Arbor Update

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University Planner seeks input on North Campus vision statement

18. April 2005 • Murph
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The University Planner’s Office is soliciting feedback on a draft vision statement, which will be used to direct a North Campus master planning process:

Dear students who attend classes and/or live on North Campus:

The Planning Advisory Committee of the university is undertaking a master planning study of the North Campus, with the first step being the development of a vision statement for the North Campus, which will identify key concepts and areas for study, as well as planning principles to guide future development. The committee is interested in receiving input on the vision from as many stakeholders as possible. You, as a student who takes classes and/or lives on North Campus, are a key constituent. We hope you will take a few minutes to consider the draft vision statement and e-mail us your comments and input on land use (types of academic facilities and services), transportation, parking, or open spaces, per the proposed draft below.

*************

Draft Vision Statement
North Campus is envisioned as an increasingly dynamic and vibrant hub of creativity and activity which houses a variety of academic and research uses. It is an integral part of the University in Ann Arbor. In order to improve and increase the sense of community, it is important to maintain and increase the lively and diverse mix of uses – research, academic/instruction, housing, recreation, and additional amenities such as cultural venues and retail services. Facilities and activities aligned with the academic mission will draw more students, faculty, staff, and the community to North Campus, thereby increasing the density and diversity in uses and destinations.

Physical linkages between campuses must be improved, including an enhanced transportation system, with buses, biking, walking, and possibly other types of transit. Parking should become more conveniently located, and some of it needs to be accommodated in structures to reduce surface parking. In order to best utilize the remaining land resources, the campus core must be more compact and walkable, with a diverse mix of destinations. Any disposition of land should be approached with extreme caution, with an eye toward reserving appropriate sites for future unknown institutional needs and aspirations.

Environmental stewardship through the preservation and management of natural resources, open spaces, and woodlands, will help maintain and sharpen the distinctive image and unique qualities of North Campus.

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Please comment on this statement or other issues and opportunities you see or ideas you have concerning North Campus.

Thank you,
The Planning Advisory Committee

Input should presumably be e-mailed to plannersoffice@umich.edu, the address this e-mail was sent from. If you send a response to the Planner, please consider copying it into a comment to this post.

It looks like the previous North Campus Plan is from 1987.



  1. Here’s what I wrote off the top of my head:

    Dear Planning Advisory Committee:

    On the whole, I am impressed with the draft vision statement for North Campus. However, I have a few suggestions for either vision statement modifications or future plan content. I think an overall theme could be “to fix North Campus, it should be made more like Central Campus.”

    A) I would like to make parking less, rather than more, convenient, and in fact have many spaces eliminated. As it stands, North Campus looks, feels, and functions like a commuter college and only encourages driving. If parking is consolidated into structures, it should be placed far from central buildings—pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders should come first, and those who choose to use extravagant automobile transit should be discouraged from doing so and their facilities should be placed in second-class locations.

    B) Streets should be narrowed—there is no need for massive boulevards. If convenient parking should be provided, it should be on-street metered parking. This will not only calm traffic and protect pedestrians physically and psychologically from moving vehicles, but it will also allow drivers easier access to buildings. There is currently plenty of street width to allow for this.

    C) It is not too late to build real neighborhoods on North Campus. As it stands, the campus is an isolated suburban pod. It seems that there is plenty of “open space” of questionable value that could be sold to private developers, or developed by the university, for mixed-use urban development. Moreover, all new buildings should be built to the sidewalk and face the street. No more vast lawns and walls facing the pedestrian (e.g. Duderstadt Center). Imagine multistory housing with retail at street level, sidewalk cafes, apartment cocktail parties, and a 24-hour community. Academic buildings, shopping, restaurants, bars, and housing should be mixed, rather than in isolated clusters. Moreover, real environmental stewardship involves increasing densities and opportunities for a pedestrian lifestyle within cities so that larger, more important ecosystems may be preserved in rural areas outside the city. Because North Campus is not surrounded by a dense, vibrant urban neighborhood like Central Campus, we should build that urban neighborhood on North Campus—we all know about the vast spaces of lawn, parking, and woods between buildings that would be great opportunities for such innovative development.

    As North Campus currently exist, most students will only spend time there when absolutely necessary, and then retreat back home to Central Campus/downtown to once again feel part of the city. I hope that someday this is no longer the case, and wish you luck in your planning.

    Sincerely,
    Brandon Zwagerman
    Master of Urban Planning Candidate
       —Brandon    Apr. 18 '05 - 06:24PM    #
  2. “A) I would like to make parking less, rather than more, convenient, and in fact have many spaces eliminated.”

