Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Young Professionals in MI: Why we want to leave, why we want to stay

7. May 2009 • Nancy Shore
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If you haven’t already heard, Michigan is having a bit of a challenging time lately. One of the issues that continues to surface is how to retain and attract talented knowledge workers to our state.

Last night, the Center for Michigan hosted a dinner for Young Professionals (some from Ann Arbor) so these citizens could talk with lawmakers and provide their suggestions for how to attract and retain young talent.

Jack Lessenberry was there, and wrote up this report.

Among his observations:
—Older lawmakers seemed disconnected to the concerns of young professionals that currently live in Michigan, such as the need to retain funding for arts and culture.
—Young people want to stay in this state, but see the current government leadership as failing them (and the rest of Michigan).

While Ann Arbor is better off that the rest of the state when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, our City also just got ranked at one of the worst Cities for finding jobs.

So what’s the answer? How can we attract and retain young talent? Does it even matter?



  1. I think it’s hugely important for young people to stick around (and more importantly, bring their friends). I moved back to Michigan from California (yes on purpose), and other than having some history/friends/peers here, I can’t think think of many reasons people would stay (let alone move TO Michigan).

    Young people move to where there are other young people doing interesting and creative things. Ann Arbor has been riding it’s liberal/progressive/creative coattails for far too long and it’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t have the reality to back up the perception. Ann Arbor is becoming increasingly unfriendly to young, less-than upperclass, creative people. Shouldn’t Ann Arbor be one of the most artistic and dynamic cities in the state? It takes more than a perceived 60’s progressivism to sustain a creative community.


       —Peter Baker    May. 7 '09 - 09:19PM    #
  2. So much word on what Peter says re: A2 becoming unfriendly to less than upperclass folks. You are so right.
    I’ve been told that I am in the minority on this, but the term “young professionals” has always set my teeth on edge. I can’t even tell you why this is, but when I hear the term I think of wealthy people working 90 hours of week. (Um, that would not be me!) Now, no offense if that is what you want to do!
    Personally, I would like to retain the “YP”s, but also people who contribute in other ways…by volunteering, joining social networks, going to the a2b3 lunches, writing on AU, whatever. If you are working 1000 hours a week, how much of that kind of stuff can you do? (Unless you have a lot of energy and don’t need a lot of sleep…um, that would not be me :)).
    I guess what I am saying is that I would just love to see more discussion about keeping all kinds of workers. I know. I’m really quite demanding. I’m sorry :)


       —TeacherPatti    May. 7 '09 - 11:40PM    #
  3. Patti and Peter, your comments are great. My husband and I actually moved here from the East Coast (we were living in DC), mainly so I could eventually get a degree at the U. But we didn’t leave because we found such a great sense of community here and continue to find people and activities that keep us excited about Ann Arbor.

    That being said, I think there is this tension in Ann Arbor between what it used to be and what it’s (perceived) to be turning into. If we are going to become more of a Black Pearl type of town than an Arbor Brewing type of town, then I might not be as excited about living here. But as of now, I do see a lot of community-type aspects of the Ann Arbor area that I just love.

    But we face a huge problem in that state revenues continue to decline and there doesn’t seem to be any type of solutions except to tax people (which is very unpopular). So what are we supposed to do? That is my challenge in all of this. Can we have a productive state with a dysfunctional government? I don’t think we can. But until we bring more jobs and revenue to this state, until we invest in Detroit as a major and necessary City, we will continue to be ok, but not amazing. I’m just not sure how to get there.

    But I will say again that I know a ton of amazing young people that choose to live in this area and I think we could attract more. I think part of the solution is really continuing the leverage the UM as the asset that it is.

    Anyway, I could go on, but I’d rather hear what you have to say.


