Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Ann Arbor News blitz on greenway and DDA plan

20. March 2005 • Murph
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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 (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?

Previous AU posts:
> 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

  1. THANK YOU!!!! Now I don’t have to spend $1.50 on some scab rag to find out what’s going on!! One of my councilmembers is against it, anyway.
       —Lazaro    Mar. 20 '05 - 05:16PM    #
  2. Cowherd has offered to walk around downtown and point out 200 other sites ready for (re)development. I’d be interested in seeing a panel discussion between him and, say, Allen, Shaffran, and deMaria about these sites. Or maybe Cowherd should consider starting a development firm . . .
       —Murph    Mar. 20 '05 - 05:18PM    #
  3. I also like how the article describes the people in favor of the purchases as “Ann Arbor’s environmental community.” Does that mean the people opposed to the purchase are all of a sudden against the environment just because they don’t want 157 parks instead of 154?
       —Lazaro    Mar. 20 '05 - 05:36PM    #
  4. Lazaro, I borrowed a paper copy from my neighbor in order to look at the pictures, then gave it back. Hooray for not buying scab rags.
       —Murph    Mar. 20 '05 - 06:50PM    #
  5. I just got off the phone with Rene Greff.

    The most telling part of our conversation, was that Rene told me that Rene wanted to go over the DDA plan with Cowherd and the executive commitee. Cowherd refused. That speaks volumes to me.

    If the OFW wants more parks, terrific. It is time for the them to refute the accusations of NIMBYism.

    If anyone from the OFW is reading this, if you push for the installation of a park (in the place of the William lot) in any of the 200+ other lots that Mr. Cowherd was kind enough to indentify as ripe for development, I will back you 100%.

    If the problem is that Ann Arbor is desperate for more parks, then lets put together a comprehensive plan that identifies and purchases local land using greenbelt funds. My father was the President of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and has designed over 15 Federal and State parks in his career, including several in urban areas. I offer his services gratis. He will help with everything from site selection to the maintenance of the new parks. We will put in native plants and the whole nine yards.

    If the “Friends of the Greenway” reject this proposal, then I must come to the conclusion that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with sustainable development or the “greening of our city”, and has everything to do with taking care of your own neighborhood at the expense of both density and affordable housing throughout the entire city.

    I am hoping that you will show your true colors, and prove to all of us that you have the interest of the entire city—-your community—-at heart when you make your proposal.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 20 '05 - 07:12PM    #
  6. Just a note: Cowherd’s also on the record opposing any development over 4 stories in AA.
       —Scott    Mar. 20 '05 - 07:14PM    #
  7. The OWS, the Mayor, et al already showed their true colors by helping to defeat the accessory apt. ordinance.

    The local Sierra club has/is demonstrating that they are enviornmentalists in name only. The bottom line for them sure seems to be property values. But I agree that here’s their chance to prove that isn’t the case.
       —Kurt    Mar. 20 '05 - 08:51PM    #
  8. Can someone start an organization, “Friends of the DDA?”

    It’s unfortunate how well the Greenway folks have spun their story into one of heroic citizens organizing at the grassroots to save their communty versus big bad developers.
       —Pam    Mar. 21 '05 - 01:46AM    #
  9. I like “Friends of the Parking Structure” better. Anyone else want a “Kill Nimby” T-Shirt?
       —Scott    Mar. 21 '05 - 02:00AM    #
  10. I wonder if the local Sierra Club can have its charter revoked.
       —Brandon    Mar. 21 '05 - 02:09AM    #
  11. Ooh…I’m picturing it now – a character reminiscent of Gumby (Nimby) dancing on top of a green parking structure. That has potential.

    I wonder how much discussion there is within the Sierra Club about this – with the number of members they have, there have got to be differing opinions within the organization.
       —Lisa    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:07AM    #
  12. Brandon, you should start “The Huron Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club, Taiwan Subchapter.”

    I just got home from the Council’s caucus meeting, where there was some comment about the resolution tomorrow to set aside the parcels as greenway parks. The greenway advocates kept it pretty calm; only two of them came to speak for the resolution. There were five people speaking against the resolution. One of the people speaking for the resolution was pitching it as a commitment to a conversation on land use, and not a binding decision (it is not a binding decision, I believe, but certainly something that it’s hard to back away from). Most of the “against” comment was, “Too fast! Let’s slow down and take some time to talk about this before we take any action like setting aside sites “in their entirety as greenway parks”. I plugged this site as a place where conversation was already happening – so everybody smile pretty for the Council.

    In the meantime, here’s an idea. If a resolution to set aside land for a certain purpose is simply a way of starting discussion, why don’t we set aside the land in question, in its entirety, for medical waste incinerators? Or for a trio of nuclear fuel rod storage facilities?
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:32AM    #
  13. a few observations:

    * does anyone else find it a blatant conflict-of-interest that downtown business owners are in charge of funds for developing downtown, ie dda members are business owners? kinda like putting bears in charge of a salmon conservation program.

    * why does everyone seem to buy into the idea that the dda is working in their best interests? when did you become so trusting of government to do the right thing?

    * so, trust the dda that they’re doing well-reasoned and insightful developement? this despite a plan to build a parkings structure in a floodway? despite having no data to support it, and it despite costing 22M city dollars? or $44k a spot. maybe we should sell the parking spots with tents – that might be affordable.

    * anyone dug into the ‘affordable’ housing part of the dda proposal? very interesting reading. 15% of the units on one site will be ‘affordable’, made so through grants. not rent-control, price-control, etc, but by paying the difference between market and ‘affordable’ rates. this does not change the housing dynamic in the long-term.

    * instead of a park, how about a downtown community garden? let’s discuss what makes places good places to live, not just good places for business.

    we need more discussion and actual insight into how ‘affordability’ works, what the consequences of building in floodplains are (we could ask the county drain commissioner), why the city is intent on selling property, rather than leasing it, and the need for spending $22M on a parking structure which has no data to back up it’s need.

