library users require the surface parking lot next door? how many drivers use that lot instead of going to a branch library? when do they use the lot? prove your case instead of spreading innuendo for once.


       —KGS    Sep. 29 '06 - 08:05PM    #
  83. Sorry I didn’t jump into this discussion sooner … sometimes I take a few days away from reading and one thread explodes!

    To answer Dave’s questions:
    I don’t believe the DDA has taken a position on the task force report yet, but I know we’ve talked about it a lot. I haven’t seen an agenda for next week’s board meeting yet, so maybe it’s planned to be discussed formally at that meeting?? It was my understanding that the $5M contribution would go towards the parking structure, not the building itself. I think the 2 recommendations were not meant to be read independently, but rather one referred to funding, the other to what DDA would do. I agree, it’s not very clear.

    From all the discussions that I’ve participated in so far, Dave’s estimate in #39 is pretty close to other estimates. If the structure were to be bigger (if it could be expanded to the William Street Station site or under the library itself, the cost/space would go down). The DDA board hasn’t taken a position on the recommendation or funding … so I don’t know what the thoughts are about financing. It certainly is a lot of money … but it could be bonded for (assuming there is a 15% downpayment).

    As for my personal thoughts … I can sympathize with the arguments for more vitality on the site. But, in my opinion, a surface parking lot isn’t very vital. I don’t see why all the people coming to park in an underground parking structure and all the people going into/out of the police station/courts (staff, lawyers, people paying tickets, etc) wouldn’t add to the vitality of the sidewalk at that location. A surface parking lot does not make the walk to the library down 5th Street very inviting. Nor is it safe or inviting to bike to the library. I don’t really think the police/court facility is my ideal thing to do with the lot … but unless city council is going to put up an RFP for some “ideal” development asap … I’ll take the proposal over nothing.

    I think the very worst thing that can happen with this situation is Council rejects the task force’s recommendation, deals with the court/police issue somewhere else (like on the Larcom site) and does NOTHING with the library lot. It needs to be something better than a surface parking lot.


       —Jennifer Hall    Sep. 29 '06 - 08:24PM    #
  84. Not to nitpick but there’s no way there are 25 spaces in the library staff lot.
    Also, I still don’t think that putting the police and all of the related traffic from cars, especially those responding to calls, makes sense in that location.

    John Q, when I said there were 25 spaces, I wasn’t just pulling a number out of thin air. I walked by the lot and counted the spaces, which are also handily numbered 1 through 25 for the counting challenged. Geez. As for putting the police and related traffic in this location? Well, it is currently a short-term parking lot. The only current use is incoming and outgoing traffic. The number of trips will certainly increase because the number of parking spots will be doubled, but that will be most apparent during shift changes because more than half of the spots will be people who are there all day. The police will most likely have their own entrance and exit or at least their own spaces in the parking area and it isn’t like the fire station where all the vehicles are in one place until they go out. Almost all police vehicles are out during their shifts and stored when not in use. The police assigned to vehicles don’t sit around at the police station until a 911 call comes in and then leap in their cars and drive away at high speed. They are out patrolling for most of the shifts.

    Opposing Murph’s #58, I don’t think permits are available for any surface lots.
    I think First and William is a monthly permit lot.

    I love all the ideas for a public park, or ground-floor retail, or amenities other than a civic facility. But my question is: who will build those, who will pay for those, who will lease space there, and of course, where should the city facility go? Vacancy rates are high downtown already. Since new construction is expensive (especially if it has to have something like underground parking), any retail is most likely to be chain stores and there won’t be parking at all. You can argue that the addition of more retail will saturate the market and cause existing retail to decrease in rent, but I have actually seen the opposite. A new development comes in (say McKinley) and advertises that they are getting $35/square foot, a chain/franchise moves in because they are the only ones who can afford it. The existing retail around doesn’t suddenly drop in value, it increases. So now all the people who were paying $15 or $20/square foot get a notice that rent is going to $35/square foot. It is happening currently in the Liberty, State, Maynard area and some long-time businesses are getting pushed out. Thanos was the first, but it is unlikely to be the last. If the city has a problem with the three City sites proposed for the Greenway being used as parks, I really don’t see this land ever being a park as it is extremely buildable and valuable.

    you should know that a lot of contributors here have personal and/or professional interests in new construction.
    Funny, I’m just an IT support person who works in a Library, but I hate surface parking lots. Just a waste. Either build a structure and get more parking or put up a useful building. Which is why I like this proposal: it doubles the existing parking spaces and adds a building.


       —Juliew    Sep. 29 '06 - 08:42PM    #
  85. Excellent points, JulieW!


       —just me    Sep. 29 '06 - 09:39PM    #
  86. A fine insight about new development actually causing an increase in rents, Juliew! So the supply alone doesn’t dominate the rent structure. Hmmm.

    This kind of thinking is what I will continue to expect from the unannounced candidate for the Fourth Ward Council seat next year.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 29 '06 - 11:57PM    #
  87. Jennifer, I agree that the financial stuff in the report is a bit sketchy. I assume that there is a bunch of financial information which the task force had which supports what is in the report.

    How can we get it?


       —David Cahill    Sep. 30 '06 - 01:56AM    #
  88. “I’ve heard people suggest that younger people aren’t as fixed on flat lot parking compared to older ones, but I don’t know if this is true or just what some of us thing based on the views of the people we hang with.”

    Exactly—there are persons of a certain generation who still drive, and who will never, ever be interested in walking or taking the bus downtown. Period. They are also not very interested in underground parking. Period. You can decide that their voice isn’t important, I guess, but they’re still going to be out there. I am also thinking of patrons of the book sale, who are also less likely to carry their bags of purchases off by foot, or by bus for that matter (even if it makes sense for them to). This is assuming, of course, that the book sale remains downtown, which I guess it doesn’t have to. However, if it went elsewhere, could that branch handle the extra parking that would be needed for a number of weekends out of the year? Just wondering.

    (For that matter, why couldn’t the police station go underground, and the parking go above ground? From an odd perspective it makes a certain amount of sense…)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Sep. 30 '06 - 02:54AM    #
  89. YUA, I like the idea of a “reverse project”. Neither the police station nor the courts need windows. From a security point of view (so to speak) windows are a liability. And when you are in court, you will not be looking out.