       —fentia    May. 8 '09 - 02:42AM    #
  4. “If we are going to become more of a Black Pearl type of town than an Arbor Brewing type of town, then I might not be as excited about living here. “

    Is it OK to quote you on that? That is AWESOME! :)


       —TeacherPatti    May. 8 '09 - 02:46AM    #
  5. As a matter of fact, I DO take offense at TeacherPatti’s narrow view of “YP’s”. I work 60+ hours a week and am quite handsomly compensated for the hard work. However, I also am a board member of two non-profits which, with all the various committees, takes up another large chunk of time every week. As a matter of fact, its 10:40pm and I have another two hours of work to do tonight. I also have very young kids that I like to spend as much time with as possible. Oh…I also write on AU from time to time.

    From what I have witnessed, YP’s do a lot of heavy lifting in this community only to be disparaged here for being successful. If more “progressive” people would work harder and volunteer rather than sleeping in, imagine what we could do. That’s what sets my teeth on edge.


       —Marvin Face    May. 8 '09 - 02:58AM    #
  6. I might be in the minority but I think too much hand-wringing is done about “losing our best talent”. I want our young people to get out and see the world. I want them to go to those places where they can excel in their chosen profession. Eventually, I do want them to come back to Michigan and Ann Arbor to settle down. But there’s a lot to be said for seeing how the rest of the world lives.

    NOW – I think it’s important to have an environment that attracts young people of all professions (like TeacherPatti noted). We want to be a place where young people from elsewhere in the county want to come because we have an innovative business environment or a great place to get an education and because it’s a great place to raise kids or make a home. I think a lot of what Ann Arbor is doing is going in the right direction as much as we like to debate the specifics. I agree with fentia that a lot of this effort has to include the University as it’s a huge draw for educated people who come here for academic reasons, whether its for undergrad or graduate studies or as professors or professional working for the University. It’s a huge advantage that AA has over any other city in the state and I don’t think the city has come anywhere near maximizing the potential of that relationship.


       —John Q.    May. 8 '09 - 11:09AM    #
  7. Marvin, I’m certainly sorry if you took offense. As I said, I MEANT no offense (of course, you are free to take offense or not)…as I said, you COULD do board committees IF you have more energy than I do, which you obviously do.
    I’m sorry that you got so bothered by it…your reaction certainly was not at all what I intended, and I’m happy that you are able to do this. I have a disability, and am not. Peace to you.
    PS: I don’t sleep in, either. I just require a certain amount of sleep due to my aforementioned disability.


       —TeacherPatti    May. 8 '09 - 02:46PM    #
  8. TeacherPatti,

    Oops.


       —Marvin Face    May. 8 '09 - 03:03PM    #
  9. It’s all good…like I said, I honestly didn’t mean to upset anyone (I rarely do…unless I do mean to upset someone, and then I’m a real bitch! :))
    Have a good day and keep on keepin’ on!!


       —TeacherPatti    May. 8 '09 - 04:08PM    #
  10. Teacherpatti,

    Young professional typically means a person who is in a job that requires a college degree; it does not signify salary (wealthy).

    Many of the scientists (BS, MS, PHD) at the UofM make little money but are lumped into the young professional category. Also, nowadays it is required by many employers to work overtime in their jobs (especially scientists). You can’t criticize a person for that.

    I think your bias is more towards the “corporate” types, not necessarily all young professionals.


       —Diane    May. 8 '09 - 04:48PM    #
  11. TeacherPatti didn’t get around to saying that she has a law degree, and teaches special education, and is an enthusiastic supporter of several organizations.

    She may have been responding to some of the same subliminal messages that have been bothering me since the “cool cities” days. Whether it is
    “creative class”, “talent”, “young professionals”, there seems to be a theme that those of us who already live here do not quite measure up and that Ann Arbor is seeking a better class of person somehow. I think John Q said it well – that this should be a community that attracts people of all professions (or I would say, vocations). Of course we want it to be an attractive, stimulating environment. But speaking as a (no longer young) professional, what would bring the most young pros here is likely to be good job/career opportunities.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 8 '09 - 05:59PM    #
  12. I think you guys are missing the point about the “cool cities” and “young professionals” ideas. I always thought that it had to do with generational differences (age) not professional differences (not what profession is cool, what is not).