       —bob kuehne    Mar. 21 '05 - 02:01PM    #
  14. Bob – you’re totally right. We need more conversation on all of these things (and lots more!), which is a big part of my objection to the Easthope resolution. Why do we have to so hastily commit to a certain use of the three resolution sites when we haven’t even asked all of the questions involved? If we can make them into parks without compromising any of our other goals as a community, fantastic! But let’s figure some of that out first.

    Meanwhile, I take some objection to your characterization of the DDA. The DDA Board is made up of people chosen by the Mayor and the City Council – they’re not some self-appointed cartel that meets in dark smoky rooms. The Board includes Mayor Hieftje, 1 downtown resident, 3 at-large citizens, and 7 downtown “property owners or individuals with an interest in downtown real estate”. Additionally, there’s a Downtown Area Citizens’ Advisory Commission, made up of residents of the downtown area, that advises the DDA and Council. (And, I’m curious, if the “full-scale greenway” really is necessary for the quality of life of downtown residents, and the other ideas for a greenway are not sufficient, why hasn’t the CAC come out strongly in favor of the full-scale plan?)
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 02:48PM    #
  15. The Council and Mayor have apparently received a nice flood of e-mail on this topic; Mayor Hieftje has sent out a bulk reply that says, in part,

    “Let me note that the DDA Three Site Plan is not before City Council at this time and will not be until at least June.

    “I will not be supporting the Easthope – Johnson resolution. It is way to early in this process to set aside these three parcels without further consideration of how they might be used. There may well be other
    uses for portions of the three city owned sites and we need time to explore this. While I am a strong supporter of the Greenway Concept I am certainly not a supporter of the expansive plan that would require the City spending up to $200 million to take over residents homes and businesses. In addition, no source of funding has been identified for other park improvements that would be required before we could move forward with any form of the Greenway. It will take time to identify these sources.

    “The City itself has not yet discussed what further use it might have for properties that have been used by the city for over 50 years once the new maintenance facility has been constructed.

    “The City hopes to get underway with the construction of the new maintenance
    facility this summer. After that it will probably be 24 months before the
    city will move out of the garages on W. Washington and N. Main. My original
    intention had been to start a community-wide discussion on the future uses of both sites once we are underway and after we have finished work on the 05/06 budget. The budget will be put to bed by the end of May.”

    I approve.
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:06PM    #
  16. Bob, by point

    1. Absolutely not. The fact that Rene Greff spoke of her desire for a grocery store should tell you immediately that the DDA has the best interest of downtown citizens in mind. Downtown business owners SHOULD be in charge of this money.

    However, I will be happy to cede your point if we can make it illegal for anyone living within three blocks of a proposed building to protest its construction. For one, it would completely eliminate the “Friends of the Greenway” protest, and this parking structure would be unanimously approved. Secondly, it would probably eliminate the need for a DDA as this parking structure and tall buildings would have been put up DECADES ago.

    2. See above. From my perspective, nothing the DDA has done has put money directly into my pockets. Their work does more for the very heart of downtown…and we are not a part of that. So, speaking as someone who really hasn’t been the recipient of something like a parking structure directly across from by business, I think that they are doing a fine job.

    3. Here’s the data that some have been asking for: the developers have told us 1,000 times that they cannot build more in the heart of downtown without this project. Do you think they are bluffing? I know I don’t. No parking, no density, no density, no grocery store, no grocery store, more car use, more car use: YOU NEED MORE PARKING LOTS. This is not complicated. The lots will make the city more environmetally sustainable over the long run, not less.

    4. The only thing that will change the cost of living downtown will be to create an excess of supply. That it. That’s how fundamental economics work. Ann Arbor has decades of pent up demand, so here we are with an insane cost of living for a dinky city. It’s our own fault, and despite what some claim, this isn’t a result of “well, Ann Arbor is such a nice place that too many people want to live here, so THAT’s why homes are so expensive”. That’s an incredibly simple minded conclusion

    5. This is at the heart of the “Friends of the Greenway” issue. Of course you and others would like a better quality of living. Of course we would all like our own personal garden at taxpayer expense. My question for you, Bob, is why this particular spot?

    6. I already addressed how affordability works, listed under number 4. I also explained why this particular parking lot is “expensive” in my previous post.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:08PM    #
  17. hi todd,

    i need data about parking. it’s not sufficient that developers or someone with a vested interest in that parking to assert they need so. it’s flat-out irresponsible to blindly accept this assertion without facts.

    simply: assertions are not facts

    so, you assert you have 1000 statements (please provide those) from developers telling you that they ‘need’ parking in order to build in ann arbor. i say call their bluff – let’s see if they pass up prime parcels in a vibrant city because they have to pay for their own parking. i’ll buy you a beer if those lots don’t sell (or lease).

    as to your question about why is first and william a bad site for a parking structure?

    a) there is no factual evidence that this parking is needed. period. facts matter. especially when you’re asking the city (through the funds it cedes to the dda) to outlay $22M for a structure.

    b) this is a structure in a floodway. fema, the drain commisioner, green watershed principles, and common sense make it clear that this is a bad idea.

    c) this is allegedly a structure for commuter parking – i thought we wanted more people to live and work downtown? shouldn’t these developments reduce the demand on commuter parking, further reducing the need for another parking structure, within 4 blocks away from 2 others?

    i love the idea that there could be another (there are several already, the co-op, sparrow market, white market all spring to mind) grocery store downtown. but greff/dda saying they ‘want’ one, and requiring it to be there are worlds apart. would they further assert that it has to be a locally-owned one? i’m sure, if it were politically expedient, they would. but requiring it? i don’t think so, but i’d love to be proven wrong.

    the debate isn’t (to me) about what makes cities good commercial locales – it’s about what makes cities good places to live. if nobody wants to live in a place (detroit) is it still a viable commercial area? it continues to amaze me that people seem so blindly willing to accept facts from an ‘authority’ figure without question. don’t drink the koolaid so easily without questioning the facts and logic behind it.

    so lets dig in, do some research, provide some facts, and let’s have an open discussion about how to make ann arbor a better city in which to live – let’s not just trust the dda that we must develop and provide acres of parking for commuters.
       —bob kuehne    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:31PM    #
  18. hi murph,

    i’m glad you provided numbers of who’s on the dda. to recap:
    —The Board includes Mayor Hieftje, 1 downtown resident, 3 at-large citizens, and 7 downtown “property owners or individuals with an interest in downtown real estateâ€?.—
    by my count, that puts it at:

