Ann Arbor Area Community News
A clash between the Downtown Development Authority and a group called the Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway looks like it will climax on Monday, 21 March, with a proposed City Council resolution that would set aside three city-owned sites as parkland, derailing plans to redevelop some city parking lots into residential and retail uses.
At the Ann Arbor City Council meeting of 7 March, the DDA presented a proposal that would condense parking from three city-owned sites into a single parking structure on one of those sites, at 1st and Wililam. The two freed sites (the decaying structure at 1st and Washington and the Klines Lot behind Gratzi) could be sold for development, with the DDA suggesting a mix of retail, affordable housing, and market-rate housing. This plan, says the DDA, would provide a number of advantages, including,
The DDA’s plan has been under development for the last 18 months, and implements many recommendations of the 1988 Central Area Master Plan. A group called the Friends of the Greenway, with supporters concentrated in the Old West Side neighborhood beyond the 1st and William site, however, objects to the idea of building a new structure, and have demanded that the 1st and Washington site be purchased from the City by the Parks Department and turned entirely into parkland. Citing a lack of large parks in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, the Friends also want the old County Road Commission site at 415 W. Washington, next to the new YMCA, and the City Yards on North Main to be converted entirely to parkland as the City moves the current functions of those sites to a service center further from downtown.
Additionally, the Friends claim that replacing the parking is unnecessary, and have compiled a photographic survey of public parking lots in the downtown to support their claim. This view is contested by Main St. area merchants, who say business will suffer if parking is not replaced (and some are worried business will suffer even if parking is collected onto a site further away); the DDA was initially slow to offer any countering evidence, but is now starting on a study of parking utilization.
While the DDA had hoped for a Council resolution at next week’s meeting that would accept their plan and allow for more detailed planning to begin, Councilmembers Easthope (D-5th) and Johnson (D-1st) have instead brought forward a resolution that would set aside for parkland the three sites demanded by the Friends. Not only would this action, in the words of DDA member Roger Hewitt, “completely kill” the chance of redeveloping the other two sites, it would eliminate any chance of reusing or redeveloping any portion of the two service yards, such as the idea of rehabbing buildings on the 415 West Washington site into artists’ studio space that would replace that space lost in the Tech Center.
Despite the fact that the Friends have claimed the DDA’s plan is moving too quickly and without enough public input, Easthope and Johnson’s proposal for Monday’s meeting will come with less than two weeks notice (and that only in an Ann Arbor News story that noted Easthope was planning to bring such a proposal) and does not include a public hearing component. While the DDA’s proposal is only conceptual and would require further discussion before any concrete action is taken (specifying only what uses would exist on sites and leaving open questions of site plan, specific mixes of use, etc.), Easthope and Johnson’s proposal would commit three city lots to eventual park use, effectively closing discussion on those sites before it has truly started.
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