    Currently, what the state is still lacking is the 20-something young professional; the programs are about replacing an age group , they are not trying to improve the economic class of the residents. All other types of residents are already represented in reasonable amounts.

    Most educated 20-somethings go away, some may come back but not until they are much older. (However, of course there are so many fewer jobs to come back to now.) Are they leaving because they have to or because they want to? If they wanted to stay, could they? Is their a job for them in their field? Currently, they almost have to leave with the type of economy that Michigan has. If we increase the jobs for them or increase the social scene then they might stay. The bad economy might actually help Michigan in this aspect because all those “cool” large cities (eg. Chicago) that the YP’s move to are awfully expensive to live in.

    Nonetheless, I also agree with John Q. that it is a good thing to go off to another city for awhile and then come back to Michigan. That is what I did. I think it makes a person more well-rounded. But when this happens at the rate of that Michigan has seen, it is detrimental to the state. I like these programs because it might give people a choice to stay if they want to.


       —Diane    May. 8 '09 - 07:45PM    #
  13. My partner and I moved to Ann Arbor in 2000. He got tenure at the U and we were planning on making Ann Arbor our permanent home. But then Michiganders passed their anti-gay amendment in 2004 and the anti-affirmative action amendment in 2006. In that context, then, Michigan didn’t seem like a terribly welcoming state.

    I think Ann Arbor can be a lovely place to raise a family, but if you’re not planning on that it can frankly be sort of dull and sterile. And I know some folks love Detroit, but I never really got into it. The fact that a real (in my mind) city was several hours west was a bummer.

    So we moved to the east coast last year. We’re connected to other major metropolitan areas by a decent rail system, our neighborhood is racially and economically mixed, the city has a long and interesting history, and we’re closer to family. The state we live in is also more socially progressive, so there’s that.


       —Former OWSider    May. 12 '09 - 08:37PM    #
  14. Can 20-something creative types or knowledge workers live in Ann Arbor? Is there enough housing for those who don’t want to rent an apartment in a crappy undergrad party house on a block permanently littered with red plastic cups? Modern downtown apartments are always going to be expensive, no apologies about that.

    As a starting point, if anyone thinks medium-density mixed use buildings might be a better idea than office park ChemLawns and massive parking lots around the city, I’d humbly suggest you get involved in helping the city go in that direction. While not very exciting on its face, how we plan to use the land in the city is a big deal, and if you want to do something about it, look here: (linkified by admin: A2Gov.org - Area, Height, and Placement Project)
    and show up on May 27 and at your Ward meetings. (Here’s an A2 News article: (linkified by admin: A2News - Meetings on Ann Arbor Zoning) )

    If you want to get schooled on what’s going on, e-mail someone on council or planning commission who you think shares your views and get coffee or have a phone call with them—I’ve done it, and it works great.

    If we want to force all of our young professionals/creatives to live in Ypsilanti (or Detroit, or Madison, or Boulder…), then by all means, let’s explicitly say it, because that’s what the status quo is doing when it comes to zoning. Council even voted to DOWNZONE a third of the South U area. Supporters of anything remotely having to do with density are outnumbered by at least 20 to 1 at any given hearing. Stay on the sidelines at our peril.


       —LiberalNIMBY    May. 18 '09 - 04:33PM    #
  15. “As a starting point, if anyone thinks medium-density mixed use buildings might be a better idea than office park ChemLawns and massive parking lots around the city, I’d humbly suggest you get involved in helping the city go in that direction.”

    I didn’t realize that there was a contingent pushing for “office park ChemLawns and massive parking lots”. Who is this group? As for the argument that zoning makes the market, housing for any group in Ann Arbor is never going to be as cheap as Ypsi or Detroit (Madison and Boulder are not cheap). One should find a better line of argument to make the case for more density.


       —John Q.    May. 19 '09 - 04:20AM    #
  16. Exactly. The rules that mandated our lovely research “parks” and parking lots designed for the day after Thanksgiving were created in the ’50s and ’60s and are still on the books (the upcoming area/height/placement discussion is seeking to address that).

