Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Library Renovations and the Library Lot

25. January 2008 • Juliew
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Last summer, the Ann Arbor District Library released their “Space Needs and Facility Study for the Downtown Library.” It generated a bit of controversy and really made the citizens, the Library, the DDA, and the City think about what we all wanted for downtown.

Next week, nine architectural firms will be making presentations for the Downtown Library project. The presentations will be in the 4th Floor Board Room and are free and open to the public. (Schedule and web links after the jump.)

Earlier this month, the DDA proposed (and will entirely pay for) twoone underground parking structure adjacent to the Library and a “Library Lane.” Article here.

As Library Director Josie Parker said on the AADL web site:

The opportunity to address the Library’s need to create an accessible and flexible space Downtown that will adjust to new uses over the next several decades is very exciting. The opportunity to do this in collaboration with the DDA and the City of AA, in terms of the development of the “library lot”, is a very positive step toward a progressive urban design plan for the Fifth Avenue/William street area. We appreciate the interest and support we are receiving from the DDA and the Ann Arbor City Council.

Presentation Schedule
Monday, January 28, 2008
1:00-2:30 p.m. Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, LTD
2:30-4:00 p.m. Frye Gillan Molinaro Architects
6:30-8:00 p.m. Engberg Anderson, Inc. in association with Mitchell and Mouat Architects
8:00-9:30 p.m. inFORM Studio

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
3:00-4:30 p.m. HKS Architects, P.C.
6:30-8:00 p.m. Penchansky Whisler Architects in association with A3C Collaborative Architecture

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
6:30-8:00 p.m. designLAB architects in association with Quinn Evans | Architects

Thursday, January 31, 2008
6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates in association with David Milling Architects
7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Luckenbach|Ziegelman Architects, PLLC



  1. Actually, if built as discussed at the DDA committee meetings, it’s all one parking structure. It would never be two separate ones. The question is do we want to build under S. Fifth Avenue in addition to building under the existing surface parking lot? It would not make sense to build two separate structures, although that is how the AA News interpreted the ideas. And, these are just ideas right now, until City Council gives the go ahead. The DDA is working closely with the AA District Library to make sure that the library can be connected easily, and that there is space for drop-off and pick up of people and drop off of library materials.


       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 26 '08 - 05:04AM    #
  2. half of Peter Allen’s class this semester created plans for the Library Lot…I wonder if the DDA will look at those (some were quite cool!)


       —Stacy    Jan. 26 '08 - 05:44AM    #
  3. Right, Leah…I thought the same thing after reading the A2 News; that is, that there would be two separate structures. One big parking structure makes much more sense.
    I was also a little unclear about the “library lane” (that’s a cute name)...would one be able to drive up and drop off one’s books/materials into drop boxes? That would be convenient for people like me who can be lazy :)


       —TeacherPatti    Jan. 26 '08 - 03:17PM    #
  4. That is the idea – yes, that people could drop off their materials, as well as pick up and drop off passengers. It would also provide access to the underground parking structure. To answer Stacy’s question – yes, we have seen the ideas from Peter’s class. However the plans at this point will be for temporary parking on top until the City decides what they want – but the structure will be built to accomodate both Library Lane and a building north of it. But no one knows what that might be at this point. Remember, the library plans to shift the entrance to their new building to the north, to face Library Lane.


       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 26 '08 - 03:40PM    #
  5. It’s gratifying to see the DDA, the City Council, and the Library Board all working collaboratively on these projects!

    The parking structure will probably be completed before the Downtown Library renovations, but the designs will be compatible. The projects can’t be synchronized for these reasons:

    ** The DDA already has a funding mechanism available for the parking structure. The Library, however, will need to ask for the public’s support to increase its present millage to pay for the Downtown Library project.

    ** The Library is still in the process of picking an architect, and we are a long way from approving a final schematic design.

    Special thanks to juliew for adding the links to the websites of each of the architects who will be presenting to the Library Board this week. The Board has received a substantial stack of hard copy from the architects. Having these web links will allow the public to get the general flavor of each of these firms.

