Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Enough restaurants?

14. October 2006 • Bruce Fields
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Stefanie Murray voices a common complaint in the Ann Arbor News:

People often tell me Main Street is morphing into an “eatertainment’’ district and is losing its shopping charm.

Not that there aren’t fabulous places to shop downtown – I have my Christmas shopping all planned out within a five-block radius here – but when we lose a business, it’s more likely retail than restaurant. And more likely that a restaurant rather than retail will want to fill that empty space.

(Thanks to Todd Leopold for the link.)



  1. Dear Stefanie: What do you want to shop for? Chocolates? Expensive shoes? One of a kind lamps and wall hangings?

    Groceries? Shampoo and toothpaste?

    There are stores downtown that sell the first. But in order to lure stores to sell the second, you need to have more people live downtown, and to do that you need places to live and parking. Because my 70-year-old mother would love to live downtown, but she wants access to her car too. She’d walk to the supermarket, but she wants to get to her grandkids soccer games on Saturday.


       —Just a homeowner    Oct. 15 '06 - 02:03AM    #
  2. I’m half tempted to start a website tracking the potential places for a downtown grocery store. Currently on the list are the unfinished commercial section of Liberty Lofts and the not-yet-condemned, Soviet-hospital-looking structure across Jefferson from the new YMCA. Anyone else have a spot they’re watching? A completely separate question is whether such a store could survive downtown. I wonder how well the People’s Food Coop does.


       —Patrick Hunt    Oct. 15 '06 - 06:17PM    #
  3. Patrick –
    You can get your hands on the PFC’s financial info by showing up at their annual meeting. Or probably by asking. I don’t have them offhand, but, as of 18 months ago, I seem to remember PFC doing quite well.

    Speaking from a supply/demand point of view, there are two ways a downtown grocery store could function. One is the commodity grocery model – Kroger, Busch’s, Meijer, Vons, etc work this way, and it requires being big (in order to have an exhaustive selection), and at least marginally more convenient to a shopper than the rest of the grocery stores around town. Honestly, I don’t see this kind of grocery store going into downtown Ann Arbor any time soon – the population density just isn’t there for a downtown commodity grocery to be the most convenient to their homes, and parking is difficult enough that, given a choice between a downtown Kroger near work and a borderlands Kroger near home, the one on Carpenter or Plymouth is going to be more “convenient”. (I think downtown Ypsi might have a better chance, actually, considering the lack of convenient alternatives for most Ypsi residents.)

    The other kind of grocery store is for destination foods – food that has value outside of the calorie count and shininess of packaging. Consider the Farmer’s Market, which is packed with people even on rainy football Saturdays, because it offers people a connection to their food. Or Whole Foods, which people return to even after griping about the parking, because it offers a cachet that Kroger doesn’t offer. Or the PFC. Or Kerrytown. By providing value(s) beyond that of the commodity foodstuff, these stores can exist despite some inconvenience.

    When you’re looking for places to locate a downtown grocery store, therefore, I’d stay away from thinking you need 150,000 square feet of store space (the average Kroger). I just don’t find that to be realistic. Look for places where you could put 20,000 square feet – small for a grocery store, but 4-5 times the size of PFC. Find 2 or 3 sites that could fit smaller, full-service-but-not-comprehensive grocery stores around town, and assume that they’ll each find some way to differentiate themselves from commodity groceries.


       —Murph.    Oct. 15 '06 - 08:17PM    #
  4. I just moved to Chicago after spending 6 years in Ann Arbor. My wife and I live about 4 blocks from a Trader Joe’s.. For us, this place is perfect. We can get just about everything and honestly we can’t tell that it is any more expensive than going to Kroger. If there are things like pop or water that we need in large quantity, then we hop in the car and drive to a larger grocery store a mile or two away. Trader Joe’s certainly doesn’t have everything you could possibly need, but for 80% of the things and in a small store, you can get a lot of great stuff that is great to eat. I don’t know if this would be an option in downtown AA but these stores are definately far smaller than Whole Foods that everyone seems to love out on Washtenaw. just a thought..


       —Chris    Oct. 16 '06 - 12:18AM    #
  5. Though I would like to point out that when this sort of thing has been discussed in the past, some have mentioned that for example, Acme Mercantile does sell household items. So you might be able to find more than you think downtown.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Oct. 16 '06 - 12:18AM    #
  6. Yes, there is a good deal more downtown than a lot of people realize—I think it was Juliew who gave an excellent set of examples—although the absence of a regular drugstore, with ordinary brands and prices, is still a problem.

    I remain unconvinced that downtown can ever be enough of a residential area to support a large grocery store, both because the catchment area of a normal size Kroger or Busch’s is really quite big and because a good many downtown residents can and do still do their major shopping out on the edges, so to speak (partly pursuing cheapness, partly combining errands involving car use). So I don’t think that one should be thinking in terms of just downtown residents but imagining how people using downtown during the day and evening might also use if it were convenient, for one or two bags’ worth of stuff or even less. That means that putting such a new entity in the sites Patrick Hunt suggests won’t work. Those sites are already on the edge of downtown at best or indeed beyond, and people working at, say, UM and parked at Thayer or Maynard are flat out absolutely are NOT going to walk over there and back, any more than they walk to Knights Market on their lunch hour, let alone after in the mid to later evening. (Some walkers/bikers might hit it on the way home if it’s already part of their route, e.g. OWSiders, but those aren’t a big enough group to support a store.) I’m not convinced, based on how I see people parking for the Y, that even people who work in the Main Street corridor will walk down and then backtrack (uphill) into downtown from there, no matter how small the distance, if as Murph said they can “easily” pull in and out of a CVS or Kroger on the way home. It’s partly perception, partly genuine inconvenience, but if you want people shopping on foot or only parking once downtown at their home or office, it needs to be right in the core area, and you’d have to decide that was a good use of prime space. And you might also have to decide that the hit that some existing, locally owned, downtown businesses would take was fine with you.

    I’d be delighted if one of the new retail/residential buildings in the core had an itty bitty CVS or RiteAid in its retail space, rather than more boutiques or food of any kind tho.


       —Aki    Oct. 16 '06 - 02:26AM    #
  7. Yes, it is perfectly easy to shop downtown and never have to go to a “major” grocery store. As a matter of fact, I find downtown has a much better assortment of places to shop than any other single area and it is all within walking distance. The Kerrytown area alone has Monaghan’s fish market that has been ranked among the country’s best, Tracklement’s smokehouse, Sparrow meat market, which was ranked “Best of Detroit” last year, Zingermans, the Farmer’s Market, and the People’s Food Co-op. White Market on William is a perfectly good full-service grocery store, as is Village Corner. Then there are all the satellite shopping areas like Knight’s Market, Jefferson Market, South Main Market, Campus Corner/Blue Front, Stadium Market. But no, there is no suburban-style grocery store downtown and chances are there won’t be. Even if there was, the prices won’t be comparable to one that is on the outskirts because of the high cost of land, and since the “outskirts” of Ann Arbor are so close and easy to get to by car or bus, there really isn’t much reason to put something downtown. Then there is the question of what grocery store? Some people want a Meijers, some want a Whole Foods, and whichever one would go downtown would only get a percentage of the shoppers, which, as Aki pointed out, needs to be large to support this sort of store.

    As for restaurants, they aren’t the worst thing for a city. They bring people downtown at all hours of the day, they have relatively high wages, they allow for flexible schedules, they can employ people who don’t have a lot of skills or speak English very well. Ideally you would have a mix of stores, but barring that, I think the restaurants are a pretty good foundation. It is nice to have a thriving downtown that is a destination. The restaurants are a big part of that.