    Plus, putting the parking above ground would save about $10,000,000. And people do indeed prefer above-ground parking structures to underground ones.

    Mind you, I think this whole project is unnecessary and dumb, but doing it this way has substantial advantages.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 30 '06 - 12:14PM    #
  90. Just one more quick thought before breakfast: Above-ground parking structures can be really cute. Consider the Fourth and Washington structure, my favorite. (I suppose it’s too much to hope for a Richardsonian Romanesque structure.)

    If such a parking structure were built, and the grim police/court facility were hidden underground, we would not be adding blight to this already troubled block.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 30 '06 - 12:35PM    #
  91. Why on earth does Cahill call this a “troubled block”?? The William St. station, with 190 residential units plus office and retail will be built across the street, and there is a new condo development across the lot from the library. In addition the main library’s circulation increased 41 percent in the last year. What is “dead” about that? And his suggestion that somehow the people who work in the police station and courts (which includes citizen jurors) are not worthy of windows is disgusting.


       —a voice    Sep. 30 '06 - 01:49PM    #
  92. Right now Fifth Avenue across from the Library consists of the Federal courthouse, the AATA station, and the abandoned Y. None of these in any way contribute to a good urban landscape.

    The Downtown Library itself is obsolescent at best. It was designed by Alden Dow, who also gave us the troubled City Hall.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 30 '06 - 01:59PM    #
  93. Posting this from the “obsolescent at best” downtown library, having arrived here by way of the AATA station (which doesn’t “in any way contribute to a good urban landscape”??), I beg to differ.

    Besides the books, videos, CD’s, newspapers, magazines, it also has: power, network, and nice tables to sit at; places to talk to people, as well as quiet space upstairs if you want to work; and water fountains, vending machines, and bathrooms, if you’re planning to hang out a while.
    And it’s right across the street from the bus station, has plenty of bicycle parking, and is within walking distance of restaurants, cafes, bookstores, a small grocery or two, parks, and most of the university.

    It’s also the most welcoming public place in Ann Arbor; unlike the university, it doesn’t shut its doors or start checking ID’s when there’s a public event downtown that might, horrors, induce people to use their bathrooms.

    So regardless of what your distaste for the person who designed it, the downtown public library is my favorite place in Ann Arbor.


       —Bruce Fields    Sep. 30 '06 - 04:34PM    #
  94. I’m glad you like it, Bruce!

    But others say that when they compare our new Malletts Creek and Pittsfield branches with the downtown library, they don’t think it’s attractive.

    Plus, its structure has immovable walls and pillars, which impair flexibility. We’re doing the best we can with a building which was built in the mid-fifties and added to twice since then.

    And don’t get me started on the internal gutters…8-)


       —David Cahill    Sep. 30 '06 - 05:44PM    #
  95. Dave – I don’t remember seeing detailed financials with the report and I don’t have my copy handy right now. Didn’t the Library Board get a copy of the report before you discussed it? If not, I would think you could get a copy from Roger Fraser’s office.

    Although I hate walking by the surface parking lot on my way to the library, I actually find the block pretty lively, especially the intersection of Fifth and Liberty. There are protests, hot dog and ice cream vendors, lots of people using the post office and bus station, lots of people going to the library. I rarely find myself alone when crossing the intersection. I don’t really see how a police/courts/parking lot would decrease this amount of activity.

    others say that when they compare our new Malletts Creek and Pittsfield branches with the downtown library, they don’t think it’s attractive I would hope that people don’t choose which library branch to use by what it looks like from the outside!


       —Jennifer Hall    Sep. 30 '06 - 06:30PM    #
  96. Jennifer Hall is correct – that block buzzes with people and will have even more activity when the William St. Station is built.

    As to the design of the library – that remark is totally irrelevant to this discussion. Even though it’s ugly, plenty of us use it and love it!


       —just me    Sep. 30 '06 - 06:38PM    #
  97. I was talking about the interior design’s problems, not the exterior design.

    Jennifer, all the Library Board got was the report (including appendices), which is posted in the original article, above. There wasn’t any documentation besides that. I was hoping to find a bunch of subsidiary documentation, showing how the $25,000,000 cost of the building was arrived at, plus anything on the cost of the underground parking.

    What about YUA’s idea of a “reverse project” with the parking structure on top?


       —David Cahill    Sep. 30 '06 - 08:01PM    #
  98. With all due respect to Young Urban Amateur, whom I find quite a pleasant and intelligent person, I think that the idea of putting humans underground in order to privilege parked cars with sunshine and fresh air is dumb, dumb, dumb. Priorities?

    (Besides, isn’t there a certain unfortunate symbolism with pushing the cops and courts underground? No, thanks – I’d prefer law enforcement happen in the light of day, where we can keep an eye on it.)


       —Murph.    Sep. 30 '06 - 08:53PM    #
  99. Totally agree, Murph!

    I only remember a short report with appendices … so we’re probably talking about the same report, Dave. I don’t remember any detailed financial analysis on the cost of the underground parking structure … just the same conventional thoughts about cost that you mentioned earlier in this thread … about $40k/space.


       —Jennifer Hall    Sep. 30 '06 - 09:34PM    #
  100. As much as it pains me, I have to agree with David that the interior of the library leaves much to be desired from either an aesthetic perspective or one of functionality. The Children’s room always feels clausterphobic, the splits in the upper floors between different areas seems designed to maximize visitor confusion and it’s clear that the structure doesn’t lend itself to any easy fixes. Does that mean there are plans in the works to build a new downtown library?


       —John Q .    Oct. 2 '06 - 02:54AM    #
  101. Just a reminder: the plan presented to council was only a concept and the existing parking does not go away as some here seem to imply, it just goes underground. And, there is a park, maybe even a summer plaza (how about a fountain) and a winter ice rink, right outside the library. Very kid friendly. Instead of taking the little ones to Liberty Plaza for readings just venture out the door to the nice new park.


       —Erica    Oct. 2 '06 - 03:45AM    #
  102. Well, Chris Easthope told the AA News that there might be a vote on the task force recommendations in a month or so. It seems that Council is ready to go.