    Hmm. I was about to say “There is no contingent pushing for these awful land uses now,” but actually, there is. Well, not directly, but you can be assured that folks will come out of the woodwork to shoot down any significant increase in density/traffic/noise/change within 1/2 mile of their house. Net effect, they’re de facto pushing for ChemLawns and big parking lots. (The same type of folks who live in Burns Park and are currently forcing council to downzone the South U area.)

    I agree that we’ll never have housing choices as inexpensive as Ypsi or Detroit. But I do believe that increasing opportunities for mid-rise, mixed-use, wood-frame rental construction along our main corridors could have a big impact in expanding choices of housing types and prices. I think these choices would be attractive to the demographic we know we need more of here. (Yes, I skipped over all the CO2 emissions per capita, water quality, transit system, property tax sharing, etc. rationales which I think are better cases for density but didn’t think were relevant to this particular discussion. Happy to discuss if desired!)

    So, do we want to allow more density of residents and workers? Seems like the University will be happy to provide it (see pg. 19 of this document: http://www.aec.bf.umich.edu/campus.plans/presentations/NCPU.pdf )

    I’m curious, do the people reading this have strong opinions about what we do with our land and the housing choices we enable?


       —LiberalNIMBY    May. 19 '09 - 03:45PM    #
  17. “The rules that mandated our lovely research “parks” and parking lots designed for the day after Thanksgiving were created in the ’50s and ’60s and are still on the books”

    Which rules are these? Can you point them out in the ordinance? Ann Arbor’s ordinances have been amended numerous times since the 50s and 60s and I would say are generally not as restrictive as your comments would imply.


       —John Q.    May. 19 '09 - 07:06PM    #
  18. “But I do believe that increasing opportunities for mid-rise, mixed-use, wood-frame rental construction along our main corridors could have a big impact in expanding choices of housing types and prices.’

    I don’t think there is anyone who will develop in the South U. area that intends to build “mid-rise, mixed-use, wood-frame rental construction”. I’m not even sure what that is as no one building mixed-use development is going to do it in that fashion.


       —John Q.    May. 19 '09 - 07:10PM    #
  19. Isn’t LN meaning the downzoning in the Granger area, not the South U area? What I remember about South U is that rezoning was to produce greater density, not less.

    Also, aren’t the research parks and big lot stores mostly in the townships? I’m a little fuzzy about Briarland jurisdictional borders but most of that is south of 94, isn’t it? Not fair to lay that at the feet of our city residential neighborhoods.

    Some specific examples would be helpful. Also, what would be the ideal picture of a housing development aimed at the young creatives? I do sympathize with the point of not wanting to live in a student ghetto in order to find modest affordable housing. We need to have reasonable rentals in pockets all over. I’m just a couple of blocks from quite a number of them.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 20 '09 - 01:45AM    #
  20. Vivienne – my recollection is that the most recent rezoning of South U was, yes, up rather than down. I’m thinking of the same Granger/Golden downzoning from a year ago as you as the nearest in that area.

    Though, rereading LN’s comment – (The same type of folks who live in Burns Park and are currently forcing council to downzone the South U area.) – I think zhe is referring to the more current discussion of whether South U should be D1 or D2. the Chronicle’s coverage of that discussion includes the (City staff?) note that this would actually effect a reduction from the current potential density for many off-South U properties. There we go, I think I figured it out for myself.

    Briarland – I believe that the boundary there is Ellsworth, a least east of State Street; I’m not sure if the City includes the Zing Bakehouse industrial park to the west of Ellsworth or not. Industrial areas don’t necessarily lend themselves to vertical density very well, though there’s less of a natural argument for office/“tech” parks.


       —Murph    May. 21 '09 - 12:10PM    #
  21. John Q. –

    I don’t know that the particular standards in question are literally untouched since the ’60s, but they are of the era. LN mentions the current examination of those standards (see A2News coverage discussing the standards ), which would certainly be a step forward.