    University staff are now your enemy. =)

    Although I suppose North Campus is much less of a problem than the hospital (huge problem) and some places on or near Central Campus. But staff never stop bitching about parking. I don’t get it, but I’m young and can afford to live in AA by sharing a house with three other people. For families, distance + car is cheaper than AA – car, which needs to change.

    But I think so long as you build enough “second class” parking for folks to actually get to work and be able to park without hunting, I think it’d be tolerated, if begrudged…
       —Scott    Apr. 18 '05 - 07:21PM    #
  3. See, staff could easily park in P&R lots and take the bus in. Inconvenient parking is one of the costs of being a city—what is gained is so much more than the minor convenience lost. The University has so much power to take a leadership role in planning/development, but so often leads in exactly the wrong direction (has anyone seen the massive suburban medical campus on Plymouth east of US-23, for instance? not to mention the enormous new LSI parking garage). However, the new Ford School building, Social Work building, and Alumni Center all seem to be steps in the right direction… here’s hoping the new North Quad is actually well-designed.
       —Brandon    Apr. 18 '05 - 07:37PM    #
  4. Brandon you are overlooking why people want/need to drive to North Campus. The reason so many people drive to North Campus is that nothing is in close proximity to the campus. Bus rides from central can take in excess of 45 minutes (which if you have ever gone to north campus for a one hour meeting with a heavy backpack, you know how much of a pain this is). In the evening there are no places to eat or grab a beer, and the places that are open are expensive. There is no where to get a pack of smokes, run by a drug store if necessary, or pick up a few groceries. Lack of food and businesses coupled with poor bus service have been issues ever since I was a freshmen five years ago. If the University were to address these issues I think it would do a lot to ameliorate the parking situation.
       —Kat    Apr. 18 '05 - 09:17PM    #
  5. Kat,

    I think Brandon’s point is that North Campus needs to look more like Central campus—i.e., surrounded by places to pick up smokes, some groceries, a cheap beer, etc. That way, driving back and forth so much is not necessary and when you do, walking is more pleasant and can be more integrated in to the day-to-day.

    Brandon said, ” Imagine multistory housing with retail at street level, sidewalk cafes, apartment cocktail parties, and a 24-hour community. Academic buildings, shopping, restaurants, bars, and housing should be mixed…”
       —Scott    Apr. 18 '05 - 09:27PM    #
  6. I’ve lived off north campus for five years. Living with 150 people provides about as much social stimulation as I’ve ever been able to handle, which makes living near NC tolerable. Now, obviously, it would have been better if I lived with the same group of people, say, a block off of Central Campus instead of a block off of North Campus, but, hey, up here on the frontier you learn to make your own fun.
       —Murph    Apr. 18 '05 - 11:12PM    #
  7. Don’t forget that a portion of North Campus is family housing, and that means families with kids. It’s possible that their needs and the needs of single students aren’t the same. For these folks, the central, sheltered playground is essential. And they drive places because they have to take strollers with them, or because little kids can’t walk very far.
       —JennyD    Apr. 19 '05 - 08:10AM    #
  8. Northwood – or at least part of it – is also (or “on the other hand”) one of the parts of town with the most walkable access to groceries. From 4(?) you can see the Kroger on Plymouth, 1-3 are within shopping cart distance, and 5 is shopping cart distance to Busch’s on Green Road.

    It’s possible that their needs and the needs of single students aren’t the same.

    You sound like you’re trying to tell off Kat and Brandon politely? I don’t know that anybody wants to raze family housing and build South U in its place. On the other hand, families don’t necessarily have different needs from singles. Both of them need “access to goods and services”. As, for that matter, do the folks living in the neighborhoods north of Plymouth. (And everybody else.) Which is why I’m so annoyed by the proposal for Upland and Plymouth at tonights Planning Commission meeting . Ann Arbor continues to plan Plymouth Road for commuters from Brighton over residents of the neighborhoods around it.
       —Murph    Apr. 19 '05 - 08:28AM    #
  9. I sent this out last night. It sounds a bit like Brandon’s response.—-

    First of all, thanks for sending this out. Overall I’m quite pleased with the attitude of the statement. I am a senior graduating from SOAD, and I work on North Campus driving the maskell shuttle bus for the
    art school.

    >>, it is important to maintain and
    > increase the lively and diverse mix of uses

    I couldn’t agree more. North Campus will never be a place that typical students (or anyone else) will want to hang out for exptended periods unless they can easily go somewhere to drink a beer, buy cigarettes or get some greasy breakfast food at 4 am.

    > research, academic/instruction, housing, recreation,
    > and additional amenities such as cultural venues and
    > retail services.