    I hope we have some members of the public attend these presentations. After all, the Board will be asking you to support the renovation with your tax dollars.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 26 '08 - 04:18PM    #
  6. If anyone knows of a website for Penchansky Whisler Architects, I would be happy to add it in. As an aside, it seems to me that architects need to lay off the flash animation. These websites almost all made my eyes hurt.

    As for Library Lane, I do think it is unfortunate that the Library has chosen to put their entrance toward the Lane, rather than William or Fifth. Shows how much they think of pedestrians or the casual passerby. I guess they are modeling it after the Hands-On Museum, which is quite difficult for people to find.


       —Juliew    Jan. 27 '08 - 05:34AM    #
  7. Actually, the idea of moving the Library entrance to the north, off of Library Lane, is designed to increase pedestrian safety and accessibility. Right now, the high-speed traffic going south on Fifth makes it dangerous for people who can’t resist stopping their cars on Fifth and dropping off children or other patrons. We have been lucky that no one has been injured or killed here recently.

    Library Lane, on the other hand, is designed to be a very low-speed street. It will have a roundabout and other features designed to slow traffic to a literal crawl, and will be safe for pedestrians to cross.

    So – it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. 8-)

    Penchansky Whisler Architects only has a “place holder” web page at www.p-wa.com. That page refers you to their e-mail address of info@p-wa.com.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 27 '08 - 04:16PM    #
  8. That makes it sound like there aren’t any statistics to support the claim that Fifth and William is actually unsafe. Is there any other evidence to go on, or is this just based on complaints from the general public?

    There’s a pretty high volumes of both car and foot traffic right there, so there are a lot of daily opportunities for conflicts. If years are passing without seeing any injuries, then there comes a point when it doesn’t sound like just “luck” any more—I’m inclined to conclude that it’s actually a pretty safe intersection.

    I also seem to recall various proposals to reduce Fifth and Division to two full traffic lanes, adding street parking and/or bike lanes instead, and I’m inclined to favor proposals that push those streets more in the direction of shared use and less in the direction of high-speed arterials.


       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 27 '08 - 10:37PM    #
  9. Given that the library is a destination and is on the edge of downtown, I don’t see any disadvantage to moving the entrance to the north side from a pedestrian perspective. Am I missing something?

    From a driving perspective, I can imagine that trying to get out onto Fifth from Library Lane could be even trickier than coming out of the current parking lot since cars wanting to enter from Fifth would slow and turn in front of cars ‘exiting’ onto Fifth. Likewise on Division. (Currently, the lanes are reversed on Division, and vehicles enter the parking lot ‘upstream’ of the exit on Fifth.) Or, again, am I missing something?

    What would be the purpose of the roundabout, David? For the drop off area and the parking structure entrance/exit?


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 27 '08 - 11:25PM    #
  10. Yes, the roundabout would be both for the drop off area (on the north side of the Library) and for the parking structure entrance/exit, plus the parking and/or other features on the plaza on top of the underground parking structure.

    There are some impressive graphics of Library Lane and the roundabout in the DDA’s report. Here is a link to the report. The graphics start on page 12.


       —David Cahill    Jan. 27 '08 - 11:51PM    #
  11. I liked the proposals that had a drop-off lane in the design, but where the main entrance still faced one of the main streets. I think I just find it uncomfortable that we are going to hide the front of such an important building so it either faces a parking lot (for now) or the side of another building (eventually). The example I used before is the Hands-on Museum which has this same type of entrance off of a less-used street. If you don’t already know it is there, it is awfully hard to find. I guess it is probably the thing these days to orient your library toward the closest parking lot, but personally I don’t think that is how a library should be.

    David, thanks for the link to the report. The graphics were helpful.


       —Juliew    Jan. 28 '08 - 12:16AM    #
  12. I agree with Juliew. Placing the library’s main (only?) entrance on Library Lane highlights the point that the car still rules the design. As for the idea of encouraging pedestrian traffic at the main traffic drop-off seems like a bad idea for many reasons. Perhaps I can be convinced if David can show us some locations where such a design has been tried and works well and safely. In my experience, introducing even slow speed traffic into areas of heavy pedestrian traffic doesn’t make sense at all.