    Village Apothecary and the Prescription Shop are great downtown drug stores and they are where we shop, but I do miss Decker Drugs.


       —Juliew    Oct. 16 '06 - 02:30PM    #
  8. Me too on Decker Drugs, and even some regret that Joy (was that the name?), the pharmacy on Main was such crap and then gone. It’s a trek to South U area from the OWS side of downtown if you don’t have other reasons to go over there and I think a small drugstore west of State would be really useful, since neither Knight’s Market nor White Market can reasonably give much space to that and sometimes you don’t really want organic specialty toothpaste or cleaning supplies. The kind of small version of a chain drugstore you find in larger cities, with long hours, would be handy if tucked in the lower level of one of the new buildings.

    And yes, the “outskirts” are in some cases less than 2 miles from downtown and downtown residents could easily use some of the shops there without driving if they so chose (I’m thinking of the CVS/Coleman’s/Arbor Farms/Ace cluster, for one, but the old Broadway Village cluster was also very easy to reach over the bridge, esp if you were already in Kerrytown, and I hope it will be again). Only works for totable amounts, of course, but depending on where people live, they may already have more good options between downtown and their nearest “outskirt” cluster than they use for moderate daily shopping.


       —Aki    Oct. 16 '06 - 03:32PM    #
  9. “since the “outskirts” of Ann Arbor are so close and easy to get to by car or bus, there really isn’t much reason to put something downtown.”

    So, here’s at Sunday shopping trip to the Meijer’s on Ann-Arbor Saline for me.

    The #2 leaves my place at 1:23. That gets me downtown in time to catch the #16 at 1:48, which gets me to Meijer at 2:23. I shop for an hour, catch the #16 at 3:23 to get back, transfer to the 3:48, which gets home at 4:07.

    So a Meijer’s trip is nearly 3 hours for me assuming everything goes right. And I’m not that far from downtown. (Just off north campus.)

    For bonus points, do that with a week or two’s worth of groceries, in your full waiting-at-the-busstop-in-midwinter regalia. Is it doable? Yes. But “there isn’t much reason to put anything downtown?” Argh, no.

    Yeah, I can piece together what I need from White market, the coop, the village apothecary, etc., and keep the supermarket trips to a minimum. At least so far. But the trend is for things to only get worse. The coop seems to be doing very well, but I don’t know about any of the others.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 16 '06 - 06:43PM    #
  10. Bruce, I do know what you mean and I don’t mean to be glib (esp. as a relatively new and infrequent poster here) or to make it sound like everything works equally well for everyone. I totally get what you mean about having to string together multiple buses from some locations (which means, what might work for downtown residents might not work even for people who live in near-in neighborhoods), and that individual circumstances, whether chronic issues (life with kids, for instance, or life with pets—-eg. hauling home 20 lb bags of cat litter or dog food—or a serious oenophile tendency that would prefer to buy wine by the case) or one-off situations (really needing a toaster oven or other goods requiring a Meijers/Target/Best Buy sort of store) can make bus/walk/bike solutions not adequate all the time. And even “solutions” that might work for some (making a deal with fellow dog-loving neighbors, or doing one big trip a month via bus there and cab home with a full trunk) aren’t doable or bearable for everyone, including for economic reasons. And I’m also saying that IF a downtown supermarket is not an option for reasons of space, real estate costs, parking expectations, and impact on real existing shops we like, it is possible that things could be better than they are. And that’s where I’m putting my thinking, rather than expecting a downtown Busch’s, as well as trying to highlight ways in which things are not as dire as the “you can’t buy toothpaste downtown” crowd say in order to justify driving to Meijer’s from an apt in Tower Plaza.

    Enough from me though.


       —Aki    Oct. 16 '06 - 08:54PM    #
  11. Bruce – should we be assuming that the only way to fill people’s needs is the Meijer / Wal-Mart one-marathon-shopping-trip-per-week model?

    As Aki notes, you can buy (foo) without going to Meijer. For many values of (foo), you can buy it downtown. I think what we need to work on is reducing the number of things you can’t get and work on increasing people’s awareness of what is available.

    If we’re looking to have people shopping downtown – heck, if we’re looking to HAVE a downtown – we’re already ruling out the one-stop-shopping megastore. That’s just not a behavior pattern that fits a downtown built form.

    Demand is not a constant, nor is price the only factor that matters. Let’s not let Wal-Mart dictate the terms on which we plan our cities.


       —Murph.    Oct. 16 '06 - 09:59PM    #
  12. “Bruce – should we be assuming that the only way to fill people’s needs is the Meijer / Wal-Mart one-marathon-shopping-trip-per-week model?”

    How many people in the area do you know who do their weekly grocery shopping at Wal-Mart? How about we call it the Meijer / Kroger / Busch’s / Whole Foods / Hillers model?

    “If we’re looking to have people shopping downtown – heck, if we’re looking to HAVE a downtown – we’re already ruling out the one-stop-shopping megastore.”

    No way. Sane downtowns do have one-stop-shopping grocery stores. Are those megastores? I don’t know. I hate Meijer, and I don’t really know Wal-Mart—I’d rather have Busch’s or Hillers or something, personally—but I’m not picky. Anything to get some more grocery shopping options within walking distance of downtown.

    Or at least to stop losing them, which is what’s been happening.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 17 '06 - 12:06AM    #
  13. i do almost all my shopping downtown … but i sure miss schlenker’s. it sucks to have to trek out to the edge of town to buy a molly or a light bulb.


       —peter honeyman    Oct. 17 '06 - 01:10AM    #
  14. As far as downtown supermarkets go, we already have a nice natural experiment and the results are: a) there isn’t going to be a downtown supermarket, or b) if one is foolish enough to open, it won’t last.

    What’s the natural experiment? We have many thousands of UM living near campus. What do they do for grocery shopping? Do they walk to the nearby supermarket? Nope—they do little bits of shopping at at VC and otherwise borrow a car or bum a ride and drive a couple of miles to a grocery store. Even if we get thousands of new residents to move downtown, we should expect they’ll do the same thing.


       —mw    Oct. 17 '06 - 12:15PM    #
  15. Because we have no imagination?


       —Dale    Oct. 18 '06 - 02:04AM    #
  16. OK, so we’re talking about walkable cities. By reading these responces, I am assuming that no one here has ever actually lived in one.

    People who live in walkable cities have very different lifestyles and shopping needs than people who live in suburbs. There is no need for a supersized grocery store, because people can’t bring home more than two bags of groceries at a time, and if you’re only getting two bags of groceries, why go someplace huge and time consuming? People buy less food per trip, eat out more often, and have the heavy items and large purchases delivered. It doesn’t make sense to judge downtown’s ‘success’ based on our suburban lifestyle model. We don’t need and shouldn’t want a krogers on main street!

    Besides, an oversized grocery chain would not only look absurd downtown, but would decrease the density of stores and the uniqueness of character that make a downtown area functional and worth supporting. Also, it would take money away from local businesses, and away from the local economy.

    You can’t beat the big chains for price, a small store must win on convenience and quality. We have the kerrytown market, food co-op, and farmer’s market, which all work because they win on convenience and quality. But, they don’t have the full range of foods that people want. We need to expand the range of high-quality products available downtown, perhaps adding homemade pasta, an asian specialty market, or a (free-range, since this is A2) butcher to the mix. But, a downtown store can never compete in price for cheetos and 100-can packages of sunkist…and we shouldn’t waste our time trying to force that!


