Today’s Ann Arbor News works on their past lack of coverage of Easthope’s land set-aside resolution and its conflict with the DDA’s redevelopment plan, putting up half a dozen items about or relevant to the conversation.
Downtown visions clash outlines the DDA’s ideas and the Friends of the Greenway’s, summarizing the conflict mostly familiar to readers of this site,
“Central Ann Arbor is only so big,” said Margaret Wong, a resident who formed Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway and who prefers a park rather than a parking structure on First and William. “There are so many interests at stake and they all want to flourish. How do you get all that energy to result in something that is good? That is the challenge.”
and commenting on some of the political pressure,
Old West Side resident Bruce Baker has circulated a letter via e-mail asking for support of the Ann Arbor greenway and for First and William to be preserved as a park.
In five days, he estimates he’s received 100 signatures. Baker said he plans to submit the letter with more signatures to the City Council soon.
It’s one sign there may be growing support for a greenway involving First and William. In addition, the city’s Parks Advisory Commission has already endorsed Easthope’s resolution.
Those actions could signal Ann Arbor’s environmental community that it has the backing to flex its political muscle on this issue.
Although Cowherd, Wong and Murphy say they know of no potential candidates who would run for council seats if the council voted against their wishes, the implications are clear.
“If the public vocally supports the greenway and our public officials reject it, then it is possible challengers will emerge who will run for office,” Cowherd said.
Council Member Greden says the important policy debates shouldn’t be twisted for political reasons.
“That sounds like intimidation politics,” the council member said.
Greenway proponents dreaming big compares some of the visions for an Allen Creek Greenway,
One greenway plan, being pushed by contractor Joe O’Neal, envisions a 100-acre, Central Park-style linear park that would involve buying hundreds of private properties over 50 years at a cost some estimate at a minimum of $75 million. The other leading plan, backed by Wong and others, is a simpler version that would cling to the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks and could be completed within a few years with a much smaller price tag.
Both of those plans include converting the First and William surface lot into a park.
The DDA proposal for a five-deck parking structure on First and William streets also includes a small park that would connect to the greenway, but opponents say it is too small.
Backers of the DDA plan say greenway advocates are not being realistic.
“This is ponies for everyone,” said Rene Greff, a member of the DDA. “It is very easy to shoot down our plan. The other plan sounds great, because no one is asking: ‘How on Earth are we going to do that? Where is the money going to come from?”’
and includes some odd attacks on the DDA’s plan,
But critics of the plan to develop the First and William surface lot scoff at the DDA’s vision of a park.
“What they are offering is a token park,” said Doug Cowherd, co-chairman of the Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group. “They can call it a greenway. That doesn’t mean it is a greenway. We think the greenway needs a real park.”
City Council Member Bob Johnson, D-1st Ward, said the DDA plan also requires approval by the Ann Arbor Railroad, which hasn’t been given yet.
“Right now, their plan includes no greenway despite what they are saying,” Johnson said. “It is a speculation with how the railroad will behave. ... They aren’t giving away anything they want. ... It will be a pretty poor park.”
Since all three of the Greenway plans involve running alongside the Ann Arbor Railroad’s tracks, criticism of the DDA’s plan as not sufficiently considering the railroad’s willingness to cooperate would seem to help none of the factions.
Other cities inspire green ideas looks to Kalamazoo and Battle Creek for greenway models,
There are three miles of a linear trail completed along Mayor’s Riverfront Park [in Kalamazoo]. The 9-foot-wide, paved path goes along the Kalamazoo River, along a golf course and ends up in another park.
. . .
There is a linear park that runs 20 miles through [Battle Creek]. It is a 10-foot-wide, paved path that runs along the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo rivers that meet downtown and links parks, Kellogg Community College and the downtown.
Rain garden program designed to improve Allen Creek water discusses a program to control stormwater runoff in the same corridor as the greenway,
Last month, Washtenaw County Drain Commissioner Janis Bobrin received a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to help property owners create rain gardens in the Allen Creek basin, which covers downtown Ann Arbor and parts of the west and south sides of the city.