       —John Q.    Jan. 28 '08 - 01:41AM    #
  13. I’d say that the location of the building on the ‘outside’ edge of the block has slightly more influence on the design than car-centricity. Unlike the HOM, this site would at least have an obvious entrance, including pedestrian activity, from the major streets. (A main entrance on William would be more comparable to the HOM.)

    From the renderings (thanks, David) even the approach from the BTC looks more inviting than what’s there now, and pedestrians would have reason to cross perpendicularly rather than diagonally to/from the current entrance, also eliminating most crossings of the bus entrance to BTC. Thinking about that, too bad the bus flow through BTC couldn’t be reversed to further eliminate buses and pedestrians crossing paths, but it wouldn’t work with right-side doors. Hmm, wouldn’t the site between the two one-way streets be the better one for a bus station? Maybe the library and AATA/Old Y could swap. Wouldn’t that be fun? Then we could roll in the Greyhound station and have a real transit center… … … I may or may not be joking.

    Back OT: The drop-off area does look like a free-for all without any designated crosswalks and the parking spread out the way it’s diagrammed. On the other hand, that’s about what we have now with the current parking lot. No doubt it can be improved from the initial drawings. Maybe the roundabout is misplaced. A pinch there might be better.

    The bus parking next to the vehicle traffic lane is questionable, though—a little kid could easily emerge unseen in the traffic lane from between the buses. Kids don’t really need to be dropped off at the door, do they? If the buses are going to park anyway, how about east of the entrance? Maybe that’s where the roundabout belongs too?


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 28 '08 - 05:34AM    #
  14. Penchansky Whisler has an office near my house – I’ll ask Seth.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 28 '08 - 06:12AM    #
  15. Sorry, I used “OT” to mean “on topic”.


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 28 '08 - 04:31PM    #
  16. responding to a couple of points upthread

    1) Bruce—your comment about the current dropoff being safe frankly ticks me off as being damned irresponsible. Shame on you.

    2) Steve — it is an unfortunate fact of the modern condition that many parents do, in fact, feel it is necessary to drop the kids off immediately in front of the front door and see safely inside.

    Your concern about the bus parking does seem well founded.

    3) I share the concerns about mixing pedestrian traffic and dropoffs, and I share Julie’s concern about making the design car-centric.

    Safety should be the #1 priority here. I don’t want ever to read that anyone was killed at the library drop off.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Jan. 28 '08 - 05:05PM    #
  17. A few comments:

    (1) I don’t like the roundabout. It seems like a waste of space and more of a danger than pedestrians than a help.

    (2) I think that moving the main (only?) entrance to ‘Library Lane’ is a huge mistake. Doing so essentially means that the library as a whole turns away from the rest of the city towards a parking lot. Having an entrance on that side makes sense, but not the main one. Personally I would like to see the main entrance stay on Fifth, with a secondary entrance on William. I know that multiple entrances makes it harder for the library to control access, but doing so would be better than providing blank walls which is what we effectively have on William now. It’s terrible to walk past as a pedestrian.

    (3) Did anyone else notice that the lane was shown being 2-way in the sketches? I don’t see how that would work unless we also switched Division and Fifth to being 2-way. Otherwise you get contrary traffic patterns and it wouldn’t work. Looks like the only way around it is for Library Lane to be one way from Fifth to Division – and then the roundabout really makes no sense, and speed bumps do.


       —KGS    Jan. 28 '08 - 06:41PM    #
  18. “Bruce—your comment about the current dropoff being safe frankly ticks me off as being damned irresponsible. Shame on you.”

    Could you explain why?

    I’m not refusing to believe that a given intersection is dangerous until someone’s killed there. All I’m asking for is some form of real evidence about the problem and its proposed solution. Such evidence could take the form, for example, of statistics about this particular spot, or statistics about similar drop-off areas elsewhere, or an analysis by someone who has a lot of experience studying situations like this.

    And it’s unhelpful to pretend that car/ped crashes just don’t happen—they unfortunately happen quite a lot. So when someone claims a given traffic situation is extremely dangerous in the absence of any actual crashes, I think it’s fair to at least expect them to provide a real argument.