    As for your unheard-of mid-rise, mixed-use, wood-frame rental construction, believe it. I think this is the middle ground between “no no no” and “shoot for the moon so we have room to be whittled down”, which have been the dominant themes in A2 development. In my last conversations on construction costs, builders have indicated a natural break between 4-5 stories – the point where code stops allowing wood frame construction, cost per square foot jumps, and you shoot for 10 as the next such break, in order to amortize the extra costs of burlier construction. “Why put a 6 story height limit in zoning – that actually means 4, so just say 4.”

    As to why you haven’t seen it built, I think it’s probably because A2 doesn’t have any fertile ground for it. Downtown, everybody shoots for higher (in no small part because they need room to compromise). I’m guessing City Place on South 5th (at least some iterations) are this construction – but not mixed-use, because nobody wants to try retail south of William. Once we get out to the solid business districts again, everything being built is single-story strips, rather than mixed-use, though I’d hazard an estimate that the zoning changes mentioned could foster more of this product in those areas.

    I’m actually guessing we’ll see more of this in Ypsi sooner than Ann Arbor – some of the proposals for the Michigan Ave frontage of Water Street have looked like this; West Cross near EMU’s campus could support (in market and zoning) this kind of development; new developments at the edges of downtown or Depot Town might end up this way.

    Now, I think the best way to get David’s Broadway Village haiku to come true is put in place zoning (and political culture) that says developments that look like this, mixed-use 4-5 story construction, /shall/ be approved quickly and predictably. Remove any need for PUD or other discretionary approvals, or Council attempting to turn by-right approvals into discretionary, and remove the need for developers to propose more than they want in order to give themselves room to be cut down. Perhaps the D1/D2 zoning does this in places – I haven’t spent enough time poring over it to tell.


       —Murph    May. 21 '09 - 12:35PM    #
  22. But, bringing us back to the head topic, I’ll point to the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE’s) I Will Stay If… project.


       —Murph    May. 21 '09 - 12:37PM    #
  23. Murph,

    Skipping past the zoning discussion, I don’t think land values in A2 would leave a place for such construction. Your take on taller buildings is that people ask for more knowing that they’ll have to give some of that up. My take is that the land values are pushing people to ask for X and they’ll throw Y on top and hope they get lucky. People aren’t going to build less than X because the numbers stop working at the lower heights. As for the actual construction, I would think the building codes are going to drive a mixed-use to be a non-wood frame construction.


       —John Q.    May. 21 '09 - 11:05PM    #
  24. JQ – to the building codes question, not my area of expertise. The other option I know of (or should say, “have been told of”) is a concrete ground floor with wood frame construction above – my guess is this may provide the fire separation requirement between commercial and residential uses? But we really need an architect to weigh in…

    Your land values point is definitely significant, though I notice you don’t propose any particular value for X. Also, I don’t know that “my take” and “your take” are all that different. Your X is my “what they want to end at” (what they need to make the project work considering land values); your Y, well, just because I call it an opening bid doesn’t mean the developer would be unhappy to “get lucky” and receive the extra.

    Too, it may be the case that land values are in fact too high for 4-5 story construction to work in the core downtown, and it wouldn’t be economical even if approval of such a proposal was 100% guaranteed. But I’m also thinking out to the peripheral nodes that are always brought up as opportunities to create downtown-ish nodes. Are land values prohibitive at Maple/Jackson/Dexter, for example, where single-story construction seems to be enough to be economical? (Or maybe regulatory questions aren’t at issue, and the demand just isn’t there right now.)


       —Murph    May. 22 '09 - 11:08PM    #
  25. “Your land values point is definitely significant, though I notice you don’t propose any particular value for X.”

    I don’t follow downtown land values well enough to be able to fill in that number. I know others can. You’re right that we’re reaching the same point. But from my experience, it’s the land values and potential profit pushing developers up, not some limitation of the zoning.