    7 votes: ‘property owners or individuals with an interest in downtown real-estate’
    1 downtown resident: token resident. i wonder if this person also owns a biz downtown?
    3 other: citizens at large.

    it’s pretty clear what the 7 are interested in, and that makes the numbers in aggregate heavily weighted towards development/biz interests. the single resident (1 of 11) is a very small voice for potential livability. i wonder how many members of the dda actually live in town?

    anyway, that’s not really a good balance, in my mind. i am tired of the old-school, big-money, development-at-all-costs way of thinking – we need better cities, not just bigger cities.

    so, how do we open up the discussion outside of this blog? how do we get input into the dda process? how do we get an understanding of the parking/livability issues? how do we ensure appropriate re-development of environmentally sensitive areas?
       —bob kuehne    Mar. 21 '05 - 03:49PM    #
  19. 1. The main reason I support the DDA is exactly b/c it IS NOT the government. However, the Mayor, Ann Arbor City Council and Planning Commision have long demonstrated lack commitment to projects that benefit all of the city when faced with small but vocal Nimby groups. That in turn has lead us to the place we are now… A visionary idea that is about to be shot down before the entire community has had time to ponder, discuss, and come to a consensus about whether or how to modify it. I know this is cynical, but it really seems to me that the Friends of the Greenway are trying to scuttle the idea now, precisely so this type open of conversation won’t happen and only their “side” is heard.

    2. I don’t understand the logic of leasing the land in question. Wouldn’t the city be able to get much more money from selling the property and the years and years of property tax than from leasing it?

    Also, when a public entity leases property to a private concern are there still property taxes? At the same value?
       —Kurt    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:10PM    #
  20. Bob, either I am doing a poor job explaining things, or you are doing a poor job reading my commments. I suspect the former, so:

    The developers ALREADY OWN BUILDABLE PARCELS. They already bought them. They just can’t build on them. The biggest thing that people who don’t want new construction in downtown don’t understand is that we actually WANT these local developers to make money. This is a good thing. Why is this good? Because if they don’t make money, then Puhlte or some other REIT will make their profits by building enormous tract housing around the city of Ann Arbor. Personally, I’d much rather have O’Neal, or Phoenix, or Beal make millions of dollars than have Toll Brothers make one single penny.

    I guess that it isn’t that clear that I know many of the people mentioned in these stories, but I have spoken with many involved….that’s where my 1,000 times come from. The own the parcels, but they cannot proceed with construction because their experience has told them that they will not be able to sell the units if they cannot offer, at a minimum, one easy to reach guaranteed parking spot per bedroom. Guaranteed means a monthly parking spot.

    Maybe I can explain this so that a homeowner could understand it. If you came to the closing time for your new $300,000 home, and the real estate officer called you in a panic and explained to you that sometimes other citizens will legally park in your driveway from time to time. Now would you buy the house under these circumstances? Hell no. You can’t sell a residence without parking. It’s just that simple. That’s why a confirmed MONTHLY parking space is needed. This isn’t about commuter parking….or at least it isn’t for a developer.

    Now your question is: why shouldn’t we take them at their word? The answer is: do you honestly think that they aren’t building on these lots because they want to bluff? That doesn’t make sense. They aren’t going to risk their valuable capital to build a residential or commercial building if they don’t think that their tenants will be able to park. The fact that they own the parcel and cannot build on the parcel is all the information that is needed.

    The “parking data” that you keep talking about refers to the available parking in NON-RESERVED, NON-MONTHLY parking. This is of a much lesser concern to a developer. That’s why the photgraphs are so silly. They don’t tell you what you need to know…. e.g., what is the monthly usage, and how many monthly passes are available.

    “would they further assert that it has to be a locally-owned one? i’m sure, if it were politically expedient, they would. but requiring it? i don’t think so, but i’d love to be proven wrong.”

    You can’t mandate a grocery store Bob. They have already spoken with local grocery store owners, and they have been told BY THE GROCERY STORE OWNERS that there aren’t enough residents downtown to support a grocery store (grocery stores operate on a 1 or 2 percent margin, so there isn’t much wiggle room with demographics). If you look in the article, Rene Greff explained that we need more parking so that we can get residences, and then the grocery store will follow.

    It is highly likely that the grocery store will be locally owned. Both the Hiller and Busch family have residences in Wash. County.

    ...and for the second time, I already explained why it is a good idea to put this parking structure in a flood plain. Check my previous posts.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:12PM    #
  21. “However, the Mayor, Ann Arbor City Council and Planning Commision have long demonstrated lack commitment to projects that benefit all of the city when faced with small but vocal Nimby groups.”

    Amen, Kurt. The fact that Mr. Cowherd refused to hear a detailed explaination of the DDA plan tells me all that I need to know. These people have no interest in long term planning, nor are the interested in comprimise or discussion. They want their way, and that’s it.

    Now if Mr. Cowherd had accepted the invitation to hear the proposal, and then gave details as to why the DDA plan is bad (that is, something other than “I like parks”), then I would take a hard listen at what he had to say. In fact, I can guarantee you that the DDA would listen to his concerns as well.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:19PM    #
  22. hi kurt,

    you’re incorrect about the dda:

    the dda is part of government, that’s why it’s hosted on city web sites, manages city-owned parking, gets a percentage of tax-revenue as operating income, required to post public minutes, etc. it’s just not accountable like the govnernment is – we don’t elect them, but they do receive city revenue.

    i do appreciate you asking whether or not leasing is an option – it seems that nobody is exploring (or explaining) the tradeoffs here, and we absolutely need to have an informed citizenry on how our city chooses to grow and develop.

    i do know that once sold, however, the city doesn’t get to sell it again – selling is an expedient way to raise capital, but it’s a one-time event. they may continue to get tax revenue, but that’s how everything in the city works. i doubt a lease would exempt them from that.