    (I don’t even know where to find accident numbers—on a quick search all I could find was the appendix to the nonmotorized plan, which has that kind of detail only on the 11 intersections where they found the most bike/car or bike/ped accidents—this one not among them.)

    And, hey, maybe that sort of thinking is going on and I just haven’t seen it. So far the only discussion I’ve seen just assumes that the problem is so obvious that it doesn’t need examination, and that distresses me—with that attitude it seems likely that we’ll end up with something worse despite the best intentions.

    And the cynic in me wonders why people are suddenly so passionate about pedestrian safety whenever there’s a situation that might momentarily block traffic on a street. And why the solution inevitably seems to be “get those messy pedestrians out of my way!”

    As a pedestrian, I’m inclined to be suspicious of solutions that create little pedestrian paradises surrounded by seas of ever faster traffic…. If it’s really dangerous for people to set foot on Fifth—could we please focus on fixing that problem rather than on trying to keep people from setting foot on Fifth?


       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 28 '08 - 06:43PM    #
  19. I’ve taken a look at the documents and there is a lot not to like.

    First, why, with all this parking underground, do we also have to have parking on the top as well? How about a park on top of the deck like Post Office Park in Boston or Millennium Park in Chicago? A primarily green park with some moveable furniture next to a library is a great civic space and one that Ann Arbor has always been lacking.

    Second, if the park is used to top the parking deck, get rid of Library Lane. It just creates more pedestrian conflicts right at the front door of the library (if the front door is in this location). On second thought, just get rid of Library Lane.

    Last, this severely limits library expansion options. One more: Moving the main entrance to the north is a bad urban design move. Oh, One more: Roundabout? Seriously?

    I know these are just feasibility studies but these ideas, as improbable as it sounds, lack both pragmatism and creativity. That is tough to pull off.


       —imjustsayin    Jan. 29 '08 - 04:34AM    #
  20. First, why, with all this parking underground, do we also have to have parking on the top as well?

    The top of the deck could be closed to vehicles and used as civic space for special events. Leaving it open would be a waste of space as people prefer to linger in less open areas. (Chime in here all you planner types.) Also, making it “primarily green” (a challenge on top of a parking structure) would prevent most such uses.

    Also, I understand that a building with ground-floor shops was an alternative to the surface parking there.

    How about a park on top of the deck like Post Office Park in Boston or Millennium Park in Chicago?

    Ann Arbor doesn’t have the population of Boston or Chicago, or the number of visitors, so I don’t think we could justify such a large permanent space.

    Last, this severely limits library expansion options.

    AADL doesn’t own the parking lot, so presumably, I don’t think it could expand there.

    Moving the main entrance to the north is a bad urban design move.

    How so?

    Roundabout? Seriously?

    Apparently. Thoughts?

    KGS wrote:
    (2) I think that moving the main (only?) entrance to ‘Library Lane’ is a huge mistake. Doing so essentially means that the library as a whole turns away from the rest of the city towards a parking lot. Having an entrance on that side makes sense, but not the main one. Personally I would like to see the main entrance stay on Fifth, with a secondary entrance on William. I know that multiple entrances makes it harder for the library to control access, but doing so would be better than providing blank walls which is what we effectively have on William now. It’s terrible to walk past as a pedestrian.

    I’m still puzzled by this perspective. How do you see “the rest of the city” being south of the library, KGS? Even if you meant that literally instead of as ‘the rest of downtown’, I don’t understand.

    If windows were added to the south side (where they’d be most beneficial), might that change your opinion?


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 29 '08 - 03:05PM    #
  21. Green parking garages:

    http://www.bcbsm.com/home/bcbsm/factsheet_roof.shtml


       —John Q.    Jan. 29 '08 - 03:25PM    #
  22. We had four presentations yesterday. One of the firms, Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, put its presentation on a website. What do people think of it?


       —David Cahill    Jan. 29 '08 - 03:42PM    #
  23. With all the focus on the design in this conversation, please keep in mind that the DDA’s presentation to City Council was really a proposal for the underground parking structure. The graphics of the library lane were merely to lend context to the structure itself. True, the lane is part of the recommendation, but all design elements and mechanics presented are only placeholders. There will be a plenty of public process involved. but first council has to approve the structure before even an RFQ is put out for an architect.