    “Are land values prohibitive at Maple/Jackson/Dexter, for example, where single-story construction seems to be enough to be economical?”

    I don’t think they are prohibitive in those areas. But until downtown is perceived as being built out, I don’t think there’s going to be the demand in those locations unless a particular user or developer pushed for it. You can zone for that kind of development but in the current market, it may be years before anyone takes advantage of it.


       —John Q.    May. 23 '09 - 03:12AM    #
  26. Murph, you are very good – the city map shows the city boundary east of State to be Ellsworth but alas, the western side with all the Zingland enterprises is still in Pittsfield township. The southern boundary is 94 at that point.

    Ann Arbor political trivia – my use of the term Briarland was a quote from City Councilman Seth Hirshorn, the first Democrat elected to council from the Second Ward. He was first elected in 1985, I believe. I worked on his re-election campaign in 1987 (he lost to Ingrid Sheldon).

    With regard to height, I did research for a story on the height issue for the Ann Arbor Observer a number of years ago, but the story didn’t sell. I interviewed a lot of people on the subject and I believe that as a broad generalization most people who don’t like a lot of height would be comfortable at around 4-5 stories, near the break on wood-frame construction. Isn’t most of Paris at about that height? And yes, Fred Beal told me that the break happens around 5 and that then costs drive the height up to at least 10-12.

    I live near Maple-Jackson-Dexter and it is turning into something like an alternative downtown, still somewhat stripmall in ambience but an increasingly wide selection of services and working on pedestrian access. There has been some gentrification of apartments (McKinley’s Manchester Flats) and new construction of retail.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 24 '09 - 01:13AM    #
  27. Sorry, my comment regarding the potential for new wood-frame construction applies to current strip center areas (in/near Arborland on Washtenaw, Westgate shopping center, Plymouth Road, etc.), which the discussion tomorrow night includes. Right now, we have research and neighborhood commercial districts zoned for 30-50% FAR, which essentially mandates single-story buildings with big parking lots or lawns. The percent of city land potentially impacted by this initiative is not inconsequential (changes are proposed to FARs in C1, C1B, C3, O, RE, ORL, and M1 zones). For example, the FAR of C3 (Arborland and surrounding strip centers, Westgate, etc.) is being proposed to increase from 50% to 200%. If you want to dive into the chart in the code, again, have a look at this page and download the staff report: www.a2gov.org/government/communityservices/planninganddevelopment/planning/Pages/AreaHeightPlacementProject.aspx

    On a separate note, the South University D1-to-D2 downzoning proposed by city council was mitigated at planning commission last week — we’ll see if it’s an acceptable compromise.


       —LiberalNIMBY    May. 26 '09 - 11:53PM    #
  28. “Right now, we have research and neighborhood commercial districts zoned for 30-50% FAR, which essentially mandates single-story buildings with big parking lots or lawns.”

    Probably not. Parking standards, not FAR, are the prime driver of large parking lots. But even when you relax those standards, many developers insist on putting in more parking than communities require. In industrial districts, building design is driven mostly by users. Changes to the ordinances could result in more density but absent more demand by potential tenants and residents for such development, the market is going to be slow to take advantage of those changes.


       —John Q.    May. 27 '09 - 04:33AM    #
  29. Yup—many of the things that would retain “young professionals” (I also take this to broadly mean recent college grads) are beyond our local control. We need new government (new governor, streamlining of state bureaucracy, new constitution??), better politicians (I’m hoping Bing can get the job done in Detroit, also they need a precinct system IMO, and yes the state legislatures can be head-poundingly out of touch—if you are young, please vote!), better companies (also hoping a leaner GM and Chrysler will let the state improve its hospitality towards new businesses), better tax laws (more reform of the SBT, maybe even new property tax laws?), etc. We need mass transit (plans are proceeding for rail along both I-94 and I-75, but it will take a couple of years at least to get started). All these things are coming, but there’s little to do but wait for them to happen. We might get high-speed rail…but that’s for DC to decide. We might finally get the cleanup funds for the lakes…but again, that’s for DC to decide.