       —bob kuehne    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:21PM    #
  23. oh, two thoughts then back to running my local business:

    * keep in mind that the dda plan and the greenway plan only overlap on one site. this isn’t apples or oranges. we can have urban development and parks both.

    * is it a fact that no greenway advocates are willing to speak to the dda? the greenway group is bigger than one guy. i don’t consider a private conversation as a fact – let’s get this on record in the news, council minutes, or otherwise. then there’s a basis for asserting that ‘These people have no interest in long term planning, nor are the interested in comprimise or discussion’ – but until then, let’s keep the wild emotional accusations to a minimum, and try to have that discussion we need to have.

    i am certain greenway advocates would welcome an open discussion of the greenway as a component in responsible development of downtown. in fact, i’m trying to begin that discussion here.
       —bob kuehne    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:26PM    #
  24. So, Bob, will you oppose tonight’s resolution on the basis that it does not allow enough time for this public conversation that you claim to value so much? That’s all I ask at the moment.
       —Brandon    Mar. 21 '05 - 04:42PM    #
  25. This isn’t a wild emotional accusation. I will grant you that it is hearsay and for that reason my word shouldn’t be trusted. If you can get him to say that on the record, terrific.

    What are these people’s objection to the plan, then? Maybe we will find out tonight. I can assure you that the DDA is interested in any coherent reason (so am I) for opposition to the site. “I want a park there” isn’t a coherent reason.

    ”* keep in mind that the dda plan and the greenway plan only overlap on one site. this isn’t apples or oranges. we can have urban development and parks both.”

    I am in 100% agreement with this. However, I ask what compromise are the friends of the greenway going to make in order to get a greenway? The idea that the whole greenway concept will fail because of this parking lot is absurd.

    And to reiterate what Mrs. Greff said in print…the greeenway is nothing more than a pipe dream at this point. Halting a serious project because of something that that isn’t even in the proposal phase is completely ridiculous.

    Those advocating the “greenway” have been successful in convincing the public that this project somehow exists, therby confusing what the real issue is….that they don’t want development in their neighborhood.

    Let’s work the issue backwards and see where it takes us:

    Let’s use your own assertion that it is too expensive to build on that site because of floodplain issues. That is, our $$ would be better served building a park in a non-flood plain.

    So, why on earth would we spend tax dollars for an egregiously expensive park when Mr. Cowherd pointed out that there are well over 200 other sites in the city that could hold a park?

    Looking at it from this perspective and setting aside the DDA proposal, would it make sense to build a park there?
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 05:07PM    #
  26. Bob, I’m starting to find some of your discussion tactics tiresome; you seem interested in cherry-picking pieces of things while ignoring the rest, repeating questions without acknowledging answers already offered, and demanding proof from others while making unsubstantiated claims and accusations of your own.

    As an example, let’s examine your attack on the DDA,

    “it’s pretty clear what the 7 are interested in, and that makes the numbers in aggregate heavily weighted towards development/biz interests. the single resident (1 of 11) is a very small voice for potential livability. i wonder how many members of the dda actually live in town?”

    Running down the list of DDA Board members with a residential phone book,
    * Aldrich I can’t find an address for.
    * Beal lives south of Burns Park.
    * Boren lives downtown on Washington.
    * Dankert lives near AA-Saline and S. Main.
    * DeVarti lives just east of Burns Park.
    * Gillett lives somewhere in 48103 (no listed street address).
    * Greff I can’t find an address for.
    * Gunn lives near Stadium and Packard.
    * Hewitt lives near Miller and Newport.
    * Hieftje lives near Traver and Barton Drive
    * Smith lives near Ashley and Kingsley
    * Solo lives out near Chelsea – I went to high school with his kids.

    So, yes, at least 9 of 12 DDA Board members live in Ann Arbor proper, at least 1 in the DDA (and Smith awfully close), and at least another 4 in close-in neighborhoods. There are two Keuhnes listed, and I can’t tell whether either of them is you – offer up your address and I’ll give you an estimate of how many DDA Board members live closer to downtown than you do. Even if there were, as you suggest, some fundamental conflict of interest between business owners and residents, there seems to me to be a good measure of City residents’ voices represented. And, as I said in my previous message (and as you so conveniently skipped over), there’s an entirely separate “Downtown Area Citizens’ Advisory Committee” completely made up of downtown residents.

    Meanwhile, even if the DDA Board members all lived out-of-town, I think the conflict you’re trying to set up would still be a false one. Imagine, if you would, the downtown devoid of businesses. No restaurants on Main. No used bookstores. No artisanal chocolate or beer. No Zingermans. Just a bunch of old, boarded-up Klines and Jacobsons storefronts, with a ratty fringe of campus-oriented businesses on South U. and State St. Does that scream “liveability” to you? To me, that sounds more like downtown Detroit, where I’m betting you’re not interested in moving to. I hold business to be a suspect class as much (or more) than anybody else around here, but business interests are not always opposed to residents’ interests, even in the case where those two are separate groups. And in the case where you’re throwing unfounded accusations at businessowners who do, in fact, live in town, and who are at least making a pretty good appearance of providing your vaunted “liveability”? Well, I’m going to ask that you be a little more careful to keep your statements grounded in fact, and stop setting up strawmen to attack.
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 05:09PM    #
  27. Also, Bob, to your statement on parking data,

    “i need data about parking. it’s not sufficient that developers or someone with a vested interest in that parking to assert they need so. it’s flat-out irresponsible to blindly accept this assertion without facts.

    simply: assertions are not facts”

    The DDA has started collecting data. As I have said before, I think they should have started collecting data a long time ago, and if the hardware currently in use by Republic (which handles the day-to-day management) doesn’t allow for highly detailed data collection, that’s something that I personally think Republic should be asked to change next time that contract is up for renewal. However, the DDA is collecting data now – which means not only that we can all stop beating them up for not having data, and means that we ought to sit back and wait for the real, actual data to be collected before we say, “The data means we need more parking,” or “the data means we need less parking,” or, silliest of all, “the lack of data means we need less parking.” Nonsense. The lack of data just means we need more data. Lack of data is not grounds for action in any direction except grounds for data collection. I want data, you want data, and, eventually, we’ll get data.
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 05:20PM    #
  28. hi murph,

    i’m with you – data good. so let’s gather it, let’s make sense of it, and see if the city really needs to replace the parking from those three sites with a new lot, or if it’s better accomodated by other means. and let’s see if the data shows that the floodway is really the most effective location for that parking.

