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Ann Arbor needs a convention center like it needs a ...

20. April 2008 • Chuck Warpehoski
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Today’s Ann Arbor News article about the chatter about an Ann Arbor Convention Center inspires an Arbor Update contest.

Fill in the blank: Ann Arbor Needs a Convention Center like it needs a ________.

Do we need it as much as we need a greenway? A new courts building? A solar-powered brain scrambler that prevents developers from even thinking of building here?

No prizes for this contest. Just the appreciation of other ArborUpdate readers for your amazing wit and creativity.



  1. Well, it worked for Flint…


       —Matt    Apr. 20 '08 - 06:39PM    #
  2. ... way to recycle compact fluorescent light bulbs without having to take them out to the County’s Home Toxics Reduction Program at 705 N. Zeeb Road.

    Yes, folks, it’s strange but true! In this eco-friendly city, there is no way to legally dispose of or recycle these new light bulbs except to take them personally out to Zeeb Road on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to Noon.


       —David Cahill    Apr. 20 '08 - 11:36PM    #
  3. Thank you, Washtenaw County, for providing a place to recycle those light bulbs! :-)


       —Leah Gunn    Apr. 21 '08 - 12:08AM    #
  4. Oh, so much to respond to.

    1. Yes, the fluorescent light bulbs are possibly the most oversold item since corn-based ethanol. The ethanol may consume more energy than it produces (no, don’t have the figures or reference handy) but at least it does not introduce mercury into the environment after we have gone to lengths to get rid of it including the banning of mercury thermometers. It seems contemptuous and cruel to actually ask people to buy these things as a moral choice when they must then dispose of a toxic material.

    Glad our toxic disposal folks will handle it, but that does cost (public) money.

    2. Actually, if you don’t consider the siting or the funding (small omissions), I agree that we could use a conference center, defined as a place with hotel and restaurant facilities plus meeting rooms to host a moderate sized professional or affliate conference. I was involved in organizing one (the North American Rock Garden Society, if you must know). It was remarkable how few choices there were. The Ann Arbor Conference and Visitors’ Bureau was very helpful in defining our choices (poor to moderate) and in helping to make arrangements.

    My only knowledge of the current proposal is limited to the news coverage, but assuming that no public money is involved, or perhaps only some in-kind help, I don’t see a problem.

    3. Sorry, like all the other respondents, I didn’t really satisfy the requirements of the contest. Since I’m not opposing the conference center, I can’t come up with a good entry.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Apr. 21 '08 - 12:41AM    #
  5. One group that could probably benefit from a conference center and might book it for a couple days a year is the law school. They currently have their On-Campus Interviewing program at the Holiday Inn near North Campus(the law school is too small) and it’s an awkward place for it—weird to be meeting with prospective employers in a room that has a bed shoved up against the wall, and a pain to get to without a car—the law school ends up running buses.

    So that’s four days down, and 361 more to book.


       —Stacy    Apr. 21 '08 - 01:36AM    #
  6. My purpose for the contest was not to limit this to only comments that oppose the convention center.

    For some, we may need a convention center like we need a new Pfizer tenants.

    Personally, I think we need a convention center more than we need a greenway, a dog park, or a skate park (not that I oppose any of these). And we need a convention center less than we need a coherent master plan, planning process, or plan to replace the low-income housing lost when the Y closed.

    So, to attempt to be witty…

    Ann Arbor needs a convention center like it needs a self-important testament to how liberal it used to be.

    Oops, I missed witty and landed in cynical. Never a good place to be. I’ll try to do better next time.


       —Chuck W.    Apr. 21 '08 - 01:51AM    #
  7. Like it needs a place to have a meeting.


       —Brian    Apr. 21 '08 - 05:53AM    #
  8. Yes, actually we do need a convention center. No joking. There is a real need for it. I can think of specific examples right now.

    Plus it is the best use for that site (actually two sites—the YMCA lot and the library parking lot—I’m imagining conjoined buildings w/ a walkway) that I have heard. The federal building blocks it on the north from the business district, and it is flanked by the library and SB Fifth on one side and a parking structure on the other, and residential to the south, so it is a poor location for small retail. The courts facility wasn’t a terrible idea, but more properly belonged on the YMCA lot rather than the library lot IMO. However, now that a convention center has been proposed, I would prefer it due to the activity it could bring to downtown. Building it anywhere else would be a disruption IMO—those two lots, like I say, are generally out-of-the-way (in a way that, say, the Brown lot is not) yet close enough to the downtown area to bring it conventioneer business, and so they seem ideally suited for the massive bulk of a convention center.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 21 '08 - 07:32PM    #
  9. YUA makes good points about the logic of siting such a facility on those sites. Also, if you follow Brian’s link to Arbor Wiki, there is a noticeable hole in the meeting spaces our community has to offer. Specifically, if you’re looking for something bigger than Weber’s and smaller than Rackham or Hill Auditorium there isn’t really anything. Moreover, Hill and Rackham don’t seem suited to these needs.

    So, I suppose Ann Arbor needs a convention center like it needs to attract associations with 500-1000 traveling members.


       —Jeff Irwin    Apr. 21 '08 - 08:02PM    #
  10. Having said all that, of course, we do need to think carefully about how big it ought to be and how it might change the character of downtown. Wouldn’t want downtown to just be a convention support area, filled with hotels and boring restaurants.

    OTOH areas like Columbus’ Short North district don’t seem to have suffered too much from being more or less adjacent to a convention center, though let’s not forget that Columbus is several times the size of Ann Arbor (and their convention center is gigantic). Madison’s convention center is maybe a better example.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 21 '08 - 08:29PM    #
  11. Ann Arbor Needs a Convention Center like it needs a few more twenty story skyscrapers.


       —Mean Mr. Mustard    Apr. 23 '08 - 10:56PM    #
  12. It needs a few more twenty story skyscrapers, too ;)

    Well ok, maybe one or two…


       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 23 '08 - 11:35PM    #
  13. Vivienne, just so you know, CFLs do have some mercury in them, but as long as they are recycled properly, they cause no harm. In fact by using CFFs, you are reducing the amount of mercury put into the environment (even if they are not recycled). How can this be? Well, right now, coal supplies most of the US’s power and when coal is used for electricity, it releases mercury into the atmosphere. I did all of the calculations for my house’s lighting footprint, and concluded that, in fact CFLs are far better for the environment than incandescent bulbs.
    I do agree with you on the topic of corn ethanol :oD

    Now back to the true topic: I think that the convention center could not be complete without an indoor water park and rooms that cost at least $800 for a night.


       —Molliewobbles    Apr. 24 '08 - 12:30AM    #