       —Lisa    Oct. 21 '06 - 03:26AM    #
  17. “OK, so we’re talking about walkable cities. By reading these responces, I am assuming that no one here has ever actually lived in one.”

    Hm, exactly what I was thinking.

    OK, take Portland, Oregon for one: do a google maps search on some supermarket chains (Safeway and Fred Meyer are a couple I remember). Marvel at the fact that they exist in dense downtown areas in places where people actually live, not in a big ring around the freeways. Or repeat this exercise with Washington, DC. Those are a couple I’m familiar with.

    “There is no need for a supersized grocery store,”

    I’m not asking for Costco here, just something larger than a big convenience store….

    “You can’t beat the big chains for price, a small store must win on convenience and quality. We have the kerrytown market, food co-op, and farmer’s market, which all work because they win on convenience and quality.”

    The only convenience advantage those have is that they’re downtown; the coop is the only one with hours nearly as convenient as the typical supermarket. Quality doesn’t seem that different to me.

    “But, a downtown store can never compete in price for cheetos and 100-can packages of sunkist…and we shouldn’t waste our time trying to force that!”

    They can’t? I don’t know, I’ve never bought cheetos or sunkist. Pasta, though…. And I’m totally willing to ignore minor price differences, but that’s harder when you’re looking at double or triple the price for basic staples.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 21 '06 - 05:04AM    #
  18. “Besides, an oversized grocery chain would not only look absurd downtown, but would decrease the density of stores and the uniqueness of character that make a downtown area functional and worth supporting. Also, it would take money away from local businesses, and away from the local economy.”

    Oh, and I’d be curious what your argument is there: I bet you anything that smaller local businesses would be much, much better off with a big chain or two next to them. Sure, they’d have to compete—but they do that now. And right now they’re losing badly to the big stores on the freeway interchanges. Why not bring more of those customers downtown?

    And I agree that a huge suburban warehouse with miles of surface parking around it would look ridiculous. That’s not what actual walkable downtowns have. They manage to fit largish stores into more compact buildings, maybe with more than one story, less parking, built right up to the sidewalk, etc.

    Check out this Portland Safeway for an extreme example.

    I can’t find any images of places I’ve actually shopped at. Argh. More people should get out and photograph their local grocery stores….


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 21 '06 - 05:55AM    #
  19. Bruce, the store you link has a 47,000 square foot floorplate. Which is both (a) much smaller than the average Kroger, which I looked up and noted at 125,000 square feet above,(b) while still being larger than William Street Station . Portland has a population five times that of Ann Arbor’s, and, I daresay from satellite imagery, a much larger downtown. Shown at the same scale, downtown Portland would stretch from Broadway Village to the UM Golf Course, and include both North Campus and the Old West Side . Yeah, given that much land area, and that population density, you can certainly find space and demand for a couple of supermarkets. But, hey, if William Street Station can’t find large office tenants, maybe Ann Arbor can score itself Urban Land Institute recognition for the first ever second story supermarket above a transit center…

    Now, I do agree with you that anchors are (or at least “can often be”) good for the surrounding businesses, especially when the surrounding businesses are small and not well known. Chain stores are not all bad.


       —Murph.    Oct. 21 '06 - 01:08PM    #
  20. Wow… it seems to me to be a real stretch to say that shopping for groceries and other staples is easy in downtown Ann Arbor. Yes, you could go to one store for fish, another for meat, another for baked goods, etc. How European. But even in France where they work approximately three hours a week, the stores people stop at regularly are right next door to one another. Some people (though obviously not all) work really long hours and don’t want to spend an entire weekend day walking all over the place to buy one thing here, another thing there, and spend triple the amount of money while they are at it. I don’t think it’s that unreasonable to want a small, but full-service, grocery store in town. Every place I’ve lived other than Ann Arbor has had at least one that is bigger than White Market within walking distance of my home. I’m all for the small stores, but how many of you proponents of downtown shopping can say that you have not been in your car (or on the bus) in the last two weeks for the purpose of procuring food or household items like cleaning supplies?


       —Anna    Oct. 23 '06 - 01:32AM    #
  21. Anna,

    Because, of course, proponents of downtown shopping are opposed to using the bus! Hmmm….

    I wouldn’t describe shopping for staples in downtown as “easy”, necessarily, but definitely possible. And, if your definition of staples is closer to “rice and beans” than “ramen and Lean Cuisine”, downtown is in fact the easiest place in town to shop, thanks to the co-op and farmers’ market.

    Besides which, one-stop-shopping on foot for a week’s worth of groceries just doesn’t work, based simply on weight and bulkiness. I would personally consider the Kroger at Stadium and South Industrial to be in easy walking distance of downtown (I know that Juliew, for example, walks to work and back that far every day), and pretty negligible biking distance, but I don’t think I’d want to carry a week of groceries for my household home on foot from any distance. (Heck, the Diet Pepsi alone that my household drinks in a week is not carryable in one trip…)

    Some people (though obviously not all) work really long hours and don’t want to spend an entire weekend day walking all over the place

    And I don’t think you need to. Shopping time-efficiently downtown is by no means impossible, though I agree that it’s not an activity that’s well-supported. (Perhaps that’s what you mean by “European”?) I can say from experience that you can shop for a household of, say, 8 people without unreasonable effort and without using a car more than once a month, once you’ve figured out what to get where and how that fits in to the rest of your schedule.


       —Murph.    Oct. 23 '06 - 03:21AM    #
  22. Anna—
    Monahan’s and Sparrow Meats are about as close as you can get without being the same counter. And on Saturdays and Wednesday mornings there’s the added bonus of the Farmers Market. I can spend at the very most 2 hours walking from my west side home to buy groceries for two people each week. And I can do my shopping and get EVERYTHING I need at Kerrytown and the Co-op. Or I can stop by when I’m biking home from work to pick something up. And I haven’t gotten in my car to shop in over two weeks.

    I don’t understand when people say it’s not easy to shop downtown or that one can’t find everything one needs or that everything costs oodles of money. I wouldn’t call walking from the Farmers Market to Kerrytown to the Co-op as walking all over town. Do you pay more for quality fish and meat in Kerrytown? You bet. But prices for other things like yogurt and staples are pretty close to Busch’s and other places.

    When I lived in DC on Cap. Hill the nearest grocery I had was a corner store that was about as big as Zingerman’s. I did the bulk of my carless shopping at Eatern Market there and had to walk probably about as far as I walk now to Kerrytown. Of course, when I lived in Adams Morgan I had a Safeway quite near to my apartment and that was great.

    I guess I’m confused by your statement that you’d have to spend all day walking around town to buy groceries and then end up spending 3X as much. Is that really your experience?


       —Young OWSider    Oct. 23 '06 - 12:26PM    #
  23. I also can say that I have not used car or bus for shopping in over two weeks. And I agree that there are a number of things in the downtown area which are quite close together, esp. in the Kerrytown area, though of course it’s true that if one has three things to get that can only be gotten at Village Apothecary, Sparrows, and South Main Market, no it’s not convenient to do this in a single trip. And it’s also true that schlepping large amounts is not easy—-but it’s not going to be easy with a “full-service” single stop store either so long as you’re not using a car. And if you want people to do 20 bag, family of 8 for 2 week style shopping downtown, then cars—and surface parking—are going to be involved and there needs to be a reason why that needs to happen downtown rather than 2 miles away.

