Ann Arbor Area Community News
Over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about a conference center in downtown Ann Arbor. Although there are several places to have a meeting, there really isn’t much that really fits the conference center description, especially downtown.
In addition to published reports, rumors have swirled over the years that Bill Martin wants to build a conference center on the Brown Block, but nothing has come of that so far. More recently, there was a lot of interest over plans released for a local conference center.
As so often happens in Ann Arbor, reception to the idea of a conference center has been mixed, with people vehemently in the pro and con camps. I have heard people say they think it is the worst possible thing that could happen to downtown, while others say it is the best possible way to keep downtown viable. Reaction is so mixed that one wonders if some people are thinking of a large industrial convention center like Cobo Hall or DeVos Place while others are thinking of a smaller hotel and conference center like the Fort Shelby in Detroit or the beautiful St. Julien in Boulder (built over a 650-space public underground parking structure).
Of course, left out of much of the discussion is the plans of the University. Currently, the University has some conference space, but only 21 rooms . The other Big 10 schools have at least one hotel and conference center or several hotels within walking distance of campus. The University has lots of land and infrastructure on North Campus and married student housing is not doing well. Even if the U doesn’t want to build their own hotel, there are several hotel chains that might be willing to fund much of the building costs for an on-campus conference center. Needless to say, if they do build their own conference center, the City will not benefit anywhere nearly as much as if a conference center was built on city-owned land.
So what do you think? Does Ann Arbor need a conference center? Should it be downtown? Should the University build their own? If there is a conference center, what would you like to see be part of it? If you are opposed to it, why? If you are for it, why?
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