    As for kid-friendliness, be sure to take the children to see the fun lawyers, judges, police, crime victims, and prisoners next door. 8-)


       —David Cahill    Oct. 2 '06 - 12:36PM    #
  103. I agree with Murph, office space underground with parking above is a bad way to do things. If you need proof, look at Tally Hall. This is exactly the configuration there and they can’t rent the underground part for either retail or office. It is just a bad way to treat people.


       —Juliew    Oct. 2 '06 - 02:08PM    #
  104. It would be easy to construct a court house and police station in a manner that provides entrances from different directions as well as separate elevators from the underground parking so that no library patrons (or board members)need be worried about seeing anyone involved in the criminal justice system or for that manner anyone serving to protect our society.


       —Dustin    Oct. 2 '06 - 02:15PM    #
  105. It would be easy to construct a court house and police station in a manner that provides entrances from different directions as well as separate elevators from the underground parking so that no library patrons (or board members)need be worried about seeing anyone involved in the criminal justice system or for that manner anyone serving to protect our society.


       —Dustin    Oct. 2 '06 - 02:15PM    #
  106. It would be easy to construct a court house and police station in a manner that provides entrances from different directions as well as separate elevators from the underground parking so that no library patrons (or board members) need be worried about seeing anyone involved in the criminal justice system or for that manner anyone serving to protect our society.


       —Dustin    Oct. 2 '06 - 02:16PM    #
  107. Sorry about that, not sure how it happened…


       —Dustin    Oct. 2 '06 - 02:18PM    #
  108. I had forgotten about Tally Hall. At least it is physically possible to build several floors of parking above office/whatnot uses.

    But remember that we are not talking about putting retail or housing underground. We are talking about putting government offices/facilities underground. People who would work there would not be there because market forces had made that location an attractive place to do business. If you work for the police/courts, then that’s where you would be.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 2 '06 - 04:25PM    #
  109. I think it’s a silly idea to put people below grade and parking above. Tally Hall was a total failure – it is now empty and has been for some time.

    As to the people who are in the court house and police station, David’s sarcasm is his usual unthinking way of addressing any issue. From what I have read in this thread, he sets himself in stone and disregards anyone else’s ideas altogether. The rest of the folks seem to have interesting and thoughtful comments.


       —just me    Oct. 2 '06 - 04:34PM    #
  110. Jennifer Hall and I had a phone conversation about this proposal yesterday afternoon. Neither of us could figure out the funding in Appendix F. Particularly opaque is “Borrowings – Affordable Debt from Discontinued Leases” of $11,410,000.

    She and I had both heard that the task force report does not do justice to the work of the task force. I had heard that a lot of financial information was circulated.

    In order to clarify things, I just made a FOIA request of the City for all the materials that were handed out during the meetings of the task force, including the meetings of all of its sub-committees.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 3 '06 - 02:42PM    #
  111. The “Library Lot” is too valuable a piece of downtown real estate to be a surface parking lot. It would make an ideal site for a new downtown library, with all of the needed improvements and added space that a next generation library design would have.

    That would leave the corner where the library is now a fine spot for a police station.

    See my letter to the editor of the Ann Arbor News on this topic.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Oct. 9 '06 - 02:21AM    #
  112. Cool idea Ed! Although the Library lot is much smaller than the parking lot so to fit the courts, City Hall, and the police would be almost impossible in that space. There should be some way to work it though so the Library could take the part of the “Library Lot” that is closest to Liberty (and still have a lot more useful space) and leave the current Library space and the stretch of the parking lot that goes from Fifth to Division for the City building. Then the City could give the Library rights to take over Liberty Plaza for any use they deem appropriate since it would be almost connected (I’m sure the Library could make it more functional than it is now, whether it remains open or enclosed, maybe even tie in to the Kempf house somehow). Parking could remain underground that whole area. If the Credit Union is willing to sell, that would add more options.


       —Juliew    Oct. 9 '06 - 02:36PM    #
  113. The idea of a land swap is intriguing. According to the task force report, the Library Lot contains 65,000 square feet. Does anybody know the square footage of the land on which the Downtown Library sits? Sorry, I don’t have that figure easily available.

    Tom Crawford, the City’s CFO, just called me in response to my FOIA request.

    I said I was not sure how the financing would work as set forth in Appendix F. I asked how the Task Force came up with the figure of $25,000,000 for the cost of the new police/court facility. He said that they worked backwards from what the City could afford, and it wound up to be $25,000,000. Fred Beals said that $25,000,000 would buy a building of about 80,000-100,000 sf. So there is no documentation about how the building would be constructed.

    I then asked Crawford what “borrowings – affordable debt from discontinued leases” meant. He said that the City presently pays $830,000 per year for 5 leases of space around the area, which City staff use. This money comes from the operations budget. The staff would move back into City Hall, and so the City would no longer pay for the leases.

    Crawford said the task force was told to only propose something the City could afford. So the idea is that the $830,000 would be converted into the payment on a new bond issue, assuming 5.25% interest, for 25 years.

    He said he would send me the minutes of the Task Force, in electronic form. He said I would find them quite enlightening.

    When they arrive, I’ll send them to Juliew to be posted here.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 9 '06 - 07:32PM    #
  114. I thought I would rejuvenate this article because of two things that happened last Monday.

    At our regular meeting, the Library Board gave unanimous informal approval to the idea of issuing an RFP for a “needs assessment” of the downtown library. One of the options will be to move that library out of the downtown area.

    Also on Monday, an anonymous leaflet was being distributed that urges people to come to a City Council public hearing on Monday, November 27 at 7:00 p.m. I have no idea who is behind this leaflet. It was being circulated in the Old Fourth Ward area; I got it via e-mail. Here it is:

    Neighbors,

    VOICE YOUR OPINION...

    ON THE FUTURE OF OUR CITY!

    On Monday, November 27th at 7 p.m, the City will hold a public hearing on the Task Force proposal to move the Police, 15th District Court and eventually the City Hall to the parking lot next to the Ann Arbor District Library at Fifth and William.