    I have lived in many places that have more central supermarkets than A2 and I know that Safeway in downtown Portland well, both in its old grimy version and its newer shiny version, and both versions were indeed walkable for those who lived and walked or bused through downtown (there used to be quite a lot of lowish rent housing around there, plus it’s quite near PSU which is a commuter campus so plenty of workers and students there would grab some stuff to take home by bus). But Portland is a much, much larger city, as Murph says, and the total lot size of that store is, relatively speaking, enormous in the A2 context. I’ve also lived in places that had older, much smaller supermarkets in central areas, and yes it was great, but those represent survivors of an older town center and even now are struggling—-which is to say, it’s great if one has one that’s survived, as the downtown A&P in A2 did not, but it’s hard to re-insert one and the lure of giant comprehensive stores on the edges is hard to counteract once they exist. I’ve watched several die.

    Again, I’m not saying there aren’t issues. I would like it if White Market were just a little bigger. I’d like it if the buses worked a little more easily for shopping (part of why that Portland Safeway can work for people living as well as working downtown, is that it’s in “fareless square,” the free zone for all buses and the light rail, so that people can use it across quite a large area and they get used to thinking of it as just a quick stop that’s doable even with a couple of bags): year-round Link and less need to route everything thru the BTC (a bigger free loop around downtown would be really nice) and yes, bus shelters that actually provided shelter in some areas. I’d still like a small sterile chain drugstore west of State. Better taxis would help too for the hauling home of large stuff, and a few more places that did delivery. I won’t say I can get everything we need downtown, but I can certainly say that I can keep the trips to edges for miscellaneous needs, stocking up on heavy stuff where the cheap brand is what’s wanted, etc. down to once a month—and that’s sometimes just because I want stuff from Trader Joe’s in particular. That’s just me, and I’ve already said that circumstances matter: kids, pets, disabilities, work schedules, tight margins on cost, exact location of home, etc. But working and living near downtown, a lot of things can be done in ordinary transit and very little time—not dedicating an entire day to it or thinking of shopping as something that happens all at one time.


       —Aki    Oct. 23 '06 - 02:03PM    #
  24. I too feel your concern about lack of direct bus routing between some areas of the city (I really would like to go between Westgate, Oak Valley Center, and Arborland in a less circuitous manner), but it isn’t easy to gear the city’s transit system toward shoppers under the current funding situation.

    Shoppers in this city tend to make more ‘crosstown’ type trips, but they do so infrequently (in comparison downtown commuting trips). Crosstown routes are not major trip generators in this city (and haven’t been in the past when AATA operated more of those routes) in the way that downtown routes are.

    The current system is set up to move the largest number of people in the most efficient manner.
    Since about 61% of the current trips on AATA are for work/school (most of which are in the downtown AA area), a hub/spoke system with coordinated transfers at the hubs works best for this type of trip. Shopping only makes up about 16% of the trips on the buses at this time.

    This doesn’t mean that the system can’t be shifted to handle more crosstown trips, but it would come at a price (in terms of productivity – which many people already perceive as a problem). Additional funding from a countywide millage could be used to create such service.

    Expanding the Link is a great idea, but the operation of this route is also limited by funding constraints.
    Currently UM and the DDA pay for that route. UM essentially pays for the eastern half of the route, and the DDA pays for the western half.
    If you’d like to see the Link operate over a wider service area or cover more hours of the day, please let the DDA know. It’s really important that they hear directly from people about the need for expanded service.


       —kena    Oct. 23 '06 - 03:21PM    #
  25. Some people (though obviously not all) work really long hours and don’t want to spend an entire weekend day walking all over the place to buy one thing here, another thing there, and spend triple the amount of money while they are at it.

    OK, so I work on Central Campus near South University. I live near the Stadium. I can leave work, shop at Zingermans, Kerrytown, and the Co-op, then pick up a few items at South Main Market and be home within an hour after I leave work, all on foot. So spending an entire weekend day walking all over the place is, yeah, a bit of an exaggeration. I do any errands at White Market or Village Apothecary during my lunch hour or on my way home. This isn’t a hardship. I shop downtown at these smaller, local stores because I want to, not because I have to. I have a car but I don’t use it to do my shopping because I like to pick stuff up after work (Sparrow/Monaghans are open until 7:30pm, South Main Market is open until 8:00pm, and the Co-op and Zingermans are open until 10:00pm). I find shopping downtown is far easier than shopping at the big grocery stores. The stores carry the products I want to buy (or they can usually order it for me), I get discounts and free stuff at lots of places (free food and flowers at Farmer’s Market, “neighbor discounts” at several stores downtown, 10% off case orders at By the Pound and the Co-op, free samples at Zingermans, 10% off wine at Everyday Wines, etc.) because the owners know me and reward me for being their customer. It is fun and friendly. The quality is top-notch and they really care because they have customers they know and see in other places. I can’t carry a whole lot at once, but I prefer to shop as I need it rather than stocking up for days in advance. I don’t like the bigger stores because they are impersonal, crowded, hard to navigate, and I really don’t like to have to sort through acres of crap to find the five things I want to buy and half the time they don’t even have it.

    how many of you proponents of downtown shopping can say that you have not been in your car (or on the bus) in the last two weeks for the purpose of procuring food or household items like cleaning supplies?

    I haven’t done a regular grocery-shopping trip to a grocery store outside of downtown in probably six or seven years. I’ll stop in on occasion if I need to pick up something and am out anyway, but more often than not I leave empty-handed because they don’t have what I want. We do occasionally use the car to go to the Co-op or Farmer’s Market if we have a heavy trip planned or are coming from someplace in the car, but rarely. We get all our food downtown except we do have dairy delivered (the weight factor). We get cleaning supplies at the Co-op and big bags of baking soda (great for bathtubs and sinks and 10% off since once bag=1 case) at By the Pound in South Main Market.

    This kind of shopping isn’t for everyone though. It is outside of the typical American big box mentality. It took us a while to get used to it, but now we greatly prefer it and can’t imagine shopping any other way. Urban living and suburban living are very different. I know lots of people feel sorry for me because they think I don’t have access to a “real” grocery store (even though I live a 20-minute walk or four-minute drive from a Buschs), but I feel sorry for them because they don’t have a South Main Market two blocks from their house or a Farmer’s Market within walking distance. Zingermans gets orders and pilgrimages from all over the world and I walked in this weekend and got two five-gallon food-grade buckets for free (a tip from a friend who works at Downtown Home and Gardens). Monaghans was ranked one of the ten best fish markets in the country and I can get fish and chips for lunch any day of the week and not even feel guilty because I walked 20 minutes to get there. How cool is that!


       —Juliew    Oct. 23 '06 - 04:29PM    #
  26. There’s nothing “suburban” about shopping at a full-service grocery chain instead of little boutique markets. My friends in Boston and Chicago are all within a few blocks of real supermarkets, and they prefer to do most of their shopping there, not because of some unexamined American obsession with big-box stores, but because you can actually get most of what you need there cheaply and without going to five different places. What’s more suburban is NOT to live within walking distance of such places, and Ann Arbor is basically suburban. I love Zingerman’s and Monahan’s, but promoting them as good places to do your everyday grocery shopping doesn’t exactly make a case for Ann Arbor’s walkability.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 23 '06 - 05:39PM    #
  27. I guess my everyday grocery shopping involves buying things one finds on the periphery of most large grocery stores—veggies, fruit, meat, and dairy. I rarely go down the middle aisles unless it’s to buy cereal or flour or something. I rarely buy prepared foods, so, for me, Sparrow Market in Kerrytown along with Monahan’s and a quick stop at the co-op (which is probably closer than going from one corner of Busch’s to another) is everyday grocery shopping. Granted, we’re a two person household so it’s a little easier to pick up a pound of fish, some pork loin, and a chicken for dinner throughout the week. But other than an overwhelming selection of 19 different kinds of yogurt and aisles of prepackaged and frozen foods, I’m not sure I’m missing much by not going to Busch’s on a regular basis.