Q: What’s the purpose of the Allen Creek Rain Garden Project?
A: We know that we have water quality issues in Allen Creek. We have to reduce phosphorus and we have to deal with bacteria issues … according to state and federal mandates. We also know that there’s too much water getting into that creek much too quickly and that we have flooding problems. It’s a very old watershed … and today when we put in development, we put in storm water ponds and techniques that hold water on site so it doesn’t just all run off. Allen Creek was developed before we had those kinds of standards, so now we’re looking at what kinds of options can improve water quality and hold storm water. ... Small rain gardens on individual properties is one of the best answers.
. . .
Q: How do the problems in the Allen Creek basin affect residents?
A: If you’ve ever driven down near Fingerle Lumber or Depot Street when we have one of these huge storms that happens really quickly and the water comes up to the car doors, that’s a concern. ... (Allen Creek) can handle what we would call the one and a half year storm, a storm that might occur in any given 18 month period statistically … so it’s not a very big pipe. We size pipes to handle a storm that’s more statistically likely to occur in a 10-year cycle.
And Condo developers have lofty aims for downtown discusses the current state of downtown residential development,
The rush underlines the pent-up demand. Despite the town’s desirability, there has been a lack of downtown housing – especially for those looking to buy instead of rent.
“I believe we have a huge demand for downtown housing,” said City Council Member Leigh Greden, D-3rd Ward. “More downtown residents is better for downtown businesses, the tax base and our goal to expand non-motorized transportation options.”
City officials hope to add 1,000 new residences downtown by 2015, declaring that the new dwellers would strengthen the city and ensure the viability of retailers, restaurants and other charms that make Ann Arbor unique.
Greden said the city needs to work to make it easier for developers to build downtown by improving development codes and streamlining the approval process.
The recent demand for these new projects is significant because some notable million-dollar condominiums built in the past few years have struggled to find buyers.
These new loft projects, while by no means cheap, offer downtown residences for mere mortals who can afford condos in the $400,000 range.
Establishing that demand may give the Downtown Development Authority some political capital as it tries to convince city officials to adopt its plan to develop two of three city parking areas for new condos, retail and office space, while using the third site for a multi-level parking garage.
Those plans would seek to build much more affordable housing, bringing prices under $200,000, said DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay.
The article also includes developer Peter Allen commenting on rising construction costs, saying that loft projects like Liberty Lofts and Loft 322, now selling for around $340/square foot, may rise to above $400/square foot within two years; the Collegian Building, on Maynard next to the Arcade, is cited as a loft project that failed to sell, and is now being marketed as office space; a note that Ed Shaffran (the developer of the Armory conversion on Fifth and Ann) and Mark deMaria (a partner in Loft 322) are happy enough with their past projects to be planning a joint project; and developer Jerry Spears predicting a reasonable demand for a few hundred more lofts, though, “Spears isn’t sure how big the pool of people is that can both afford to buy these condos and want that lifestyle.”
The news is asking for comments on the various greenway proposals,
What do you think about the Downtown Development Authority’s plan to redevelop downtown Ann Arbor west of Main Street? And what about the vision for a greenway running from the Huron River south through downtown to the University of Michigan golf course? Let us know your opinion.
You can send a comment to: Downtown Comment, The Ann Arbor News, P.O. Box 1147 Ann Arbor, MI 48106; fax it to (734) 994-6879; or e-mail it to email@example.com (text only, no attachments).
Comments must be fewer than 250 words and must include the author’s full name, hometown and a daytime telephone number. A selection of comments will be published later in The News.
And now, hopefully, we can retire the previous 50-comment thread and start talking on this one?
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> 16 March, Council to consider resolution to kill DDA plan
> 9 March, Ongoing Greenway drama: Easthope announces intent to kill DDA plan
> 8 March, Greenway advocates slam DDA plans for downtown parking