    i’m not advocating no business downtown, hardly. but i do reject the idea that it’s a ‘fact’ that without publically-funded parking structures it’s not possible to do development in ann arbor. go to any vibrant major city, and you’ll see lots of living spaces without parking, buildings which have their own parking, sell that to the public, etc. it’s all about how cities choose to develop.

    so if there are 200 sites in the city that could be developed, is one in a floodplain really such a good idea?

    and let’s definitely have some public discourse on how we want to see ann arbor evolve. i find the dda plan to be as expedient as the park plan – you’re right in that neither has been publically vetted. but there’s a major difference between the two groups. the dda plan has lots of money behind it – they’ve got architects designing plans (with your tax $). the friends plan is an all-volunteer thing, explaining it’s message to citzens, involving citizens, organized by citizens, about how make ann arbor a better place to live and work.

    look, tomorrow you’ll be able to all dance around and slap yourselves on the back about what a great thing you did by opposing the greenway, because it likely won’t get passed tonight anyway, but is that the legacy you’d like to leave your kids? a parking structure? i know i want better from this particular site, and those other sites in the floodway, and i think you do too. we want balanced, sensible, livable development of our town. hopefully we’ll see it.

       —bob kuehne    Mar. 21 '05 - 06:00PM    #
  29. Bob,

    “it’s pretty clear what the 7 are interested in, and that makes the numbers in aggregate heavily weighted towards development/biz interests. the single resident (1 of 11) is a very small voice for potential livability. i wonder how many members of the dda actually live in town?”

    The DDA represents the commercial interests of downtown, that is clear to all of us. Those of us who know some of the members of the DDA also believe very strongly that they are also interested in the quality of life issues. I know that you disagree with me here, so I don’t know what to tell you.

    Even if you assume that these guys are carpetbaggers (you already know I disagree with that belief), we already have signed the greenbelt plan into law. The greenbelt plan assures that every inch of Ann Arbor won’t be paved over, as some like to put it.

    In my mind, the DDA and the Greenbelt commission works both in tandem and also as a check and balance system. The DDA is responsible for density and the fiscal health of the downtown area….they get the property taxes that helps to pay for all of the parks. In case you have forgotten, the city is in a bit of a fiscal crisis in part because we have put a cap on new construction for the last 20 years or so. The DDA is trying to help to fix that problem.

    The Greenbelt commission is in charge of the “quality of life” stuff that you keep talking about in that you associate parks with quality of life.

    My suggestion is that you contact the Greenbelt commission and tell them how many more parks are needed in Ann Arbor.

    We agree more than we disagree Bob.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 06:00PM    #
  30. “look, tomorrow you’ll be able to all dance around and slap yourselves on the back about what a great thing you did by opposing the greenway, because it likely won’t get passed tonight anyway, but is that the legacy you’d like to leave your kids? a parking structure?”

    The defeat of tonight’s resolution does not equal the construction of a parking structure at First and William. It simply allows for a period of public discussion about the sites, which you so fervently support. Can you not see the hypocrisy evident in the disconnect between your words and your views on tonight’s resolution?
       —Brandon    Mar. 21 '05 - 06:44PM    #
  31. Bob,

    “but is that the legacy you’d like to leave your kids? a parking structure? i know i want better from this particular site, and those other sites in the floodway, and i think you do too.”

    Wow. That is an incredibly sad summation of your position.

    I’ll let Rene Greff sum it up:

    “”I think it is a dishonest debate,” Greff said. “People have done a very good job of making this a black-and-white issue. Being against parks is like being against puppies. Who is going to be against that?”

    As to what legacy I’ll be leaving to my kids….and at this point I honestly don’t care if this sounds self-righteous….I can assure you that the Leopold family is doing plenty for its legacy, and I frankly find it really offensive that you would charge otherwise.

    My entire family has spent their life’s work and capital on issues surrounding environmental sustainability. The very fact that our family supports this lot should give you pause for thought, but instead you choose to look down your nose at us.

    I agree that the site needs to be looked at harder. THE DDA IS ALREADY DOING THIS.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 06:44PM    #
  32. Re: A downtown with no business. See also: Gary, In.

    Re: Parking. Downtown residents won’t need dedicated parking once there’s a 24-hour bus/light rail system that can accommodate all of their needs AND enough jobs to avoid having to commute.

    I can’t afford to live downtown. Maybe Bob will hire me.
       —js    Mar. 21 '05 - 07:05PM    #
  33. “look, tomorrow you’ll be able to all dance around and slap yourselves on the back about what a great thing you did by opposing the greenway, because it likely won’t get passed tonight anyway, but is that the legacy you’d like to leave your kids? a parking structure?”

    Bob, I’m shaking my head as I read this, because it’s just so ironic for me to suddenly be seen as a raving parking structure advocate. When I went to the Council caucus meeting last night, I walked there, ~2.5 miles, because I couldn’t remember the Sunday AATA schedule and I don’t own a car. (The combatative follow-up to that would be, “Can you say the same?”)

    I don’t want a parking structure. I’m anti-parking, anti-driving, anti-car, pro-environment, pro-pedestrian. I’m sure if you told any of my friends, classmates, or family that I was taking an “anti-parks and pro-parking structure” position in this discussion, you’d be laughed at. No, my position is quite simply this:

    “If building a parking structure (and getting a park and other good stuff for free out of the deal) is what it takes to ensure downtown’s health, then so be it. I don’t like parking structures any more than the next guy, but I’m not going to blindly sabotage an otherwise good proposal because I want a large park instead of a small park, and right now, it looks like setting aside the 1st & William site in its entirety as a greenway park would sabotage a good proposal. Therefore, I must oppose a resolution that would do this, and will continue to oppose such a resolution until and unless it is shown that such a resolution would not compromise the greater well-being of downtown.”