    I realize this is not everybody’s story though, and I DO wish A2 was dense enough or urban enough to have a downtown grocery.


       —Young OWSider    Oct. 23 '06 - 06:27PM    #
  28. Hmm, when I lived in Boston, I mostly shopped at the little local stores because the grocery store was pretty far away and it was harder to carry stuff on the bus than it was to walk. Plus the bread was a lot better at the little Italian bakeries. To each their own.

    And yes, thinking you can’t survive on stores downtown is suburban thinking in Ann Arbor. There is this idea that the only way to possibly make it is to shop at a big full-service grocery store, which isn’t true at all. Sure, if my only concern was cheap food, I probably wouldn’t go to Zingermans. If my primary concern was local, sustainable, non-processed food, I wouldn’t go to Meijers or Wal-Mart. I live and work downtown so the downtown stores are easier and cheaper for me in the long run. They have what I want and need, which many of the big grocery stores don’t. I don’t see why going to five different stores that are adjacent to each other is so much harder than five different sections of some huge grocery store. Sure you only have to pay once in the grocery store, but the wait is almost always longer so it works out.

    It is absolutely laughable to compare Ann Arbor to Boston or Chicago. Boston has about 600,000 in Boston proper (population density of 12,000+/square mile). Chicago has almost 3,000,000 in Chicago proper (population density of almost 13,000/square mile). Ann Arbor has 114,000 residents (population density of 4,000/square mile). You can’t use the same criteria. I think Ann Arbor does very well for a smallish city. I’m happy enough to have a big full-service grocery store come to downtown if they can find a place, but it isn’t high on my list.


       —Juliew    Oct. 23 '06 - 06:54PM    #
  29. It is absolutely laughable to compare Ann Arbor to Boston or Chicago.

    Well, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t think that it’s fair to say that people that aren’t satisfied with the shopping options downtown are trapped in some kind of suburban mall mentality and just haven’t discovered the urban sophistication of $20/lb fish at Monahan’s and wilted produce at White Market. If anything, they’re the ones who want a more urban lifestyle.

    Of course, I actually lived in Cambridge, whose population is about the same as Ann Arbor’s, and I never needed a car to shop on a student budget. (I wonder how many students, whom I’m guessing could use it more, are offered these “favorite customer” discounts at local stores.)


       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 23 '06 - 07:38PM    #
  30. Sorry, that first sentence should have been italicized.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 23 '06 - 07:38PM    #
  31. Cambridge allegedly has a population density of over 15,000/square mile, and a total area of less than 6 and a half miles, so you may have a different sense of how close together things can and should be. In A2, as I’ve said, some non-downtown shopping is actually quite close but it’s not 3 blocks away and perhaps it does actually feel like some real existing things are further away than they are because it’s not one continuous urban area. I just don’t think you’re going to get A2’s downtown big enough and dense enough to support a fullscale grocery anytime soon and in the meantime, the options are NOT limited to a edge superstore or Zingerman’s.


       —Aki    Oct. 23 '06 - 08:07PM    #
  32. just haven’t discovered the urban sophistication of $20/lb fish at Monahan’s and wilted produce at White Market.

    In my experience, the produce at PFC tends to be similarly priced and of notably better quality to that at Kroger or Busch’s. (Trader Joes is cheaper, yes, but the fact that they individually shrink-wrap heads of broccoli is only one of myriad reasons I hate Trader Joes.) And, 6 months a year, there’s the Farmers Market. Using the least best option in downtown as the comparison to edge supermarkets isn’t fair.

    Plus, showing my hippie colors, I have to say that I’ve found PFC to win on both price and quality when it comes to tofu, soy milk, miso, and other such products. Yes, I know I could probably find better/cheaper at various stores outside of downtown, but not Kroger/Buschs/Hillers, which seem to be the benchmark of shopping style in this discussion.


       —Murph    Oct. 23 '06 - 09:10PM    #
  33. Okay, I concede that if you happen to live near where the stores are and not on, say, Hill and Washtenaw, they are at least not horribly inconvenient for some, but not all, purchases, and not horribly expensive, except for the things that are expensive, and their hours aren’t horribly inconvenient if they happen to be convenient for you. And if you like fresh produce, you can get some, but not all, of your veggies at Farmers Market a couple days a week if the hours work for you. Oh, and you can avoid the bus when by buying lightbulbs and batteries and toilet paper at VC, and cleaning supplies in very small quantities at any corner store. That works just great for people who are excellent at organizing their errands and who also have lots of time. And if you work limited hours/happen to have a schedule that works with Kerrytown’s/Sparrow’s/Knight’s/Farmer’s Market/Whatever pharmacy is still left and/or if you think that shopping during your lunch hour instead of, say, working or eating or socializing, is a good way to spend your time…then yes, Ann Arbor completely meets the needs of downtown residents. Oh, and as for surviving, I would hazard a guess that most of us could survive on food purchased from the fast food joints in the student union. Of course, it would still be better for some, but maybe not all, if there were a full-service grocery store in town.


       —Anna    Oct. 23 '06 - 09:40PM    #
  34. “PFC tends to be similarly priced and of notably better quality to that at Kroger or Busch’s.”

    I don’t know what you’ve been buying there, but PFC has the fruits or vegetables I want only about half of the time, and then they are far, far more expensive than anywhere else I’ve been (including Kerrytown Market.) The only exception I’ve found is basil in the summer, which you can get there fairly cheap.

    I tend to cook from recipes, and it’s quite likely that I won’t find all of the ingredients in a particular recipe downtown. So it’s a gamble—do I buy this eggplant and feta at the PFC hoping that the aluminum foil and serrano peppers I need to complete the recipe will be at Kerrytown Market? Or am I going to be stuck with half of a recipe? The way shopping is set up downtown simply does not work for my cooking style, but I’m willing to believe it works for some people.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 23 '06 - 09:42PM    #
  35. Anna nailed it. PFC works OK for me and worked great when I lived 2 blocks away. By the Pound hasn’t worked too well for me even though I live a block away because most days I don’t get back till 8 or so. WM is closed by then too, so I can’t stop there on the way home. And I WANT to stop at places on the way home.


       —Dale    Oct. 23 '06 - 09:52PM    #
  36. PS Ross Orr rocks!