    Michigan needs a great city, but that can’t happen until greater Detroit gets its act together. Again, you have to wait for that—wait for Bing to get a Cobo deal going, wait for DC to process the GM bankruptcy, wait for a federal decision on a new bridge to Canada, etc.

    Locally, you can help make Ann Arbor (and surrounds) more friendly to entry-level employment and housing. Ann Arbor has already taken a lot of steps towards that—but again, we have to wait the recession out. New private construction can’t begin until the housing market recovers, for example. New zoning is on its way…someday. We’re still waiting. It will happen, but you have to wait. It’s all kind of frustrating, but one thing you can do is, as mentioned above, become active in the community. Write your representative. Persuade others. Post here and elsewhere. If they’re going to be any good, decisions like Near North and City Place need as much public input as possible—and if you want to see Ann Arbor become more friendly to young workers and (someday) their families, you need to make your voice heard, by people who make decisions. You should welcome dissent and expect compromise—but if you don’t bring your vision to the table, it’s hard to justify complaining if you don’t see the results you want.

    And then there’s the usual—support local institutions that help give the city character and make it unique—Performance Network, Kerrytown, Morgan & York, the Michigan Theatre, 826Michigan, local retail (both downtown and elsewhere), etc. Be willing to spend a little extra money for it. Volunteer. And not just in Ann Arbor—in Ypsi, too, or wherever you live. Go to Detroit—drive there and spend money. Go to any central business district you want to thrive, and spend money there. Make the state different by supporting, financially if possible, the things that are different.

    And vote. I’m serious—you need to vote.

    FWIW I also think Ann Arbor is, and should be, diverse enough to support both the ABC and the Black Pearl :)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 12 '09 - 04:21PM    #
  30. YUA, you have obviously given a lot of thought to this and I’d like to ask just what changes in zoning and development issues you consider important to make Ann Arbor more friendly to young workers. You mention two developments that are not (to my knowledge) aimed at young workers. Could you expand, please? I really do want to know. Thanks.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 13 '09 - 02:37PM    #
  31. This forum is mostly liberal and I consider myself liberal as well. But the only relevant thing that is going to bring Detroit back is reducing crime significantly. Nothing else will work in any meaningful way.


       —ziggy selbin    Jun. 13 '09 - 04:20PM    #
  32. Vivienne- I do believe that near north is aimed at young professionals making under 30k/yr. It is called affordable housing but as far I have read, it is not for the homeless or poor families. I thought there are many one bedroom apartments in the development, specifically developed for young professionals or young downtown workers in general.

    I believe that city place is designed for students, but I am sure some recent college grads who want to stay in the area might want to live there also.


       —Diane    Jun. 14 '09 - 06:20PM    #
  33. Thanks, Diane-according to their website, “24 units at Near North will be limited to households with incomes at or below 50% of Ann Arbor’s Area Median Income. This limit is $33,000 for two-person households. These units will be available to downtown service workers, entry-level University and Hospital employees and others with similar incomes.” This validates your statement, though I’m not sure many “young professionals” will qualify as to income.

    Another question is whether they would be obliged to vacate an apartment once income rises above the limit. I don’t know whether that type of low-income housing requires continual qualification.

    Avalon is supposed to manage the complex and they have historically run supportive housing. (14 units are for supportive housing.)


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 14 '09 - 09:48PM    #
  34. Vivianne, you may be very surprised to know that entry level for university jobs requiring a bachelors is typically between $20 and $25K/yr for most fields. There are exceptions but for administrators and scientist this is typically the range.


       —Diane    Jun. 15 '09 - 01:29AM    #
  35. Bad deal, isn’t it? No, not really surprised. However, I hope that for professional level jobs outside the UM it is a little better than that. I understand that the Google jobs were about $40 K and they still can’t afford to live in Ann Arbor.