    This decision has immediate and long term financial and quality-of-life implications for the community. While there is a responsibility to provide space for the courts and a dire need to provide improved quarters for the police, moving the police an court operations effectively commits the city to construct a new hi-rise city hall next to the library in the future.

    The Library Board voted unanimously to oppose locating police and courts at the lot next door saying it would create a “dead zone”.

    Is this in the best interests of the community or a few developers?

    This is the only public forum scheduled on this important issue. The hearing will be held in the Council Chambers at the Larcom Building, 100 N. Fifth Avenue.

    Please consider attending to show your interest. If you can’t attend but would like to express an opinion, please contact your councilperson.

    End of leaflet. The thing is bereft of any identifying info.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 24 '06 - 08:05PM    #
  115. I got something similar from the OWS News email alert, which is lamentably only employed to alert members of projects that OWS leadership wants to oppose and the annual meeting.

    It was sent with the attribution, “Forwarded from a neighbor:”

    Gee, why don’t I trust the Old West Side Association, again…?


       —Dale    Nov. 24 '06 - 11:28PM    #
  116. I got mine from a Library Board member who lives on the OWS, so I expect she is the source of the e-mail alert. Did anyone notice that e-mail is viral? 8-)


       —David Cahill    Nov. 25 '06 - 12:34AM    #
  117. That leaflet is also bereft of any sense. I can’t believe they’re spouting off again about high rises. This crowd kills me. How does the library board know that the possible city building would be a dead zone without seeing any plans for that area? It sounds like fear mongering to me—not a responsible way to proceed with public debate, frankly.

    It’s unfortunate that the library board is apparently using fear tactics. I cannot believe they would threaten to turn their backs on the poor, those without cars, etc., in order to make a point over parking. PARKING! Why would they NOT want to replace the current “dead zone” with a multi-use city building that could provide green space and other public amenties including parking?

    I’m relatively new to Ann Arbor, but my impression was the new addition to the library isn’t that old. Did the board not thoroughly study the issue of the addition? How on earth can the board be justifying leaving downtown so soon after the addition? It sounds like perhaps the library and the people of Ann Arbor might not have been well served by the board. If there are current board members who were involved in the addition decision, I’d sure like to know why they find the current library so lacking.

    And I love that “developers” continue to be the bogeymen of choice. Unreal. No wonder people get fed up with politics in this town. . .


       —Young OWSider    Nov. 26 '06 - 05:58AM    #
  118. I completely agree with Young OWSider. Whatever the outcome of some real thought and planning about how to use that lot, I find the idea of moving the city’s central library out of the center reprehensible, esp. as it’s by far the best branch for busriders and downtown residents and workers to use and it’s a vital resource for UM students as well, who often find it a major supplement to the UM libraries for certain kinds of material—both for classes and for fun.


       —Aki    Nov. 26 '06 - 03:08PM    #
  119. Ahem. As I thought I made clear, the Library Board is not behind the leaflet. Maybe the authors will reveal themselves at the public hearing.

    The last addition to the Downtown Library was in 1991, when the library system was still part of the school system. The Library became independent in 1995; the first Board was elected in 1996. So none of the current Board members was responsible for the 1991 addition.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that it was a serious mistake for the school system to expand the downtown library without a single free public parking space. We continue to pay the price for that decision.

    Our present library patrons are to a great extent dependent on the Library Lot for easy access. They are the ones being held hostage by the various interest groups who have their own designs on the lot. The Library Board has to seriously consider its options if that surface lot disappears. We haven’t decided to move, but that option is on the table.

    I hope everybody who is interested in this matter comes to the public hearing on Monday!


       —David Cahill    Nov. 26 '06 - 05:19PM    #
  120. Thanks for clearing the history of the Library Board up, David. It was clear that the library board wasn’t officially responsible for the leaflet. I’m just shocked that the board is using fear tactics about “dead space” and is threatening to move the facility, as you said in your post.

    I’m just getting sick and tired of the same argument being used by all the folks who want to keep downtown preserved in amber. Developers are evil and kill puppies. Anything over 4 stories is a horrendous mistake that will kill kittens. Doves cry when surface lots disappear.

    In what ways does the library pay for no free parking at the main library downtown? Is circulation down that much at the main library? If it is, could that be due to many factors including newer branch libraries?

    I still don’t know how the board can get all huffy about “dead space” when they have a giant honest-to-goodness dead space right next to them. If the library is putting together plans, could those plans include free underground parking in the possible new public facility? Why or why not? Why must the interested parties be playing this “you’re with us or against us” game? It’s not terribly useful.


       —Young OWSider    Nov. 26 '06 - 06:53PM    #
  121. Actually, in the 2005 Annual Report I received from the Library, circulation at the Main Library was up by 39%. Can’t argue with the facts. And, no, this does NOT include usage over the Net.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 26 '06 - 07:18PM    #
  122. In other words, David, get the idea of moving out of downtown OFF the table, asap. Please.

    Free parking for library patrons is not a priority for me, tho reasonable parking for library staff is an important issue. Yes, I know that separates me from some who’d say no parking is fine, but I don’t think downtown workers should necessarily be the first ones to absorb our desire that everyone rides the bus.


       —Aki    Nov. 26 '06 - 08:00PM    #
  123. Sure, circulation at the Downtown Library is way up. Guess what happens when the surface parking disappears.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 27 '06 - 02:48AM    #
  124. Perhaps people will park a block away or at the new underground lot directly connected to the library. I’m just sayin’.

    Do you really think people will stop coming to the library if they can’t park 10 feet away? Do you honestly believe that Ann Arbor residents are so feckless and pampered that they can’t walk a block to the library?


       —Young OWSider    Nov. 27 '06 - 03:37AM    #
  125. I will add this here to keep the discussion in one thread. Following is some additional information from the City’s web site for Monday night’s public hearing (November 27), at 7:00pm in the City Hall Building. Full text and links of this document are here.

    ————————————
    This public meeting is being held to discuss the three Police and Courts building options under consideration.

    Task Force Recommendation A 90,000 square foot Police and Court facility on the North side of the Library lot (estimated five stories). The existing surface level parking lot would be replaced with an underground parking deck of at least 400 spaces with approximately 80 underground spaces secured for Police and Courts use only. All remaining parking spaces would be available for public use. The deck would be built to support development on top of it at some time. The building cost is estimated at $25 million, including $5 million from the Downtown Development Authority.