       —Dale    Oct. 23 '06 - 09:54PM    #
  37. With apologies to Anna …

    Okay, I concede that if you happen have a car and drive it to work or live on the outskirts of town, the grocery stores on the edge of town are at least not horribly inconvenient for some, but not all, purchases, and not horribly expensive, except for the highly processed or organic items, and their hours are pretty convenient. And if you like fresh organic or local produce, you can get some, oh wait, none of them at these stores. Oh, and you can avoid the rush if you get there really early or really late, or if you take your car out during lunch when the parking lot isn’t full and the lines aren’t so long and maybe you can buy non-toxic cleaning supplies and detergent that don’t make you itch or smell like cheap perfume at a very few stores, maybe every once in a while they will stock it, but not usually. That works just great for people who like to drive and have big, organized shopping lists that have every meal for the next week on them and be bombarded with a million different products that you don’t want and aren’t ever going to buy, but you have to get past them to find what you really want, which is on the bottom shelf or maybe they don’t carry it anymore, but the clerk doesn’t know and doesn’t offer to help. And if you have to buy so many things that you can’t pop into a store on your way back from lunch to buy a bottle of shampoo and you happen to have a need for something that the store doesn’t carry and you ask if they can order it for you and they just give you a blank look and say no, and if you don’t want to shop in a place where you actually know people and can socialize with them…then yes, Ann Arbor doesn’t meet the needs of downtown residents. Oh, and as for surviving, I would hazard a guess that most of us could survive on food purchased from Target or Wal-Mart, but we would probably be obese, with high-blood pressure, and bad cholesterol. Of course, it would still be better for some, but not all, if there were a full-service, inexpensive, high-end, grocery store that carried everything I wanted to buy within a few blocks of my house.


       —Juliew    Oct. 23 '06 - 10:14PM    #
  38. Yeah, I think we’re arguing for the same thing, except I’d like mine cheaper, within walking distance, and with better hours (i.e., full-service), please.


       —Anna    Oct. 23 '06 - 10:28PM    #
  39. And if that’s not going to happen, at least until A2 is the size of Portland or the density of Cambridge, then what? And if you think there’s going to be Busch’s or Kroger’s or Hiller’s downtown soon, well, you can ride there on your pony. In the meantime, you can always justify doing no shopping downtown because you can’t do all shopping downtown 24 hours a day, with everyday low low prices underpinned by everyday low low wages.


       —Aki    Oct. 24 '06 - 01:14AM    #
  40. “In the meantime, you can always justify doing no shopping downtown because you can’t do all shopping downtown 24 hours a day, with everyday low low prices underpinned by everyday low low wages.”

    Another attempt to smear chain grocery stores by disingenuously associating them with Wal-Mart. Of course, chain grocery workers are more likely to be unionized than those at independent stores. Kroger in particular is unionized.

    http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs024.htm


       —ann arbor is overrated    Oct. 24 '06 - 01:42AM    #
  41. Yeah. I want lower prices, better hours, in a location that I can walk to from home, and, in fact, close enough that I can make just one trip per month, better selection, and – oh, rats! Aki beat me to the ponies!

    I guess it’s mostly a matter of shopping / cooking / eating style. If you’re vegetarian and willing to cook, rather than microwave, the food co-op is simultaneously the cheapest place in town and carries everything you need.

    If you’re one of those super-organized people who are good at making lists, you might get bent out of shape at the selection of some of the downtown stores, as AAiO does. If, on the other hand, your concerns with selection involve things like “organic” or “local”, and you go to the store with general ideas and flesh them out based on availability (and price), because you’re terrible at using recipes, then again the food co-op has the best selection in town, aside from the Farmer’s Market in season. And, personally, I prefer a smaller place with better food (yes, food has a qualitative dimension to it) to a place with more, worse food – I’d rather swing through the co-op on a few fast trips per week to pick up a sack at a time of things i can use to make meals I like than spend time agonizing in Kroger’s aisles over thousands of things that aren’t what I want.

    Because, if the co-op and the Farmers Market are your basis points for quality, then produce at Kroger just isn’t worth it regardless of the price. (When I lived near the S. Industrial Kroger and went there to shop, I would make separate trips to The Produce Station, to pick up, you know, produce.)

    But, hey. I suppose this is the point where somebody calls me elitist. Let’s just consider it said, shall we?


       —Murph.    Oct. 24 '06 - 02:22AM    #
  42. “I guess it’s mostly a matter of shopping / cooking / eating style. If you’re vegetarian and willing to cook, rather than microwave, the food co-op is simultaneously the cheapest place in town and carries everything you need.”

    Well, maybe I should start saving my receipts, because that isn’t what I’ve seen at all.

    I agree that their tofu seems to be in the same ballpark as other places, and some of the bulk stuff (rice, oats, etc.) is too.

    Pasta starts at $1.50—$2.00 a pound, though, and I’d have guessed the average produce prices were at least double what I see at the supermarkets. I’m not restricting myself to organic—maybe that makes the difference.

    “Because, if the co-op and the Farmers Market are your basis points for quality, then produce at Kroger just isn’t worth it regardless of the price.”

    I’ll admit to not having been in Kroger in a while. The produce we’ve gotten at the Busch’s on Green has been fine, and it seems to me I’ve seen some sad stuff at the coop before. So while I could believe the coop produce might be better quality on average, I’m not sure the difference is so big. (But, OK, I’m no connoisseur).


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 24 '06 - 02:56AM    #
  43. “If you’re vegetarian and willing to cook, rather than microwave…”

    Oh, and by the way, we really don’t do prepackaged food either. BUT: don’t pass up those microwaveable “Kitchens of India” meals. I think Village Corner has them. Maybe it’s just a temporary promotion, but the last few have come with their own dinner music. Good music, too. Two thumbs up!


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 24 '06 - 03:21AM    #
  44. Bruce Fields wrote about the Kitchens of India meals: ”...but the last few have come with their own dinner music.”

    The packages come with a CD??!! Details please!


       —HD    Oct. 24 '06 - 03:42AM    #
  45. Sorry about the snarky tone last night, aaio—-it was late—but actually I wasn’t thinking in terms of the workers at the large groceries (which seem to vary a lot in working conditions and morale) so much as their suppliers and the whole chain of production. If food and other goods are awfully cheap on the shelf, there may be a reasons for that. But it was still off to the side of my main point—-one stop shopping is unlikely to happen downtown and the alternative is not no shopping there—so I’ll retract it.

    I find the prices at the downtown/near downtown places vary at lot in how they compare to large stores. Some things (hummus) are half the price for the same brand at the Co-op compared to Busch’s and Zingerman’s bread can be got a lot cheaper downtown, whereas for basic canned goods and some non-food items, the large stores are both cheaper and run deals a lot, so it’s worth it to me to stock up on things like that in very occasional runs to a large store. I really think that one can shop relatively cheaply at either kind of store, depending on how much one buys at a time, how much storage space one has, how committed one is to particular brands or standards (organic, fair trade etc), and how committed one is to getting everything in one place (and that works both ways-for instance, out at Busch’s you might still be better off hitting the pet food place and the CVS separately, while downtown you might do well to get your pasta at the co-op rather than Sparrow’s even tho you get your fish at Monaghan’s). It also matters how you calculate costs in terms of time and car use, of course, and even how you think about using less or more of some things (e.g. do you go thru paper towels at a different rate if you buy them by the twelve-pack at a megamart than if you pick up a roll on the way home at Acme?). It doesn’t seem to me that that downtown always come out ahead but, once more, a lot depends on your particular routes and needs and it’s quite good in many ways both for basics and extras.


       —Aki    Oct. 24 '06 - 11:47AM    #
  46. All the responses since I last wandered by are a nice illustration of why a downtown supermarket wouldn’t work. If there were a downtown Kroger store, it sounds to me like nobody here dedicated to walkable downtown living would actually shop there, because…well…because it’s Krogers after all.

    Who would the customers be for a such a store? Would all you downtown shoppers switch from the farmer’s market, the co-op, Monahan’s, etc and shop at a downtown Kroger store instead?

