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Hieftje's TSP/Greenway Town Hall Meeting, 27 June

22. June 2005 • Murph
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Mayor Hieftje will be hosting a Town Hall Meeting on Monday, 27 June, at 7pm in the City Council Chambers to discuss the Three-Site Plan and greenway visions. The event is meant to be more conversational and less formal than last week’s Public Hearing, with opportunities to ask questions and discuss rather than simply speak for three minutes and step aside.

Edit, 26 June: Short notice, but Sonia Schmerl of the Friends and Leah Gunn of the DDA Board will be on WEMU, 89.1FM, tomorrow morning, 8-9am, discussing the Three-Site Plan and the Greenway.

  1. I hope that the discussion at Mayor Hieftje’s town hall meeting will lead to a conclusion that the Three Site Plan—originating out of the artificial and arbitrary initial parameter set by the city council to consider only 3 sites—should be abandoned in favor of a comprehensive planning process for the lower Allens Creek Valley, in which each of the three sites of the TSP are located anyway.

    It should be noted that the city is already in the process of several elements of such a planning process, which are at the moment disparate and uncoordinated. Calthorpe’s density study is relevant, for example, and so is the city’s Flood Hazard Mitigation study and remapping of the Allens Creek floodplain. But these planning processes, from what I have heard and read, are not intersecting with each other.

    The work of the DDA need not go to waste; it should proceed with a parking analysis, and fold this information into the larger coherent planning process. A true parking analysis will offer the community other alternatives to handling the parking question without having to add public safety risks by building in the floodway.

    The incomplete agenda of the Allens Creek Technical Review Task Force needs to be implemented. The current floodplain remapping was one of the ACTF recommendations. But we need dynamic modeling of the watershed as recommended by ACTF to give us information as to how the hydrologic and hydraulic system (particularly in the underground pipes) operates, and how any proposed interventions like straightening the drain or obstructing floodway flow will impact the system.

    Urban design and architecture need to be added to this comprehensive planning process. This isn’t just a luxury. Density without beauty and aesthetics will just make for an ugly crowded place filled with unhappy people.

    Zoning such as the Allens Creek Valley Zoning Overlay District proposed by Richard Murphy would provide a tool to ensure the orderly redevelopment of the area and a means to improve the quality and nature of the built environment in the valley.

    The mayor, from what I heard about the city council hearing, was repeatedly asking, “where’s the money going to come from?” It is a comprehensive planning process that will answer this specific question. A comprehensive plan would establish and implement financing tools like tax increment financing, dedications, historic tax credits, low-income tax credits, etc. Even Drain Code financing tools could be implemented to finance amelioration of the conditions of Allens Creek.

    Examples of such coherent redevelopment plan abound in other cities. I have mentioned Portland’s Pearl District—also initially an unattractive industrial area—but there are numerous others. Ann Arbor will benefit from a similar comprehensive planning process.
       —Jim Nicita    Jun. 27 '05 - 02:55AM    #
  2. FYI: After talking so much about the Allens Creek Technical Review Task Force, I thought I might post the recommendations of their report, which follows. Anyone interested in the .pdf version of the entire (8-page) report can e-mail me at jim_nicita [at], and I will gladly e-mail it to you.

    In reading it, recall that the task force was created in response to a grass roots effort to collect 12-15 resolutions from neighborhood groups in support of a hydrologic and hydraulic study of the Allens Creek watershed. The current FEMA effort to remap the Allens Creek floodplain thus is a result of grassroots organizing. I urge the community to organize to implement the remaining recommendations.


    1. The first step to improved modeling of the Allens Creek Watershed is to set up a means of gathering accurate data for overland flow and precipitation events. The effort and means to gather the data should be planned to be in place for an extended period of time in order to capture the necessary (large enough) events, measure the results of watershed management efforts, and assess the impacts of future changes. The effort could be “high tech” with recording gauges or a less expensive method with manual “tell-tale” gauges. The effort could be done through consulting services or the use of interested parties within the watershed.