    Larcom Building Option #1 A 90,000 square foot Police and Court facility on the West side of the Larcom lot. Eighty secured parking spaces would be built at street level with the Police and Court facility above, (three to four stories). To accommodate the loss of existing public parking spaces, Ann Street would be changed to a one-way street to the west with the southern lane closed and converted to parking spaces. No Downtown Development Authority funds are used but a 1.3-percent increase in revenue from Water and Sewer is required to fund this option.

    Larcom Building Option #2 A 90,000 square foot Police and Court facility on the East side of the Larcom site. The existing Ann Arbor News parking lot and TIOS building would need to be acquired and the businesses relocated. The Police and Court facility would be built over 80 secured surface level parking spaces similar to scenario #1 except in a different location. Ann Street would again be changed to a one-way street with the south lane converted to parking. This scenario offers more public parking than the Larcom Option #1 and leaves room for a future City Hall on the same site with the potential to avoid City Hall relocation costs during construction. No Downtown Development Authority funds would be used but a 1.5-percent increase in revenue from Water and Sewer is required to fund this option.


       —Juliew    Nov. 27 '06 - 04:09AM    #
  126. TIOS?!?

    they’ll pry a bottle of burning hot sauce from my cold dead hand first!


       —peter honeyman    Nov. 27 '06 - 01:18PM    #
  127. Do you honestly believe that Ann Arbor residents are so feckless and pampered that they can’t walk a block to the library?

    Evidently at least one Ann Arbor resident is. 8-)

    I worked at Tios during my last year in Ann Arbor and the subject of possible condemnation by the city came up occasionally. Harriet Seaver (“mom” in the 20 year old mom-and-pop operation) felt that the City was not very forthcoming in the information it provided. Her fear was that one morning she’d arrive to open the store and find bulldozers at the wait, “Hitchhiker’s Guide”-style. It’s not unthinkable.

    Thanks, Peter. I share your sentiments. If it means saving Tios, perhaps the library should move. The restaurant does just fine with no more than six parking spaces. Library patrons ought to take a lesson.


       —Jeff Dean    Nov. 27 '06 - 02:02PM    #
  128. Since the City (including the DDA) is no longer willing to support the Downtown Library by maintaining the adjacent surface parking, it is the Library Board’s duty to consider other options.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 27 '06 - 02:39PM    #
  129. I also think that there are going to be tours of the police facilities a half hour before the meeting tonight. I can’t find this in writing though.

    For the record on Tios, when I first heard this last year, I said the same thing to the Mayor: “you can’t get rid of Tios!” He said that it was his opinion that City Hall could not run without Tios and any plan would certainly incorporate the business. That said, I think anytime you disrupt a small business, you run the risk of destroying it and I’m not willing to take the chance so option #2 is my least favorite.

    Since the City (including the DDA) is no longer willing to support the Downtown Library by maintaining the adjacent surface parking, it is the Library Board’s duty to consider other options.
    Sorry, this is just crap. First of all, Josie Parker (the AADL Director) was on the task force that recommended the Library Lot for the Police and Courts site so they have hardly been left out. Secondly, this proposal as it stands would add 127 public parking spaces to the Library site. I think the City and the DDA have been very pro-Library and pro-Library public parking. If they weren’t, that lot would have been sold to the highest bidder years ago with no parking requirement whatsoever and the DDA wouldn’t be contributing any money to public parking there (as you notice they aren’t doing at the Larcom site). But no entity is entitled to an acre of surface parking in a downtown. If the Library really doesn’t want to be next to a “dead space,” getting rid of the surface parking is the best way to do that. Yes, some people don’t like to park in a structure, but I have also heard many people (parents especially) talk about how they would love to be able to get to the Library downtown without having to go out in the weather and how nice it would be to have covered parking so cars don’t get so hot in the summer and you don’t have to clean them off in the winter. I love the AADL, and I would be happy to support a millage (or just flat-out donate $) to help them in any way with an upgrade/addition to their building. I would support them buying the Credit Union building and building a ten-story addition to the Library if they could use it. But if they really think surface parking (that someone else is paying for) is central to their mission, well, it is hard to even know how to respond. All this “green” building they are doing is peanuts compared to actually running an urban facility with an infrastructure that supports more reasonable land use. The Library’s supposed commitment to the environment, to the city, and to the patrons it serves at this facility is totally diminished by this attitude.


       —Juliew    Nov. 27 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  130. JulieW “But if they really think surface parking (that someone else is paying for) is central to their mission, well, it is hard to even know how to respond. All this “green” building they are doing is peanuts compared to actually running an urban facility with an infrastructure that supports more reasonable land use. The Library’s supposed commitment to the environment, to the city, and to the patrons it serves at this facility is totally diminished by this attitude.”

    Amen to that, Julie.

    Dave, your comments baffle me (big surprise). Are you telling us that changing from a surface lot to a parking structure (with more spaces, as Julie pointed out) would be so destructive to the Library that the mere mention of said underground parking leave the Board with no choice but to pull up stakes?

    I don’t get it. Why would this parking change kill the downtown library?


       —todd    Nov. 27 '06 - 05:35PM    #
  131. It’s too bad some members on the library board apparently have agendas that are coloring their view of necessary downtown improvements. How, David, can you think adding parking next to the library is a bad thing if you’re so concerned about parking access? It’s nonsensical.

    Oh, and I can’t believe a structure that’s estimated to be 5 stories tall is considered a highrise by the “preserve downtown in amber/developers kill kittens” crowd.


       —Young OWSider    Nov. 27 '06 - 05:45PM    #
  132. juliew wrote: “I also think that there are going to be tours of the police facilities a half hour before the meeting tonight. I can’t find this in writing though.”

    AAPD confirmed on the phone that Greg O’Dell will be there around 6:00-ish tonight to provide interested public with a view of the facilities.


