The counter-point to Phil D’Anieri’s piece from a week ago, the Ann Arbor News ran Friday an Other Voices piece by Sonia Schmerl, Old West Side Neighborhood Association Board member and Historic District Commissioner, Greenways prove to be valuable investments for communities.
The greenway proposed for the Allen Creek valley, which would begin with the restoration of three public properties in the floodplain to green open space, has been promoted as a means of improving the livability of the city core and an amenity for downtown residents, amid proposals for dramatically increasing their numbers.
Ann Arbor’s downtown could also realize substantial economic benefits as a result of the establishment of a greenway within the city, as is shown by the experience of municipal leaders in communities across the country.
Greenway corridors (linear open spaces connecting recreational, cultural and natural areas) are traditionally recognized for their environmental protection, recreation values and aesthetic appearance. These corridors also have the potential to create jobs, enhance property values, expand local businesses, attract new or relocating businesses, increase local tax revenues, decrease local government expenditures and promote a local community.
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Use of environmentally sensitive areas for open space or recreation can reduce costs of property damage due to flooding, which accounts for larger annual property losses than any other single geophysical hazard.
Leaders in Johnson County, Kan., were expected to spend $120 million on stormwater control projects. Instead, voters passed a $600,000 levy to develop a county-wide streamway park system. The greenways network will address the county’s flooding problems, while providing a valuable recreation resource.
Additionally, News columnist Mary Morgan today writes on the greenway/DDA dust-up, saying For the city’s sake, meet in the middle:
This issue of neighborhood impact is at the forefront of any new development, or should be, whether it’s a new high school, a Wal-Mart or an apartment complex. The best recent example is the Downtown Development Authority’s plan for new retail, residential and parking on three sites just a few blocks from the new Y.
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The DDA plan drew instant criticism from well-organized residents who’ve turned out in force at public meetings to oppose it. The DDA – charged with supporting the downtown business districts – has proposed building a much-needed parking garage at a city-owned lot by First and William streets, as well as a residential/retail building on the site of a current parking garage at First and Washington. The plan also calls for another residential/retail complex on a surface lot on South Ashley. (More details are online at www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us/DDA)
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Depending on who’s talking, a city greenway is either a visionary concept or a knuckle-headed scheme. I’ve talked with people on both sides of the issue, and aside from those who hate any kind of change, both sides have reasonable arguments.
I’m heartened that the motivation for most comes from the same desire: to make the city a better place to live and work. And while people disagree about exactly what that means and how to get there, I still see common ground.