       —Sandi Smith    Jan. 29 '08 - 03:55PM    #
  24. KGS and Juliew are right on target. Having the main entrance to a major civic building off an alley is a huge mistake. Call it anything you want but Library Lane will be an alley.

    The Hands-on Museum is a perfect example of what not to do again. It ‘turns its back on the city’ by not contributing to the walkability on Huron or Fifth (where you want people to walk) and by not offering an entrance and a face to the city on a prominent street. To think that the magnetic affects of that old firestation were thrown away by placing the entrance a whopping 500 feet away (not to mention the bland construction to the west).

    The library can easily be planned with a pull off so parents can drop off their kids without moving the entrance to the side. The kids can then just walk to the entrance.

    With respect to Fifth, we all know that this street is fast because the lights are timed to keep traffic moving from around Ann to Hill; if we approach the red lights at the right speed they turn green before we stop. The library activity is plenty of reason to temper that traffic flow by simply timing the lights differently. The long and short of it is if we allow Fifth to be a mini highway through the city then that’s what it will be. However if we want a walkable city then we must build that. Walkable includes among other things to be able to see your destination and to be able to understand a building’s activity easily from the street. Let the traffic bend to that. I wouldn’t be against ditching Library lane and just making a pull off with the east lane of Fifth (Like the Y without any parking).


       —abc    Jan. 29 '08 - 04:13PM    #
  25. I’m still puzzled by this perspective. How do you see “the rest of the city” being south of the library, KGS? Even if you meant that literally instead of as ‘the rest of downtown’, I don’t understand. If windows were added to the south side (where they’d be most beneficial), might that change your opinion?

    Because the rest of the city is, literally, south of the library. We shouldn’t just be designing the library as a facility for users coming from Liberty Street; the library should have entrances on every face where people could come from. In this case, that means William and Fifth as well as Library Lane. ABC makes a good point, in mentioning the goal of a walkable city. If this is what we truly want, than every building should be designed to be open and accessible from sidewalks. Making library patrons walk from the UM credit union, for example, around almost the entire building to access a main entrance from Library Lane is a big waste of time.

    To answer your other question, yes windows on the south and west facades to help connect the library to its environs would help. But an entrance within those windows makes even more sense.


       —KGS    Jan. 29 '08 - 05:42PM    #
  26. Yeah, John Q., I almost took that back. I was thinking more about trees (like the green half of Ingalls Mall) than ground cover, but even those are doable up to a certain size, using planter boxes.


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 29 '08 - 05:55PM    #
  27. “We had four presentations yesterday. One of the firms, Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, put its presentation on a website. What do people think of it?”

    Hm. Seems like 90% of the stuff is generic information they probably include in every proposal. I assume that’s typical, though? It’s also kinda flash-heavy.

    I suppose people might be most interested in the proposal available here.


       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 29 '08 - 06:13PM    #
  28. KGS, I think I was mostly confused by references (yours and others) to main vs. secondary entrances and front/face vs. back of the building. I agree that entrances on each street would be preferred.

    I hadn’t thought about coming on foot from the east (because I never do), so that reminder helped. I also just remembered that I’m not a typical pedestrian—I like more walking rather than less, so I hardly even notice an extra 500 ft. I’ll try to have a broader perspective. :-)


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 29 '08 - 06:28PM    #
  29. Steve after reading your post I feel like I should point out that I (and I think KGS) are using the term walkable to mean ‘wants to be walked’ as opposed to ‘can be walked’. Its not about whether or not you can walk the 500 feet to the entrance without noticing the distance. The Meiers in Scio has a sidewalk all around it but I would not call that walkable; it is not a pleasant walk, but it is a possible one.

    The issue here is building a pedestrian friendly downtown. The primary tools to do this are the buildings and it is critical that their entrances, and their first floors, make us want to be there. A library is an important building in a city (even though the internet and other electronics may be chipping away at their status) and should play an important role as a civic building, a meeting place, and it should contribute to a high quality streetscape. We have made many mistakes building in Ann Arbor with buildings that have little or no activities at the street and sidewalks like all of the parking garages, most of the bank buildings, 1 North Main, and most of the larger buildings on Huron including the new one at Ashley.