    The problem is that not only aren’t there enough people with a philosophical commitment to a car-free urban life, but those tendencies come with other ones—in particular, a preference for small, independent markets with locally grown, organic products. That being the case, it strikes me that the current array of downtown grocery vendors is probably just about right.

    How many of you have seen this, BTW:

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/141845.html


       —mw    Oct. 24 '06 - 01:01PM    #
  47. “The packages come with a CD??!! Details please!”

    Yup. Um, googling around; here’s an article. Sounds like it was a temporary promotion, but I imagine that stuff probably has a pretty long shelf life, so maybe it’s still around.

    Anyway, I was amused.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 24 '06 - 02:56PM    #
  48. mw—I can say with confidence that EVERYONE who shops downtown would shop there. Not all the time, but they would stop in.

    Where I spend part of my time in Evanston, we have a Wild Oats 2 blocks away, a Jewel 3 blocks, and a Whole Foods about 8 blocks. I can’t believe it, but these stores seem to be still in business. And Evanston has a population about 30k below Ann Arbor.

    I can’t wait for someone to make the points “Evanston has a greater population density” or “but they have more compact development” in response to this.


       —Dale    Oct. 24 '06 - 03:28PM    #
  49. Here you go Dale: Evanston has a population density of 9,584.06—more than double the density of Ann Arbor.

    You are right, however, that people would shop at a grocery store downtown. The question is, would enough people shop to make it worth the store moving in. I think if it was the right store in the right area, it could happen, but no company seems to be coming forward. Maybe a Trader Vics (inexpensive, high-end, fairly small store) or a Pollys Market (conventional groceries, inexpensive, relatively small store). Personally, I thought Food and Drug Mart was the perfect-sized “urban” grocery store, but they had a hard time and are now out of business. Obviously, people think Stricklands, Village Corner, and White Market are too small. There definitely could be a pharmacy (come back, come back Decker Drugs) on the West side of downtown (in Liberty Lofts perhaps) to complement Village Apothecary and the Prescription Shop. A grocery store on the Library Lot or the current City Hall lot still wouldn’t fill the gap for people farther east. South Main Street currently has two former grocery store sites for lease, but again, I’m not sure those would be the preferred sites.

    For those of you who really want a grocery store downtown, what type of store would you want and where?


       —Juliew    Oct. 24 '06 - 04:14PM    #
  50. Thanks for following up, Julie, because this reinforces the point that compact development and density (the planners’ angle) supports the things we want like a grocery store. If denser development were possible anywhere but the 12 square blocks of downtown or even adjacent to those 12 square blocks, we could support one or more moderate to large grocery stores.

    Evanston has allowed multiple 8+ story mixed-use condo buildings to be built to satisfy market demand. Their first floors are filled with a range of businesses from small chains to Barnes and Nobles. In addition, this density has enabled the old businesses we love so much to stay afloat in their older buildings. Evanston actually has GAINED a book store in the last year, and a used one at that. How many has Ann Arbor lost?

    E-town is also looking at form-bases zoning codes, has just implemented density bonuses for affordable housing and has imposed fees, and has a development vs. preservation controversy, ie it’s very comparable to Ann Arbor. (not to try to misdirect the conversation)


       —Dale    Oct. 24 '06 - 04:31PM    #
  51. Apart from population density, the big difference between Evanston and Ann Arbor, is that Evanston is bounded by other dense urban communities on 3 sides (and the lake on the other)—there is no lower-cost, low-density periphery in or around Evanston, so Jewel (unlike Kroger in Ann Arbor) can’t easily close smaller downtown stores and build large new stores on cheaper land (which still remain within a few minutes driving distance).

    Politically, Evanston may be like Ann Arbor, but geographically, it really isn’t. In terms of size, location, and population density, Ann Arbor is more like…um…Naperville ;)


       —mw    Oct. 24 '06 - 05:08PM    #
  52. I contrast Evanston with the city immediately to the west, Skokie. No less bounded by other communities, it’s all strip mall. It’s facile to throw one’s hands up and say, “well, that’s the market,” as so many people do, when the market is created by a combination of government, consumer, and business actors.

    Markets don’t just exist—they are created. It’s the same with cities—Ann Arbor’s development as of 1920 should no more determine our destiny than 1920s (“Well, that’s Ann Arbor”) than business practices of that period should. Ann Arbor could make far different choices about how to promote its economy and guide its development from the ones it has and does.


       —Dale    Oct. 24 '06 - 05:50PM    #
  53. Bruce –
    You’ve probably got me on the co-op’s price for pasta. But I buy pasta 20# at a time once every several months. It’s real cheap that way.


       —Murph    Oct. 24 '06 - 06:15PM    #
  54. It’s facile to throw one’s hands up and say, “well, that’s the market,” as so many people do

    I don’t advocate the throwing up our hands and shrugging, but it’s a dangerous fallacy to imagine that we can create any sort of urban environment and market we choose provided we have just the ‘right’ set of policies and regulations. Our country is scarred with the disasters of planners who thought anything was possible. Many downtowns were screwed up (my understanding is that Ann Arbor nearly was, too—I’ve been told that the Kerrytown/North Main area was slated for ‘urban renewal’ at one point). I’m not suggesting that anything like that is being considered now, but a bit of humility and caution is called for.

    And, yes, there is a great deal of path dependency in the evolution of cities—it does matter how Ann Arbor was developed up to the 1920’s (for good and for ill—but mostly good). I’m generally in favor of permitting taller buildings in the central city, but no matter what, downtown businesses are going to continue to face competition from stores with more space on cheaper land in the (nearby) outskirts, and that’s going to limit what’s economically viable downtown.

    A small slice of Manhattan or Chicago isn’t within reach, but a city that’s somewhat more dense, where people walk more and drive less (rather than not-at-all) is doable.


       —mw    Oct. 24 '06 - 06:22PM    #
  55. Blaming urban renewal solely on planners ignores the fact that in the vast majority of cases, there were broad coalitions of community groups that supported redevelopment.

    What is now central Ann Arbor’s development in the 1920s was actually the third generation (at least) of development on these set of sites since the city’s founding.

    I don’t mean to get preachy on you, mw, since I think we’re not THAT far apart, but the basic economics of land development are no different in Ann Arbor than they are in other cities. The chief failing of Ann Arbor in the economic conditions you point to is that the incredibly limited amount of developable land/space in central Ann Arbor (which makes it less economically feasible) is a result of an easily (physically if not politically) changeable idea about what is downtown and what is (re)developable.


       —Dale    Oct. 24 '06 - 06:39PM    #
  56. “I buy pasta 20# at a time once every several months. It’s real cheap that way.”

    You’re doing bulk orders through the coop, or something else?


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 24 '06 - 07:14PM    #
  57. I think it’s telling that one of the this discussion’s most ardent supporters of shopping in downtown has to use a bus or a car in order to do it. When building is restricted (to prop up home values or because the current downtown homeowners just don’t like real density), density can’t develop. When density can’t develop, even the most avid fans of an urban, walkable lifestyles can’t afford to live downtown. When those folks can’t afford it, then density doesn’t develop. And so on and so on.

    Personally, I’ve always thought that a urban-scale Busch’s would be a good edition to downtown. The bonus is that they are locally-owned. With all due respect to Juliew, wanting to be able to walk to a Busch’s is not the same thing as wanting to drive to a Wal-Mart.