    In the spirit of ”...[maintaining] and [sharpening] the distinctive image and unique qualities of North Campus…”
    My suggestion is to open up these spaces to community-based businesses. Part of what makes a place desirable is a variety of unique locations that give it character and flavor. I’ve lived on S. State St. for three years, and it’s depressing to watch local shops be replaced by giant chains because they can’t afford rent. In an effort to counter homogenization, I encourage you to give local business owners priority over available commercial space.

    > Physical linkages between campuses must be improved,
    > including an enhanced transportation system, with
    > buses, biking, walking, and possibly other types of
    > transit.

    The bike ride along Fuller can be particularly awful on cold, still mornings because the exhaust from all the traffic hangs over the huron river valley. I’m
    not sure exactly what the solution to that is, since it is the most direct route to bike.

    > Parking should become more conveniently
    > located, and some of it needs to be accommodated in
    > structures to reduce surface parking.

    Yes! Get rid of the surface lots! I think that becoming ‘more conveniently located’ could mean using valuable pedestrian space. (I agree with Brandon here—-put it out of the way)

    > Environmental stewardship through the preservation
    > and management of natural resources, open spaces,
    > and woodlands, will help maintain and sharpen the
    > distinctive image and unique qualities of North
    > Campus.

    Rain gardens can be a beautiful way to catch parking-lot runoff and prevent it from flowing into the Huron.

    http://hawksandowls.com/Beccas_Site/rivermaid_design.htm

    Thanks so much for asking for our input. I have high hopes for North Campus.

    Sincerely,

    Susan Fawcett
    Co-chair, Huron Valley Green Party
    Undergraduate Student, SOAD, LSA
    (734) 994 7460

    P.S. This is an article that appeared in the Daily
    on November 24th, 2003 that more or less expresses my
    sentiment on the matter.

    To the Daily:

    In response to the article, Choosing Fast Food on North Campus sparks MSA debate (11/20/03). Having lived on North Campus for a year, I know how sterile and lonely it can be. I admit I grew to love walking
    to class and seeing deer, skunk and raccoons, but I missed the rich sense of community Central Campus offers. The problem with North Campus is that the
    closest thing to a social center is the McDonald’s and the coffee shops in Pierpont Commons. These shops all
    close around 10 p.m., leaving thousands of diligent art, architecture, music and engineering students working with no place to go. Anyone who has ventured
    into the Media Union at, say, 5 a.m. knows exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t understand how such a vast market of latenight consumers has gone untapped.
    What they need is an all-night diner in immediate walking distance.

    The nearest place for a latenight order of decent fries and the accompanying social scene involves waiting for a bus, driving a car or biking up a steep hill, all major endeavors — especially in wintertime.

    The closest daytime alternatives to McDonald’s, Espresso Royale Cafe and Cafe Commons, Too involve a significant walk, and crossing a pedestrian-unfriendly
    Plymouth Road. Before the University plants another Taco Bell, Subway or other lousy fast food joint on North Campus, it should consider making the space available to established local businesses in our community, such as the Jerusalem Market.

    There are some great restaurants in the nearby courtyard strip mall such as Ayse’s, Cafe Marie and Exotic Bakeries’ middle eastern food. Many students and faculty already make the hike to the other side of
    Plymouth Road, but it would be better for the businesses and more convenient for the students if the University were to rent commercial space on campus. Ultimately, the decision of what restaurants can rent
    should be up to all North Campus students, faculty and staff (not just Engineering students).

    A suggested solution involves a floor of commercial space in the proposed North Quad dormitory housing. The problem with North Campus isn’t its isolation in
    itself, but rather its decidedly anti-pedestrian layout and lack of culture in the form of original restaurants and shops integrated into the University buildings.

    Susan Fawcett

    School of Art & Design, LS&A
       —Susan    Apr. 19 '05 - 11:25AM    #
  10. No not tell anyone off. Not at all.

    My kids attend school with lots of North Campus kids, and I get the sense that the needs of the parents and children are different from the needs of my other grad school friends. That’s all.

    Many of the grad school families I know really like living in North Campus.
       —JennyD    Apr. 19 '05 - 11:49AM    #
  11. Looks like they followed my advice… they’ve removed a great deal of parking from the lot next to Pierpont and put parallel spots on Bonisteel! (Though it may just be temporarily for construction of the Walgreen Center?)
       —Brandon    May. 4 '05 - 05:58PM    #
  12. Yeah, I think that’s been planned for a while as part of the Walgreen construction. Or, at least, for now they’re probably envisioning the parallel parking on Bonisteel as an emergency stop-gap measure, but, once it’s been there for a while, maybe it’ll catch on.
       —Murph    May. 5 '05 - 09:01PM    #