    Think of how you are happy to stroll up Main, from Williams to Washington, or on parts of Liberty, or State, on a warm spring morning looking into windows; but how you wouldn’t walk Huron unless you had no choice but to get somewhere. Now think that across the street from the Library is an entire city block with two, and only two, destinations; the bus station and the post office. Why would anyone want to walk there? We need to do better. We have an opportunity here with the Library, lets make the right choice and use it to improve the city.


       —abc    Jan. 29 '08 - 10:51PM    #
  30. Thanks, abc. I’m with you on improving walkability. I was hearing, “We don’t want the entrance over there!”, more than “Whatever you do, don’t make the sides facing the existing streets unwelcoming!”


       —Steve Bean    Jan. 29 '08 - 11:39PM    #
  31. Yesterday evening the Library Board unanimously selected Luckenbach|Ziegelman as the architectural firm for the renovation of the Downtown Library. We went through a marathon process of interviews and discussions. With many good firms in contention, the selection was not obvious.

    In other Library news, I am not running for re-election to the Board. No one holding public office is indispensable. I have been on the Board for two terms (since 2000), and I do not believe the public interest is served by people staying in office indefinitely just because they can.

    Also, this spring the Library will be opening our new Traverwood Branch, replacing the obsolete Northeast Branch. This new building completes our present branch construction program, and its dedication will be a fitting conclusion to my second and final term.

    The Library Board has seven seats, and five of them are up for election in May. Four are for full four-year terms, and one is for a two-year term. Since I am not running, there will be at least one “open seat” (one without an incumbent).

    So if anyone wants to run, now is your chance! The filing deadline is February 13 at 4:00. Candidates have the choice of filing either a $100 fee or petitions with not less than 40 and not more than 100 signatures.

    If you are interested, please call the County Clerk’s Office (222-6730) for further information and to arrange to pick up the forms, which include an affidavit of identity and a statement of organization for your campaign committee.

    Also, I would be happy to meet with any potential candidate and discuss the “Secret History of the Library Board”. 8-)


       —David Cahill    Feb. 6 '08 - 05:32PM    #
  32. Re Post 24 by abc: the timed lights that turn 5th into a mini highway are a good thing buddy. Every morning I make it my goal to go from Argo Drive to State and Eisenhower without stopping once. I especially love scattering the jaywalkers from the bus station like chickens. You know how that rabbit feels going under you’re speeding wheels. Bright images flashing by like windshields towards a fly. As funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks, stompin’ on a dream.

    Dollar (Canadian) via Pay Pal for the first to name those mashed up tunes. And no, it’s not Roundabout by Yes. Enough with the freakin’ urban crop circles.


       —Thomas Cook    Feb. 9 '08 - 05:50AM    #
  33. Not having checked in on Arbor Update in a while my contribution is not very timely. A little background on the Library Lane sketches may be in order. First, as Sandy has noted in post 23 these are concept drawings – not a design proposal. These sketches were done in a few weeks to simply to provide a picture of what a road there may look like.

    Of course that brings up the question of if there should be a road there at all and if the library’s new entrance should face that new road. In fact, a road was once in that location and some view rebuilding the road as a positive step in breaking up one of the largest blocks downtown. As for the library, it has been a long standing goal of the library to get a safe drop-off location – a point that was looked at during the 5th and Division Street studies. The drop-off and entrance on the proposed Library Lane is a response to the Library which has just made a commitment to enlarge the downtown library. I think the DDA is trying to respond to the wishes of an important downtown institution. But it should be noted that no one knows exactly what the library and its newly hired architect’s team will come up with during their design process. I would imagine though the pros and cons of locating the entrance at various streets will all be studied.

    As for the merits of the “roundabout” – first off it is not a roundabout. Think of it as an obstruction in the road to slow traffic down and draw attention to the entrance of the library. The vast majority of the pedestrian traffic from the underground parking deck to the library will pass below library lane to a basement entry to the library. But, no matter what is located on top of the underground parking, be it temporary surface parking, a plaza of some sort, a building or some combination thereof, there will likely be a dispersed flow of pedestrians between the library entrance and what is across the street.