    You are arguing for a park, and trying to push other, inter-related issues out of the conversation. In the previous thread, you suggested to Todd that he ought to look beyond the first year of the urban planning program; it sounds like you have no experience with planning in the first place – “Things are more complex than parks vs. parking lots; everything is inter-related,” is the first five minutes of the first day of the undergrad “Intro to urban and environmental planning” course at UMich. (Which, incidentally, I GSId last semester, and Brandon is GSIing this semester. Some of my students accused me of being too biased against cars, and too glowingly positive about urban neighborhoods like the OWS.)

    I also find it interesting that you’re bringing “vibrant major cities” into the debate. You’ve just committed the Ann Arbor is Overrated Fallacy: looking to San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Portland for comparisons to Ann Arbor. May I suggest, instead, Boulder? (Which Todd is our local expert on.) Or maybe Trenton, NJ? I’m sure you’d consider that a excellent role model for A2. Sure, Ann Arbor’s got a major gravity center in UMich, just like Trenton has the NJ State government. The rest of the economic activity in A2 is vulnerable. If reckless actions by the City harm local businesses, they’ll close or leave town. There’s nothing inherant to Ann Arbor’s downtown that will hold local businesses there; if you want evidence, then go have yourself a nice cup of noodles at Decker Drugs.
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 07:20PM    #
  34. Everyone is a NIMBY. Homeowners, commuters, developers, the City, the DDA, downtown businesses, people who want to live downtown, students, and so on, all want change to happen in ways that favor their own interests.

    Sure, the current homeowners facing the First and William site don’t want to look out at a parking structure, just as the future residents of Eaton (Liberty Lofts) or LoFT 322 are not going to want to look at a parking structure. On the other hand, if you own a business downtown, you want a parking structure wherever it can go as long as your patrons and employees can use it. If you are a student, you want affordable housing. If you are a developer, you want to be able to build the best building on a site while making a profit. If you don’t make much money and want to live downtown, you want affordable housing. This is to be expected. Protecting your turf/livelihood/neighborhood/resources/homeland/future is a basic instinct.

    The DDA includes five developers/realtors, two lawyers, four business owners (two or three downtown), and one county commissioner. Two live outside of Ann Arbor. The DDA has a role to play in city administration and a charge and yes, they all have personal stakes of some sort. I can’t imagine wanting it otherwise. For example, Renee Greff doesn’t live in Ann Arbor (she lives in Ypsi), but her livelihood depends on the health of downtown.

    If you want a vibrant city with people connected to a downtown area, you must assume they will participate when their homes or livelihood are threatened. This is good for a city! No one involved with the greenway truly expects this proposal to be passed tonight. But what it does do is show to the DDA and City Council that people who live in downtown areas want to be involved. The DDA did a poor job of presenting the three-site plan which mobilized the people who live downtown because they felt left out of the decision-making process. Whether or not that is true and whether or not that was intended, that is how the DDA plan came across. Now the greenway/neighborhood groups are fighting back in the same way. Maybe not the best way to do it, but certainly most people in the city have a better understanding of the issues now.

    My hope is that there would be some attempt now for the different stakeholders to work on a plan that would be at least moderately acceptable to everyone. To complicate matters, now that the old Y proposals have come in, they should certainly be a part of the consideration for this area since that development could potentially greatly affect resource use in this area of downtown.
       —Julie    Mar. 21 '05 - 07:55PM    #
  35. Murph, you tell ‘em. Are you from Jersey? I think Trenton is a big dump. How about Montclair, or Morristown, or New Brunswick as a model? Or better yet, how about Northampton Mass?
       —JennyD    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:08PM    #
  36. Julie,

    Now THAT is a good way of presenting the greenway proponent’s side of things.

    I am sure that you probably already know this, but some members of the DDA realize that the presentation wasn’t the best. This will be rectified shortly, I hope.

    “My hope is that there would be some attempt now for the different stakeholders to work on a plan that would be at least moderately acceptable to everyone.”

    Mine too. What I really hope to see is more citizen involvement in the Master Plan stages. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the biggest mistake we can make as a city is to let citizens get involved in the planning of INDIVIDUAL projects. And these are not just my thoughts. They are shared by both my father and the City Planner of the City of Boulder. Participation in individual projects can and will kill a city. If you only look at one project, it is impossible to make everyone happy. If you can take a step back and look at the big picture, it is very possible to make everyone happy…or at least content.

    Citizen participation in the formation and maintenance of the Master Plan can, and will, make a city better for everyone.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:19PM    #
  37. Bob and anyone else who thinks the parking structure = no greenway,

    The defeat of the resolution tonight would in no way be a defeat of the greenway! It is just that type of assumption that makes me doubt the fact that those who demand a park at First and William really want anything else than to just stop a parking structure.

    The people on the DDA are good people who care about the whole community, not just downtown or the OWS. Maybe you’re from a place where it functioned as a good ole boy network and you don’t know any different, but that’s just not the case here. Yes, parking and downtown residents will (hopefully) improve the bottom line of a downtown business owner, but the other citizens of Ann Arbor will also benefit from more tax revenue, etc. and STILL have a greenway.
       —Kurt    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:31PM    #
  38. ”...the Ann Arbor is Overrated Fallacy: looking to San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Portland for comparisons to Ann Arbor.”

    Er…that’s the Manhattan of the Midwest Fallacy. I just like to hold the “i’d rather be in ann arbor” crowd to it.
       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:36PM    #
  39. Todd, are you saying that Boulder does it the correct way?

    Kurt, you are absolutely right that a greenway does not hinge on the spot at First and William, but remember, the health of downtown does not hinge on that spot either, no matter how the DDA spins it. My guess is that people who live in neighborhoods adjacent to downtown bring in far more money to the downtown area than that parking structure will ever make. Wouldn’t it be better to try to work with them?
       —Julie    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:42PM    #
  40. “Everyone is a NIMBY. Homeowners, commuters, developers, the City, the DDA, downtown businesses, people who want to live downtown, students, and so on, all want change to happen in ways that favor their own interests.”