       —Anna    Oct. 24 '06 - 07:59PM    #
  58. I think it’s telling that one of the this discussion’s most ardent supporters of shopping in downtown has to use a bus or a car in order to do it.

    To whom are you referring? Is this because they don’t actually live downtown, don’t want to carry everything on foot, or because it isn’t possible? I don’t think having to ride a bus or ride a bike is necessarily a downfall.

    When building is restricted (to prop up home values or because the current downtown homeowners just don’t like real density)
    To get enough people to actually live downtown (within the DDA itself) would require thousands of new units, which isn’t feasible in this economic climate. It would also really push out any hope of affordability in retail or housing. It is a fine line, you need some new units to create more housing and retail, but not so many that older buildings with their more reasonable rents (and historical value) are pushed out (or jack up their prices when they see what the new guys get for rent). New units are always more expensive than existing units. In my neighborhood, the new building that was supposed to “provide nice, affordable, housing for students” runs $700/bedroom + utilities + parking. The older houses for rent literally next door include utilities and parking and are $350/bedroom. There is this rumor about a vast wave of untapped people who want to live downtown, but I haven’t seen them. Seems like “everything” is too expensive, too small, too cheap, not nice enough, etc.

    urban-scale Busch’s
    Is there such a thing? Is the company willing to do this? Would they do it with a small or nonexistent or underground parking lot? Where? Would Tally Hall work? It is almost entirely underground, but does have a decent street presence and parking adjacent. Grocery stores don’t tend to have windows anyway. Would it be OK if it put White Market out of business? Is that a reasonable trade for our community?


       —Juliew    Oct. 24 '06 - 08:57PM    #
  59. The Tally Hall question is interesting. My guess is that even if the basement location were acceptable, the geographic location wouldn’t be. It’s almost too central. There’s not enough customer base within walking distance, and if one is going to drive, why go toward the density of downtown and a parking structure rather than away from it to a surface lot? That said, what’s ‘interesting’ is relative. See below.

    The attraction of the PFC, Kerrytown, and the farmers’ market is what they sell moreso than where they sell it. If anything, what they sell will be in higher demand in the future as food is obtained from more local sources, in less-processed forms. (Murph is just ahead of the curve.)

    Smaller markets like the one that Zingerman’s sponsors at their Roadhouse location on the west side will be established in the northeast (Plymouth) and southeast (Packard/Platt), and possibly S. State and/or AA-Saline Rd. near I-94. If we’re lucky, the PFC will expand in the near future (possibly meeting some of that pent-up demand for other products we’re hearing about here.)

    The oil will be essentially gone in 20-30 years, folks. And gasoline is going to become permanently expensive very soon. (My prediction is $3/gal by Feb of 2007 and $4/gal by July, absent greater demand destruction than we’ve seen in the last two years.) Buy a bike trailer and get used to the idea of moving yourself and your stuff around without fossil fuels.


       —Steve Bean    Oct. 25 '06 - 01:37AM    #
  60. Steve Bean wrote: “Buy a bike trailer …”

    Steve, do you have a personal favorite make/model or a DIY scheme you’d be willing to share?


       —HD    Oct. 25 '06 - 01:56AM    #
  61. Dale: I don’t mean to get preachy on you, mw, since I think we’re not THAT far apart, but the basic economics of land development are no different in Ann Arbor than they are in other cities. The chief failing of Ann Arbor in the economic conditions you point to is that the incredibly limited amount of developable land/space in central Ann Arbor (which makes it less economically feasible) is a result of an easily (physically if not politically) changeable idea about what is downtown and what is (re)developable.

    It’s true, that political restrictions on redevelopment raise land costs downtown—both preservationism and the various costs and constraints placed on developers make downtown development more difficult and expensive compared to township development. But those political factors are not easily changeable and even without them, land would be considerably more expensive in the center than in the townships. The proximity of the townships (and competition from businesses located there) really does matter (in a way that it doesn’t in the heart of Chicago or in Evanston).


       —mw    Oct. 25 '06 - 01:04PM    #
  62. HD, I haven’t taken this step (a trailer) yet myself, and so (and because it’s a great list) I’ll share a bit of what Ken Clark, local bike/transit enthusiast, shared with the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition (WBWC) email list recently for Scott TenBrink’s car-free living project (I don’t see Ken’s list on Scott’s site):

    2. Bike trunk. I used to do this as a student, and I still see people doing it from time to time. Put a rear rack on a bike and bungie or tie a milk crate onto the rack. This allows you to carry up to 50lbs of stuff on the back of the bike. I once managed two full paper bags of groceries this way.

    3. Panniers. Also known as “saddle bags.” These are bags that attach to the rear rack of the bike. I routinely load my panniers up with a paper grocery bag or about 40lbs worth of stuff.

    4. Bike Trailer. I use an Equinox bike trailer (http://www.efn.org/~equinox/, $422 base model) that I bought on line. I routinely (literally every week) load this trailer up with a week’s worth of groceries for our family of four. Most Saturdays, I buy a 40lb bag of compost/manure at Downtown Home and Garden, pick up our Tantre Farms share at the Farmers Market as well as another 20 lbs or so of whatever’s in season, and then head to the Food Co-op for milk, eggs, etc. It often runs to 100-120 lbs of stuff. I’ve put up to 150 lbs in the trailer and another 40 lbs in my panniers. You need low gears for this kind of hauling. There are trailers rated to 500 lbs (see bikesatwork.com).

    5. Grocery hand cart. This is one of the best ways to haul groceries as a pedestrian. These are wire basket carts that usually have two large wheels and two smaller wheels at the bottom. They often fold flat for storage. You can pretty easily get a few bags of groceries in these carts and up to 100 or so lbs of goods. I know Carpenter Brothers has three different carts like this.

    6. Jogger. We have bottom baskets for our Baby Jogger and Twinner. The kids walk most of the time these days. The jogger can hold about 20lbs worth of stuff as well as the kid, or about 80lbs when the kid is walking.

    7. Wagon. We bought a Hefte Hauler wagon at Northern Tool (http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?productId=21020&R=21020&storeId=6970, $160 for the wagon itself). It hauls (I kid you not) up to 1200lbs. I bought a couple of big biners to attach the wagon to the rear rack of my bike for occasional short hauls. The most we’ve ever put in the wagon is about 800lbs. It’s hard to pull over uneven, non-level ground with anything more than 500lbs or so, but rolls pretty easily over pavement heavily loaded. I presume you’d need multiple people pulling or a lawn tractor to use the full 1200lbs capacity.


       —Steve Bean    Oct. 25 '06 - 01:42PM    #
  63. mw—illustrating that we’re only a few inches apart, I totally agree, except with the elaboration that downtown or urban real estate doesn’t need to be as cheap as that in the townships, etc. It just needs to be closer. People and businesses will pay something of a premium for walkability and/or density of neighborhood or adjacent services, just not, say, triple what it costs in Scio Township.


       —Dale    Oct. 25 '06 - 04:21PM    #
  64. I believe all of Ken’s suggestions are posted on carfree ann arbor, but they are posted as seperately instead of as a list.

    burley also makes popular trailers.

    xtracycle is a cool solution that I’d like to try eventually.

    Also at carfree ann arbor are a few hauling ideas from Yangon, Myanmar (I just got back from visiting). Not sure if Yangon is a good model for A2, but since it is also surrounded by cheap land, maybe it is a more accurate comparison than Evenston. If so, what A2 is really lacking is street vendors.


       —Scott TenBrink    Oct. 26 '06 - 09:39AM    #