       —HD    Nov. 27 '06 - 06:02PM    #
  133. Ahh, November 2006 comes and as we experience an economic crisis in our region (with concomitant layoffs or threats thereof) which may well dump more municipalities and families into economic crisis or bankruptcy and what do we find as fiscal priorities in our fair city and county? That’s right, $46 million for police offices, court houses (as opposed to people houses), and housing in jails. The shear audacity of this takes one’s breath away. Not that anyone—least of all our elected leaders— thinks that these are the priorities of the people of Ann Arbor or Washtenaw. Maybe that’s why millions of dollars for the jail, courts and police was not a highlight on the platform of any council or commissioner candidate. May we one day elect leaders who value most housing people (outside of jail), feeding people, clothing people and providing people with health and mental health care. Maybe the question should not be where do we spend these millions, but rather what problems do we need to address first in our community. I suggest a 10 year plan to put an end to poor facilities for the police, the attorneys and the judges and an immediate plan to address the emergency that is our lack of affordable housing and services for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.


       —Tim    Nov. 27 '06 - 06:08PM    #
  134. The actual tour of the police facility will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Not an impressive site, to say the least. Having worked at this facility for the past 15 years I just cannot see the rationale in putting an “addition” on to this decaying structure. As bizzare as this may sound there are approximately 50 buckets hidden in the ceiling on the first floor. The run off of water during ice melts and rain storms is so bad that buckets are needed to catch the water before the ceiling tiles hit the floor. The infrastructure of this building is in very sad shape….

    A1


       —annarbor1us    Nov. 27 '06 - 06:24PM    #
  135. “ I suggest a 10 year plan to put an end to poor facilities for the police, the attorneys and the judges and an immediate plan to address the emergency that is our lack of affordable housing and services for those at the bottom of the economic ladder”.

    I respect your point of view on this matter but unfortunately the 15th District Court, (which is currently leasing space in the Washtenaw County Courthouse)is being evicted in about three years. That being said, I think that decisions need to be made rather quickly here as it will probably take two years to either erect a completely new building, or build onto the exisiting one.


       —annarbor1us    Nov. 27 '06 - 06:37PM    #
  136. The county could be encouraged or lobbied to extend the lease and they would. Space could be found (at least temporarily) at a much lower cost than $25 million. How much of the eviction timeline is due to the interpersonal conflict between judges on the circuit and district level? I guess we are willing to ship our unrich to Ypsi and tolerate a community with homelessness, and hungry kids without mental health and health services. But forcing judges to work together! Now, that is a crisis. At least in Ann Arbor— among the elites.


       —Tim    Nov. 27 '06 - 06:46PM    #
  137. Just a few quick replies –

    ** The police/court facility would be deader than the present Library Lot. The lot is open and welcoming; the police/court facility would be grim and forbidding. Think Mordor.

    ** While Josie Parker was on the Task Force, she was not a big player. She had not asked the Board what it wanted. After the Task Force report was issued, she found out what we wanted, and has been opposing the report ever since.

    ** The huge increase in use with the police/court facility means that the number of spaces actually available to library users will probably decrease, regardless of the number of spaces theoretically open to the public.

    ** I personally agree with Tim that this project is a classic example of skewed priorities. With crime in the City down and case filings flat or dropping, where is the fire? In Roger Fraser’s eyes.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 27 '06 - 09:25PM    #
  138. The lot is open and welcoming; the police/court facility would be grim and forbidding.
    Ha, this is funny. I have yet to see an open and welcoming parking lot. And if you are a pedestrian, as I am, the lot is horrible. I currently think both the Courts building and the City Hall building are much more interesting to walk by than the Library Lot.

    While Josie Parker was on the Task Force, she was not a big player.
    Hmmm, whose assessment is this? She isn’t a shrinking violet, afraid to speak her mind. I can’t imagine her not being a big part of any committee she is on.

    The huge increase in use with the police/court facility.
    Gee, it would be horrible if that space actually was used for something.

    A classic example of skewed priorities.
    It is the mark of a morally poor society if the people who put their lives on the line, often for very low pay, are considered last. You simply can not expect people to work well, especially in very high stress jobs, if their working conditions are horrible. By all accounts, the police working conditions are horrible. The police chief position has been difficult to fill and retain in large part because of the poor facilities. Ann Arbor has just barely managed to attract good police officers and has lost out on many because it is very apparent to all officers that they fall last in the priority. The police are in quarters that were supposed to be temporary 40 years ago. It is about time that we as a city do better by them. Facilities matter, it is ridiculous to think they don’t. Ann Arbor has extremely sub-par government facilities now. They are frankly an embarrassment to the city, they aren’t going to get better, and it isn’t going to get any cheaper to build. We have ignored this issue for far too long. Yes, the City needs to be fiscally responsible, but a good city needs to have decent facilities for city employees.


       —Juliew    Nov. 27 '06 - 11:46PM    #
  139. With the number of police employees (sworn and total) having dropped signficantly in recent years, and the total number of city employees having dropped 20% or so, where is the emergency? Yes, people always want new quarters. Should wish lists dominate City spending?


       —David Cahill    Nov. 28 '06 - 12:05AM    #
  140. Juliew,

    How many folks should be moved to Ypsi or left homeless or without enough to eat or healthcare so the police can not only have adequate facilities but a $25 million new facility? We are told time and again in this town how tight the budget is. How limited our resources are. How this means we don’t have enough to meet the basic human needs of our most impoverished citizens. Yet, we somehow have the resources to build a $25 million police/court facility. We should be embarrassed by the fact we fail to meet people’s basic human needs in our community, not by a few substandard public buildings. If you fell on hard times would you want the police to have their new building or would you want the local government making sure you didn’t have to sleep on the streets?


       —Tim    Nov. 28 '06 - 12:25AM    #
  141. Your willful ignorance is showing again, David. My clock shows 6:29 pm. (Is there some kind of DST problem on AU?) Did you head out to catch the police facility tour after you sent that last post?


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 28 '06 - 12:30AM    #
  142. The number of police employees in 1991 was 195. Today there are 165 sworn officers. If you want to call that a “significant” decrease, then I guess you can. I know that the drop was due to budget cuts over the years. The Department no longer has the mini-stations that it once had, nor the dedicated neighborhood officers that once patrolled the West and South side neighborhoods therefore the number of officers were reduced and never replaced. Ask the citizens if they would prefer having their cops back in their neighborhoods and I think that you would find that they would.