    Isn’t a NIMBY specifically someone who doesn’t want some change to occur close to their neighborhood (but would support it elsewhere), rather than just someone who looks out for their own interests?
       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:43PM    #
  41. AAiO, NIMBY is used to describe someone who doesn’t want something in their “backyard” (regardless of if or where they might want it). I guess you could say some people are NIMBYs and some people are IMBYs, but that is more confusing than OFW and OWS.

    Either way, it is self-interest, but I don’t think that is necessarily bad. If you don’t look out for your own backyard, who will?
       —Julie    Mar. 21 '05 - 08:56PM    #
  42. “Todd, are you saying that Boulder does it the correct way?”

    Absolutely not. I’m saying that Boulder is a complete disaster area. Insane rents, a rich-o country club mentality, and the city was nearly gutted when a MegaMall went in a few miles down the road that capitalized on the lack of parking downtown near Boulder’s own malls.

    All of this happened because citizens saw local developers as the enemy. They shouted down each individual project, even when the project was specifically called for in the Master Plan that citzens overwhelmingly approved.

    I hold Boulder up as the shining example of how NOT to manage city growth. It’s really sad.

    My father has lunch with the Boulder City Planner quite often, and discusses the situation in Ann Arbor with him frequently. We all firmly believe that Ann Arbor is heading down the same path as Boulder.

    He described the process of watching citizens shout down good projects, that were called for in the Master Plan, as akin to the betrayal of Caesar. All of the long term planning that citizens had approved was ruined in a few crucial votes.

    The city is now in fiscal crisis (sound familiar?) and the imbalance between jobs and residences within the city is stressing city services to the maximum.

    I could go on, but if you search AAIO, I have discussed the Boulder situation ad nauseum.
       —Todd Leopold    Mar. 21 '05 - 09:00PM    #
  43. Julie,

    You are quite right that it would be better to work with neighborhoods adjacent to downtown, but that it a two way street. At this point it sure looks like Friends of the Greenway, who really seem to be making a claim to speak for the whole OWS, are not interested in working “with” anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They have a “My greenway or the highway” attitude. As far as I know, the DDA plan was supposed to be a starting point for discussion, and that tonight’s resolution, if passed, would end a major part of that discussion when it has just gotten started.

    Although, I walk and bike into downtown from Allmendinger Park all the time, it sure looks like out-of-towners and those from the edges of the city (i.e. drivers) make up a huge portion of people spending money there…more than folks from surrounding neighborhoods. But maybe I just notice them more.

    Todd, do you have any insight to that question?
       —Kurt Maier    Mar. 21 '05 - 09:17PM    #
  44. AAiO – I suppose I meant the “Ann Arbor Overrating Fallacy”.

    JennyD – no, but I lived in Princeton and in Hightstown (Turnpike Exit 8) for a year and a half; I worked in NB as a research assistant (Rutgers’ Center for Urban Policy Research) for half that time – nice town, and does have the county seat / college town comparison to draw on. (Though not “nice” in the same way that Ann Arbor is nice; I’d say more “nice” the way I’d call Ypsi “nice”: NB and Trenton are real places, not plastic Disney-towns like Princeton.)

    NIMBY is pretty exclusively resistance to some proposed development next door (and pretty exclusively derogatory?). Being a self-interested, economically-driven actor only overlaps with NIMBYism when the target is resisting something you want to do. Generally, NIMBYism is conservative; it’s not about wanting parks, or wanting affordable housing, or wanting a certain development over another, but about keeping things the way they are.

    I have often lamented the lack of a term PIMBY – “Please, in my backyard!” For example, I’m ecstatic that the new private dorm will be IMBY, because I think that adding 900+ students to the neighborhood will be another piece of inducing businesses in the Murfin / Plymouth area to cater to neighborhood residents rather than commuters on their way between US23 and downtown. (I’m just sad it won’t be there until I’ve moved out.)
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 09:30PM    #
  45. I was told that some area residents were invited to participate in the DDA’s process at the beginning (18 months ago) are were involved for a while, though I don’t know who or why they stopped participating. That could be why the current proposal does include a park on 1st/William, along with the parking structure, rather than just a structure?

    I think it’s interesting how vehement people like Bob are about how terrible a parking structure on 1st/William would be for Ann Arbor. It’s not as if the “full-scale park” plan is the default, after all. The default, status quo solution is to tear down the old 1st/Washington structure and build a new one, leaving 1st/William a parking lot.

    While a parking structure is not the most pleasing use of land, true, the DDA’s proposal does have a lot of good – reducing the total land area used for parking, extending the pedestrian-usable part of downtown a block closer to the OWS, creating a park, creating a section of greenway, upgrading the drain, upgrading the rail crossing, cleaning up the soil contamination. On balance, the DDA’s plan is good for residents of the Eaton Building, not some terrible evil perpetuated on them. It may not, no, be as good for them as the “ponies for everybody” / “full-scale” greenway, no. But hardly without benefit.
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 09:56PM    #
  46. (I think AU needs to start hosting charettes. . .)
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 09:58PM    #
  47. The vision of many of the “environmentalists” in town is Boulder—anti-development purism masquerading as environmentalism, this myopic belief that we live on an island and we can have our little utopia and stop everything proposed because city leaders give a veto to neighborhood NIMBYs and we can even fabricate a greenbelt (which is really a sporadic check on a little sprawl and will have limited impact on the broader region). Then turn around and say those of us who believe in sustainable development are really shills for the Big Developers. The mayor has cited Boulder as well as a role model specifically pointing to the high property values (though these are in direct relation to many of its other flaws that I, along with Todd, see Ann Arbor repeating). I have my own major problems with the DDA and the downtown business interests, namely that we are forcing out local stores for chains, that the rents are encouraging a proliferation of expensive restaurants geared toward upscale tourists from metro Detroit or Saline rather than a livable downtown for residents, and that density too often equals very high-end condos not mixed-income housing. I wish all local businesses were like Arbor Brewing and Leopold’s, but I see a lot more Rush Streets and BW3’s coming in, sadly.
       —Matt    Mar. 21 '05 - 10:06PM    #
  48. Yeah, I agree that Boulder is messed up for a lot of reasons, as is most of Colorado. That is why we are here, rather than there, although it is my husband’s hometown and where many of our friends and relatives live. However, I don’t think seeing local citizens as the enemy or removing them from the decision-making process at any point works well either.