    Thus, the intent was to slow traffic down through the use of pavers and an obstruction in the road (dressed up as a nice sculpture or fountain) so that pedestrians can cross safely between the marked crosswalks. Also, we wanted to design an environment where cars and bicycles would be traveling the same speed. This may be done in a number of ways, perhaps a long median would work as well. Also, the western half of the street, including the sculptural/fountain elements, is intended to be a dual-use space that could be closed to traffic for special events (the parking deck could still be served from Division). Again, as the designs for the library evolve and a public design process for the parking deck proceeds things will begin to take shape.

    Now the 3-D illustrations give the design a more finished look than is really the case. A few years ago we would have shown a design at this stage with some markers and colored pencils on trace paper. We used the 3-D modeling software (Google Sketch-Up) as we find it helpful for us to visualize the space and we think it is a nice communication tool. Its does have one big drawback – people think early ideas are much further along than they really are. Sorry for the long post, I hope this was helpful.


       —Norm Cox    Feb. 9 '08 - 08:20PM    #
  34. Thanks for this, Mr. Cox! Your explanation is clearer and more detailed than anything else the Library Board, or the public, have received.

    I am intrigued at the fact that there used to be a road through the block where Library Lane is proposed. What was it called, and when was it vacated?

    Another reminder that the deadline for Library Board candidates is this coming Wednesday, February 13, at 4:00. I managed to get the AA News to include the Library Board in its minimal coverage of this filing deadline in yesterday’s paper.

    Are either Ed Vielmetti or Fred Zimmerman interested in running? Either or both would bring good ideas to the Board.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 10 '08 - 02:43PM    #
  35. Mr. Cox, thank you for your explanation. I too am intrigued about the idea that there had once been a road there so I got out a map (since I have no historic maps of Ann Arbor I settled for Google Earth) and in a quick look you can observe the following:

    1. The distance from Liberty to Williams is twice the distance of the basic downtown grid, which are roughly 700 foot squares.
    2. The current surface lot’s booths are at about the halfway point of the block which is consistent with the idea that this was an old road.
    3. By trying to read what is currently built it would have been possible for a road to connect 5th to Division, and maybe even 4th to 5th. through the bus station site; making the road 2 blocks long but clearly due to the age of buildings and trees I doubt it could have been any longer.

    So I am now re-thinking my earlier posts a little. I still strongly believe that the existing street faces of the new library should have entrances and be pedestrian friendly and welcoming. I also support the library having a safe drop-off and pick-up point for kids. I also want the library to have an outdoor space to just sit and read that book you just checked out while you wait to be picked up. And I can see having Library Lane working as the drop-off and outdoor spot. What I am worried about, as I said before, is Library Lane being developed more as an alley than a road.

    If taken seriously as a road it would be built as a road, and not a parking lot drive; it would have normal curbs and gutters and curbside parking. The road would also have buildings on the north side facing south. It could then be a real nice opportunity to develop a new street (actually a new block) right in downtown and get rid of that surface lot. I could see a very pleasant road with 5 or 6 new buildings at 3 and 4 stories; buildings facing the library with a nice corner building to the NW of the library on 5th and Library Lane, and even a new building or two facing the PO along 5th. They should probably be separate buildings with individual characters. I would even like to see a new building on the lot east of the library that would face north on to Library Lane. (I don’t know whose property I just built on). In short I would want to see this new road blend into the city’s fabric and lined with buildings, street trees and sidewalks just like all of the other pleasant streets in the city. I would want a café or barber shop to have a Library Lane address as well as an accountant and photographer located on the second or third floors, maybe even a few condos on the fourth floors. I would want destinations there besides the library.

    If the city were to commit to that approach I would wholeheartedly support it.


       —abc    Feb. 10 '08 - 09:38PM    #
  36. David, I don’t know much about the road, I only learned about it recently myself. From what I understand there was also a road that ran north-south along the eastern edge of the parking lot intersecting with one that ran east-west along the northern edge of the parking lot. You may have noticed a lone rental house located behind Earthen Jar that seems to be out of place with a front porch facing the parking lot. Apparently this house once fronted that road. If you look way back to the early plats these roads don’t show – so I don’t know how long they were there. My guess is they may have been private courtyard type roads like Braun Court used to be.