    2. Dynamic modeling, with good calibration and consistent data maintenance, can be used to predict the results of proposed development and watershed management efforts. Adequate staff to maintain the model would be necessary to make use of the predictive capabilities.

    3. Additionally, the City needs to initiate and fund the process of a Letter of Map Revision through FEMA to correct the floodway designation. This alteration would correct the defect discovered during the shelter project. The MDEQ will be at least 4 to 6 years away from making that revision unless the City initiates the process sooner.”
       —Jim Nicita    Jun. 27 '05 - 03:06AM    #
  3. (Just a note to bump this post up; didn’t want to add a separate post for the radio appearance…)
       —Murph.    Jun. 27 '05 - 03:09AM    #
  4. Okay, I’ve swung back and forth on this a bit trying to be both reasonable and future focused. Jim has been inspiring in his vision, which has me swinging back towards being more open to possibilities (and cooperation) and willing to put the TSP on hold temporarily to explore a bit, primarily to learn more about the floodway and the long-term potential for daylighting the creek if it’s worth the effort.

    I’d like to hear thoughts on how this vision could actually play out in a positive way to see if it’s truly feasible. Murph has offered an idea for a possible tool in the ZOD (I like that shortened acronym.)

    Beyond those thoughts, what can we envision for the “backsides” of those existing structures along the tracks/floodway? Would those property owners, say, of the Cavern Club, for example, develop their back entrances to face out onto the proposed Allens Creek greenway? Is the greenway wide enough in enough places for some synergy to develop (no pun intended)? What would be required to remove that billboard at Liberty and First? Practical questions like that.

    This might be a challenge to the Friends to put on their thinking caps and get realistic about their vision, rather than opposing others who have done the work of planning and finding funding.
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 27 '05 - 03:19AM    #
  5. Todd said on another thread, quoting from the Ann Arbor News today’s Greenway debate stalled by study :

    Proponents of a full-scale greenway say all they want is the DDA to give up First and William so it can be developed as a park. They say they have no objection to the development of the Kline lot or the First and Washington parking structure.

    Well, it was a little muddy. The Friends’ spokestypes, Sonia Schmerl and Margaret Wong, have raised zero argument with those two sites. As far as they’re concerned, I think, right on. (Though Margaret has started to sound recently as if she’ll fight any proposal on 1st/Washington that includes any kind of subsidy for people who may be low-income, but not extremely low income.) I did talk to one woman after the hearing, though, who just couldn’t comprehend why anybody would want to develop the Kline’s Lot. “But you heard that one shopkeeper in there who said his customers need that lot!” The Friends are not monolithic in their views, naturally.

    On the other hand, the most interesting outcome of last night is that Sonia and Margaret have stopped saying, “We want a a full-scale greenway, which includes 100% of 1st/William, 415 W. Washington, and 912 N. Main as parkland!”

    The new party line is that the Friends “aren’t trying to decide exactly what’s going to happen with any of these sites – we don’t have the resources to do all of the research to make the decisions, nor is it our place to. It’s Council’s call what happens in the end; we’re just trying to advocate for consideration of alternatives.”

    This is a significant reframing of their position. I think the “we’re not trying to say what should happen – that’s Council’s decision” is an attempt to not lose any allies. “Parks not parking structures!” is good for petition signatures; “parks not artists’ space!” and “parks not Kiwanis!” and “parks not historical preservation!” are likely to lose some supporters, so they’ve abandoned the bright line all-parks vision for those city sites. (This part of the Friends’ retrenchment was most visible when the Kiwanis president was trying to make Margaret admit that the Friends’ former demands would include tearing down the historic road commission building at 415 WWash that Kiwanis wants.)

    The “we don’t have the resources” part is, I believe, an acknowledgement of the criticism that the Friends have proposed no funding mechanisms for the parks, nor for soil pollution cleanup, nor drain improvements; nor have they proposed an alternate plan that could meet the other goals of the TSP without 1st/William. They’ve backed off from presenting an alternative Plan (or even an alternative Vision?) to more of a watchdog role. “We don’t think the DDA has provided enough alternatives; we think the community deserves better.”
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 12:07AM    #
  6. The meeting was also fairly surreal at times. The first five or ten minutes were a conversation between Mayor Hieftje and several Friends who were miffed at his using the word “activist”.