    Kurt, I think people who drive in to town probably spend more money total (although maybe not per capita) than those who live close in (there are just more of them—hence all this discussion), but I am saying that the parking structure at First and William is not going to be a big moneymaker anytime soon.

    As for outreach, I have certainly had more contact with the Friends of the Greenway (although they knew up-front that we were not big fans of the idea) than I have ever heard from the DDA or my Council people—even when I have tried to get information from them. So yes, that has worked to change my stance on this project. Would I rather support the Friends of the Greenway who called us up and came to our house to give a presentation and answered all questions (even the contentious ones) or support the DDA who sneers about the NIMBYs who live downtown and claim that all we want to do is ruin the city? The DDA isn’t making many friends here.
       —Julie    Mar. 21 '05 - 10:06PM    #
  49. Bob asked for proof of this “so, you assert you have 1000 statements (please provide those) from developers telling you that they ‘need’ parking in order to build in ann arbor. i say call their bluff – let’s see if they pass up prime parcels in a vibrant city because they have to pay for their own parking. i’ll buy you a beer if those lots don’t sell (or lease).”

    To which I say, look around! how many empty lots are there in downtown, or ones that are under-utilized by surface parking? the lot across Huron from City Hall. The Brown Block, which is all surface parking bounded by Huron, Ashley, First, and Washington. The empty lot across Huron from that, next to the old insurance company. The poor surface lot across Washington from the Ann Arbor News on Division. I could go on. How many projects have been proposed in the last 30 years that were DENIED or otherwise delayed beyond all reason because they were ‘too tall’ or a host of other NIMBY-related reasons? Many projects have been. I was told that Ashley Mews was the first major project built downtown in almost 20 years, and I believe it.
       —KGS    Mar. 21 '05 - 10:35PM    #
  50. KGS, at one point in class Peter Allen pointed out (paraphrased) that, if you as a developer can get a project approved in Ann Arbor, you have a nice protected market for your project, because you can count on not much else being approved.

    The outcome is that, in markets like A2, you have a few developers who know how to get their projects approved, but not many. Sure, on the one side, it could be said that this requires developers to go for higher quality projects, but there’s a question of where the bar is too high. Even as you filter out the bad developers, (and not necessarily all of them . . .) you filter out some good ones, too, who just decide it’s not worth the trouble, and, additionally, make everything more expensive: partly because an extended process and failed project proposals cost the developers money, which they have to make up on the next one, and partly because, if it’s going to take that long to get it approved, then, by golly, these here are going to be the most luxurious of high-end condos imaginable, in order to make the process worth it!
       —Murph    Mar. 21 '05 - 11:12PM    #
  51. FYI, there are propaganda fliers on the doors of the Dana Building (School of Natural Resources) reading:

    “The Greenway hangs in the balance. Many Council members seem to prefer the developers’ scheme to build on every single downtown parce, with no significant greenspace to balance their massive development plan.

    We still have a chance to tell our elected representatives what the people who live here—not just the developers—want for our town . . . We will stand to show Council the strength of public support for a real Greenway, one with more than a token amount of green.

    Hundreds of downtown parcels are slated for re-development with buildings that will be two to six times bigger than what there is now. A strong show of public support for the real Greenway may convince our public officials to dedicate a modest amount of land—just three parcels in the floodplain, already owned by the City of Ann Arbor—as Greenway parks in order to balance this massive wave of development.

    Right now there is no greenspace in the downtown area. If these three key parcels—the only publicly owned land on the Greenway route—are turned over to developers, we’ll never have a Greenway. Just a concrete path between enormous parking structures and high-rise buildings.”

    I pray that UM SNRE/Program in the Environment students are not nearly this gullibile and simple-minded… but perhaps they were the ones who actually crafted this flier.
       —Brandon    Mar. 21 '05 - 11:22PM    #
  52. In the end it doesn’t really matter who wrote it, just that it’s the perfect demonstration of the type of tactics and misrepresentations that seem to be typical of those who are not willing to compromise. Who’d a thunk that the greenway supporters were Bush Republicans?
       —Kurt    Mar. 21 '05 - 11:50PM    #
  53. You’ve got to admit that what worked for Karl Rove just plain works… for both sides. The DDA has quite a few pie in the sky claims themselves. And, they don’t have the greatest financial track record (bailed out by the city 10 years ago, nor do they have much public oversight (no records of parking structure useage.

    Frankly, Karl (or would that be Karly, Frank?) you’ll probably find that most of the development community are Bush supporters, not Greenway folks. The Greenway folks are only learning the lessons of the new politcal landscape. Like figting fire with more fire
       —Amy Wright    Mar. 22 '05 - 02:41AM    #
  54. This reminds me of the Greenbelt propaganda from a couple years back with photos of big greedy developers and bulldozers coming to ruthlessly crush indigenous puppies (or something to that effect). I marginally voted yes on B, but find such plays on emotion and misrepresentations utterly pathetic and disgusting, especially for such a supposedly educated population.
       —Brandon    Mar. 22 '05 - 02:47AM    #
  55. No one thinks citizens shouldn’t have input, to respond to Julie’s comment. But city council seems to have given neighborhoods an effective veto over many projects and the mayor has repeatedly said he will never “shove anything down a neighborhood’s throats” (a metaphor I don’t really like as it was often used in the 1950s and 1960s to describe opposition to racial integration). It’s one thing when this happens in some neighborhood and we get a ridiculous NIMBY outcome like the Bluffs or Dickens Woods. But downtown is downtown and the Old West Side has no more right to have a veto over this than any other resident of the city. Finally the greenway is a good project which I support, but the Friends of the Greenway are falsely conflating the parking garage with the greenway itself. This is an untrue public statement—a greenway is a linear park and it is not incompatible with anything the DDA has proposed. DDA is not blameless either and the plan can be debated on the merits but the claim that the DDA plan will kill the greenway is simply a lie and should not be accorded respect in the public sphere.
       —Matt    Mar. 22 '05 - 04:34AM    #