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 15 '09 - 02:18AM    #
  36. I suppose if the city administrator can’t afford to live in the city…


       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 15 '09 - 12:18PM    #
  37. Hi Vivienne, thanks for asking—I think that young workers like to live in cities that are managed well, that are diverse, that are open to expansion of housing options and core-area living. It seems to me that opposition to these particular developments (I am generalizing here) is focused on preservation of old housing stock at all costs, and prevention of housing density and the additional traffic (foot and auto) that it brings. These are fine goals, but they have to be balanced with other needs. Opposition to Near North and City Place in general seems like opposition to change in general. (Though let me state that I strongly oppose the current City Place proposal, and have said so publicly and written my councilmember about it.) I think that young workers can detect this anti-change attitude, and are turned away by it. In other words, these projects might not directly benefit young workers, but they’re symbolic of more general attitudes that oppose change and growth.

    I am not saying all change and growth is bad. I dislike strongly the Gallery apartment proposal for N. Main. I’m an ardent advocate for preservation of local architecture, when possible. There are lots of bad ideas. Ann Arbor, and its neighborhoods, has a unique character that should be maintained. But total intrasigence towards change is just not an attractive feature for a city.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 15 '09 - 05:49PM    #
  38. Let me clarify something: preservation of existing housing and prevention of density are fine goals in the right context. A 20-story building in the middle of Burns Park would probably be a terrible idea. A 3/4-story building on the edge of downtown is probably not a terrible idea. Yes, there are other considerations—should houses be torn down to put up something uglier, for example? But again, it depends on the context (are the houses really worth preserving, does the new building fit the character of the city, etc.)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 15 '09 - 05:54PM    #
  39. Also I meant to say “I am not saying all change and growth is good.” :)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 15 '09 - 07:16PM    #
  40. There are many philosophies surrounding change, YUA. Some in the city believe the only way to control change is to fight to keep every old house, no matter how insignificant we (today) might consider it. Imagine yourself in the 18th century considering a Cotswold cottage . . . or at the start of the 19th century considering a log-built house in downtown Ann Arbor. Would you have thought those buildings very worthy of preservation? (Most of those log-framed buildings are long gone!)
    Often, it is the buildings preserved by accident or neglect that become what we treasure in the future.
    That said, there are ways we can honor the existing neighborhoods of older homes without destroying them through poorly planned demolition and infill. When you ask people why they stay in Ann Arbor, it’s often the tree lined streets and small town feel of the near-downtown neighborhoods that they talk about, after all, not the tall buildings, even if they don’t live anywhere near downtown.
    Many of us ‘older’ folks were young here, too. We want a vibrant downtown, a place filled with interest and activity. We (mostly) don’t object to change, but have learned to recognize that change should also be graceful and well designed, not hap-hazard.
    When a neighborhood objects to a development they believe is out of scale — but they don’t object to developments in general, like the North Central neighborhood, — maybe it’s not an objection to change in general.
    When a neighborhood objects to the demolition of landmark houses, like those along 5th Avenue, maybe the discussion is about a bigger issue than just massing and scale.
    As you say, not all change and growth is good.
    And not all change and growth is bad, for that matter. Context is everything.


       —Sabra Briere    Jun. 15 '09 - 07:59PM    #
  41. Is it true that big old trees are being cut to minimize maintenance costs to the city?


       —Boycott Israel    Jun. 15 '09 - 08:03PM    #
  42. YUA, thanks for your reply. I’ll comment in response later (though Sabra already did such a good job).


       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 16 '09 - 01:23AM    #
  43. [offtopic, removed]
       —theo    Jun. 17 '09 - 12:07PM    #
  44. In brief reply to Sabra—sure. So far, there have been no satisfactory proposals that have actually been submitted for City Place, for example. However, the developer owns the land…it’s his. You can complain about the lack of protection for houses in that neighborhood, but a) that’s the city’s fault, if it’s anyone’s, and b) it’s too late. The question is, now what? That has to be based on present reality. Simply saying “But the houses all need to be preserved just the way they are” will result (in this case) in their destruction. Again, compromise is often necessary.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 19 '09 - 08:58PM    #