    Thank you JulieW for your post. I couldn’t explain it better if I tried….

    A1


       —annarbor1us    Nov. 28 '06 - 12:39AM    #
  143. the fact we fail to meet people’s basic human needs in our community

    Tim, you’ll need to back up this assertion with some data. How many people, which basic needs, what period of time, etc. My understanding is that basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing are provided locally through various entities on a daily basis to those who need them.

    The tightness of the budget has taken into account the knowledge on the part of those in city government (and members of the public who’ve been paying attention) that a replacement for the police facilities (and probably the rest of city hall) would be necessary in the next few years to a decade. Similarly, several years back when the old Y building was emptied, the budget took into consideration the need to replace those SRO housing units. That replacement effort is proceeding.

    If you can constructively contribute to this discussion we might be able to determine a way to accomplish your goals (after you’ve cleared up what they are, specifically) along with addressing the desires of others for satisfactorily housing our city government and services into the future.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 28 '06 - 12:48AM    #
  144. Sorry for the duplicate….


       —annarbor1us    Nov. 28 '06 - 12:51AM    #
  145. Looks like Larcom #1 and “let’s do more research” are the winners from people in the audience at City Council. There were a lot of good comments on all sides. There was agreement that the police need a new facility, but opinion was divided about the need to move the courts. The majority thought that the Courts/City Hall/Police should all be together and no one liked the idea of any building being funded by a water tax increase.

    The Library Lot was not a popular choice. There was consensus that people wanted “something better” there. Mixed-use residential with retail was the most often mentioned, followed by surface or structured parking. I wish I could be as confident that “something better” was out there. Has anyone heard if there is any intention to open that site up for a development RFP? Hopefully some public parking would be a requirement, with the DDA presumably contributing some money to help fund it. I think it is pretty safe to say that something will be on that lot within the next ten-fifteen years regardless of what the City does, hopefully it will be “something better.”


       —Juliew    Nov. 28 '06 - 02:33AM    #
  146. Just a couple of things to add to Juliew’s report. One surprise to me was the number of speakers who doubted the alleged need to move the 15th District Court. One speaker showed a copy of a recent County space study stating that the courts presently in the Courthouse could make do with only half the space they have now, and urged folks to contact their County Commissioners about why the County was saying the District Court’s lease would not be renewed.

    The biggest surprise was the number, and vehemence, of speakers who opposed an increase in the water rate to pay for a new facility. Mike Moran, the Supervisor of Ann Arbor Township, was the first speaker, and he said that the large businesses in the Township (who buy water from the City) opposed the increase. He said he had never dreamed that the City would propose this kind of increase. People called the increase “backhanded”, “sleight of hand”, and even “despicable”.

    I can’t predict what, if anything, will be the result. One speaker noted the consensus for the Larcom site, but said she realized what was said at the hearing might not determine the outcome, bearing in mind what she said were the “hidden pressures” on Council.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 28 '06 - 02:37PM    #
  147. Steve,

    Exhibit A in our inability to provide for the needs of our citizens is the Y fiasco. The city and the Y let the building deteriorate to the point the residents became homeless and they were shipped to several hotels before being moved out-of-town to Ypsi. The Housing provided in the new building will almost certainly be at the 80% of median income level which will be out of reach for these folks. Many A2 low cost coop housing units (Arrowwood etc.) will be eligible to become market rate housing in the not too distant future. We will face an exacerbation in the affordable housing crisis in the future without dramatic and quick response which includes serious local investment of public funds. The vexing part of this situation to me is that we are told how tight resources are until there is a project the bureaucracy wants to complete (not the citizenry) and then like magic $8 million dollars is available in General Fund dollars. I don’t have the time to write a white paper answering all of your questions, but here is a start with some facts from Food Gatherers, the Shelter Association, the census and you:

    From Food Gatherers:

    Locally (Washtenaw County)
    Food Gatherers participated in its first national hunger study conducted for America’s Second Harvest, the Nation’s Food Bank Network. Food Gatherers staff and volunteers conducted 300 face-to-face interviews with clients receiving food from 84 of our partner non-profit agencies throughout Washtenaw County. Our agency participation rate was 95% (the national average was 75%).
    5,569 different people receive assistance from Food Gatherers’ network in any given week.
    35% of the members of households served are children under 18 years old.
    7% of the members of households are elderly
    41% of households include at least one employed adult
    66% have incomes below the federal poverty level (less than $15,670 for a family of three)
    77% of pantries served by Food Gatherers reported an increase since 2001 in the number of clients seeking emergency food.
    93% of the clients served were satisfied with the quality of food they received.
    TOUGH CHOICES IN WASHTENAW COUNTY:
    33% of households served choose between food and utilities
    28% choose between food and housing
    25% choose between food and medicine
    27% of households report having at least one member in poor health

    Wish List from Shelter Association:

    In addition to monetary contributions, the following items are needed on a regular basis by the Shelter Association. We rely on the generosity of the community for many of these items that our budget does not necessarily cover. You can drop them off at our offices (312 W. Huron, Ann Arbor), or call for more information (734.662.2829 x. 221). Thanks!

    **Please note that, due to limited storage capacity, we do not accept donations of clothes or shoes (apart from those specified below). Clothes may be brought to the Ann Arbor Thrift Shop or the Ann Arbor Community Center, where our clients receive vouchers for free items.

    Hand sanitizer
    Hot pocket hand warmers
    Rain ponchos
    Paper towels, tissues
    Single-roll wrapped toilet paper
    Plastic spoons, knives, forks
    Styrofoam plates, bowls, cups
    Foot powder (medicated and normal)
    Shower shoes, flip flops, etc.
    Toothbrushes & toothpaste
    Standard size pillow cases/twin sheets/blankets
    Lotion
    New or gently-used clean towels and washcloths
    African American hair and skin care products
    Clorox/Lysol disinfectant wipes
    Nail Clippers
    Combs, brushes
    Socks, undergarments (different sized T-shirts/bras)
    Hats, scarves, gloves
    Deodorant
    Large cans of coffee
    Razors, shaving cream
    Ink pens, writing paper, copy paper
    Bus tokens
    Depends-type protective items (pads not briefs)
    New or gently-used backpacks
    Hotel/trial size soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.