    Abc, as for your wish for a building on the north side of Library Lane that is an option that is on the table. If you look on page 13 of the report (see the link in post 10) you will see an illustration of what the fountain plaza may look like with a mixed use building rather than a surface parking lot. The DDA wanted to focus on what a surface parking lot would look like there because the City Council’s resolution specifically mentioned surface parking as a temporary use. As this property is controlled by the city, the DDA did not want to become presumptuous focusing on a building in the sketches.

    Our challenge was then to come up with a concept that would work with an unknown end-game. We did do a study that had a mixed use building with first level retail along Fifth and the extent of Library Lane that the City owns. We showed the structure wrapped around the fountain plaza and it made for an attractive public space in my opinion; one that when paired with the Library across the street could make for a rather enjoyable place to spend a Saturday morning.

    But again, this is just the beginning. Expect that some sort of public input on the parking deck project and then again as the City Council determines what is the most appropriate use for the land on-top of the parking deck. And please knock of this “Mr. Cox” business, Norm will do just fine, thanks.


       —Norm Cox    Feb. 11 '08 - 04:57AM    #
  37. Norm, I went back to the report and gagged once again. I mean no disrespect but this is not an urban design, it is Disneyland BS. I see a gated (columned), bollard lined, paver clad, highly decorated alley; with one and only one destination, the library. And while the library is a great destination, in and of itself, it is not enough. This design is suburban and mall-like.

    What I am envisioning is a city block as diverse as say Washington between 4th and 5th; buildings with zero setbacks, set shoulder to shoulder. A block you could window shop on those Saturday mornings, as opposed to an ill conceived plaza or a surface parking lot, with what may be a token building on the north side of the street; a city block, like all the rest.

    I hear what you’re saying about the ‘unknown end-game’ but cannot really sympathize. That has long been the excuse for making bad or expedient decisions regarding our urban environments that we end up living with for decades waiting for the next move. How many surface lots, in and around downtown, do we have which are in line for development? Soon the Y will be torn down and made into another. It all sounds rational until we factor in the politics and find that we cannot get the support we need to go to the next step.

    Lets show the city (people and council) that this one can and will be different. Ask Luckenbach to design across the line. Show the complete picture. Shape an appropriate future for this space. Design a city block.

    However, if the political will is not there to build a city block then don’t change the streets. Make a beautiful building that fronts 5th and Williams and forget about the rest. If the DDA, the library board, and the city are not willing to do it right then don’t mess with the streets.


       —abc    Feb. 11 '08 - 03:47PM    #
  38. I’d go farther than abc to say that we should be looking more comprehensively here.

    There are 4 parcels of municipal land all together that could be planned with each other in mind:

    1. The library
    2. The library lot
    3. The old Y
    4. The transit center (remember, AATA had a proposal for the old Y).

    So far we’ve mostly been looking at these projects in isolation. Should we be looking at more coordination?

    It could solve problems like “what do we do for a downtown library during renovation.” And it could create some interesting opportunities for mixed-use development.

    Of course, there’s a danger here. The library has shown more ability to get things done than the city has. Joint planning may just be a way to put the breaks on all the projects.


       —Chuck Warpehoski    Feb. 11 '08 - 07:39PM    #
  39. Chuck, you are absolutely right that trying to plan for these parcels at the same time may put the brakes on all the projects. We would definitely encounter a “too many moving parts” problem. It is a small miracle that the Library Board, the DDA, and the City Council have agreed in concept about renovating the Library and putting underground parking under the Library Lot. If we try for anything more ambitious, the whole thing will fall apart into a mass of kipple.


       —David Cahill    Feb. 11 '08 - 08:43PM    #
  40. I think you’ve jumped to a conclusion, David. The impression that the whole thing will fall apart if something more comprehensive is tried is reason to consider alernatives with care, not reason to not consider them at all.


       —Steve Bean    Feb. 15 '08 - 10:11PM    #