    Census bureau:
    Ann Arbor’s median household income fell 18%, from $54,235 in 2000 to $45,798 in 2005.

    and you:
    “...I’m less concerned about the drop in median income than I am the increase in the poverty rate. It would be helpful to know how much of the median decrease is due to the changes within each quartile. David, note that the poverty rate in Ann Arbor increased from 15.6% to 22.3%...”

    —Steve Bean Aug 30, 03:29 PM #


       —Tim Colenback    Nov. 30 '06 - 12:16AM    #
  148. Thanks, Tim. It helps to see your last name so I know you’re not just some guy jumping in to complain (and looking to Julie for some kind of ‘solution’.)

    The Food Gatherers info is a helpful reminder that meeting the needs of people today doesn’t mean that those people will be able to meet their own needs in the near future or that there won’t be even more people we need to help tomorrow. Likewise your citation of my comment.

    The Environmental Commission has been working to put together a list of draft environmental goals for the city that we’ll be passing on to council soon, possibly at our Dec. 7 meeting (when we will be having a public hearing on the goals at 7pm, council chambers.) I’d like to eventually (after wrapping up a number of other current efforts) focus on the economy and equity ‘legs’ of the sustainability ‘stool’.

    Economics always get attention, and efforts are underway to bolster local business through the work of the Think Local First, among many others. Buy Local week is coming up Dec. 4-7, for example.

    I think we could make some progress on equity if we got the right people together in a committee of the commission to focus specifically on that ‘leg’. What do you think? Do you know of other cooperative efforts at citywide planning to address inequities, poverty, homelessness, etc.? It’s not been my area of focus, so I don’t know all the existing pieces that are already in place. I suspect, though that they’re largely focused on meeting those current needs and individual organizational goals and not so much on developing comprehensive strategies for the future. Comprehensive approaches to sustainability are within our charge as a commission, and I want to move us in that direction in the next year.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 30 '06 - 03:40AM    #
  149. Steve – there is already an effort under way to address these challenges. It is called the Community Collaborative, a body required by state law in each county (or group of counties when they are small). The Washtenaw County Collaborative met on Nov. 14th in a Plenary Session to explain the governance and mission. There were about 200 people there from government, non-profits, funders and businesses. The large topics covered were economic and community development, health, environment, education and the arts. There has been a needs assessment study published, which is very much a work in progress, and if you will share contact information with me (gunnl@comcast.net) I would be happy to provide you with a copy. It is VERY MUCH a work in progress, but the idea is to try to address these needs in a strategic manner. The City of Ann Arbor cannot do it alone, although they were, of course, well represented. We all need to work together, and although there were quite a few flaws in the assessment, it is, at least, a start. So, e-mail me and I will get the document to you. I appreciate your interest, and hope you will a part of the process.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 30 '06 - 08:15PM    #
  150. CORRECTION: The public hearing on the draft environmental goals is at 6pm (not 7pm) next Thursday.

    Leah, thanks. I found the needs assessment on the eWashtenaw site. (So you don’t need to send me anything.) I’ll review it this weekend. The Next Steps page is pretty vague. Do you know what the next opportunity for public involvement is in the timeline?


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 30 '06 - 10:36PM    #
  151. Mr. Collenback may not be aware of these facts but having read his posts, I felt I must write.

    Some of this can be verified using the financial information the city has published related to the courthouse-police station proposal. The rest is from memory of councils passed, information gathered at a small informational meeting of members of RAH (religious action for affordable housing)of which I am a member and meeting with a former council member.

    The $8 million the city would spend on this project is not GENERAL FUND money. These funds were set aside in a facilities building fund back in the 90’s by the Chris Kolb, Tobi Hanna Davies council. The city has been talking about building new quarters for the police for over a decade. Their working conditions are quite poor.

    Most of the rest of the funding would be in the form of bond payments funded by the rents the city is now paying for the courts and space in the city center building. If the police moved out, they could move those workers back in. If the police don’t move, the funds are not available. Additional funds would be from the DDA.

    The city won an award from the Shelter Board for their treatment and rescue of the old Y inhabitants when the plumbing failed. Having visited both the Y and the Tuscan Apartments in Ypsi. Twp, I can say without reservation that the accommodations are 300% better.

    The city did not even own the building until a few years ago and bought it for $3 million just to save the housing. (Hard to blame them for not keeping up a building they did not own and after they did, why put money into a building that is going to be torn down ASAP? Now $17 million has been awarded in tax credits from MSHDA and the project seems poised to move forward.) The city has spent/are (spending) a few million more to take care of the people and they have committed more funds to buy down the income level of the new housing. (This seems like a considerable recent investment in those at the lowest end of the economic ladder in addition to all the other programs the city funds.)

    Up to 100 units in the new building on the Y site will not be for those at 80% but will by council resolution be set for very low income. (From a meeting with former council member Carlberg.)

    The county has confirmed with the city in the form of a resolution from the CC that the city must move the courts out. The police were never meant to be housed in the Larcom Building and have been stuffed into the building for over 30 years. This seems like a logical plan to resolve the two problems and building a structure for both the police and courts will be much for efficient than building for just one given the saved rent money to pay the bonds.

    No one in A2 need go hungry, there are 3 meals a day served at the Delonis Center and as noted, Food Gatherers is everywhere they are needed. As a volunteer I can testify that the shelter often hosts tours and people come from other cities to see what is considered to be a “state of the art” facility. As someone who follows these issues and who has served on non-profit boards working in this area, I would guess that A2 and Washtenaw County are doing more than any other place in Michigan to assist those who most need help.


       —LauraB    Dec. 1 '06 - 04:50AM    #
  152. CORRECTION: The public hearing on the draft environmental goals is at 6pm (not 7pm) next Thursday.

    CORRECTION TO CORRECTION: It will be at 7pm after all. Sorry about that. You all are coming, aren’t you? Seriously, the goals document will be an important and valuable guide for our city government. At least check it out on the City’s web site.


       —Steve Bean    Dec. 1 '06 - 07:00PM    #