    “What’s your definition of ‘activist’; I thought we were all ‘citizens’?”

    “You’re labeling people!”

    “Okay, well, I’m a person who lives in the city and I vote, okay?”

    While the Mayor was stammering, “Well, I don’t think ‘activist’ is a negative word – I think we’re all activists, that’s why we’re here. I’ve been an activist for a lot of things, and I use that word for myself.”

    Somebody noted to me afterwards that “the perfect punchline” to this discussion was that, when this discussion finished, one of the Friends (Margaret?) stood up and introduced “The Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway, an advocacy group.”

    The Kiwanis Guy’s (I apologize, I don’t remember his name) “question” (most of the speakers had trouble sticking to the Mayor’s request that people ask questions rather than make statements) also got surreal, with Kiwanis Guy alternately demanding to know why the Friends didn’t have more vision – why weren’t they talking about extending the greenway all the way down to Briarwood?! and demanding to know why the Friends were calling for 415 W. Washington as a park “in its entirety,” precluding use by Kiwanis and forcing them out of downtown.
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 12:13AM    #
  7. Can’t say it any better than Murph already has. The amazing backpedalling by the Friends had me wanting to jump in just to clarify that what they were saying now would be the same thing they were saying next week, but there was already so much pontificating happening that it wasn’t worth it.

    I was disappointed at not being able to loft a question at the person (Amy?) from the city’s housing department about HUD’s numbers which, like the federal poverty line, are woefully out of sync with reality when it comes to affordable housing. But, you know, there had to be plenty of opportunity to bitch about being ‘labeled’ by the mayor, as wasting everyone’s time protecting one’s personal dignity in the face of what can hardly be called an attack is about as useful as coming to an information exchange with a confrontational attitude…
       —Marc R.    Jun. 29 '05 - 02:32AM    #
  8. I only saw the last half hour or so on TV. What I thought was odd in the News article was that the focus is on waiting for the Calthorpe report and not so much the floodway studies, which I think are much more relevant. Those results will also be available in September as opposed to December.

    Too bad the Friends are backing off on a vision. Maybe the ACWG will step in to support Jim’s, basing it more soundly on stormwater considerations.

    Murph, what did you think about comment that we need to develop downtown to the west? I stepped out of the room at that point. Was he talking about Ashley and First or beyond?
       —Steve Bean    Jun. 29 '05 - 02:35AM    #
  9. Steve,

    WRT Calthorpe and the floodway study, I gathered (near the beginning of the meeting) that, if the DDA proposed anything that was bad for the floodway, drain, or sites downstream or up, the State DEQ and Drain Commissioner Bobrin could be counted on to lay the smack down and deny permits. (I also found it interesting that the City’s guy who was explaining the floodway mapping seemed to give the floodway a 50-50 chance of going either up or down, based on things like “rain levels revised downwards” and wouldn’t commit to even likelihood of one over the other.)

    The floodway – and offsite impact – is something that’s pretty clearcut and has dedicated bodies watching over; the Calthorpe study is, well, not planning, but ordinance generation, which is wholly and solely within the Council’s purview. I think the focus on Calthorpe is a reasonable one, if we’re going to wait on anything.

    Yesterday I asked Susan P. for an estimate of timeline. IF the Council were to give an “okay” to the DDA, the earliest we could expect to see a parking structure on 1st/William would be 2.5 – 3 years from now, with permitting from the DEQ, Drain Commissioner, review by Planning Commission and City Council all coming in the 8-12 months from now period. Even if the Council were to resolve next week to ask the DDA to move forward, no real decisions would be made without the remapping or Calthorpe being resolved.
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 11:57AM    #
  10. Steve,

    comment that we need to develop downtown to the west?

    Are you talking about the Mayor, or somebody else?

    There was somebody who spoke for the Friends who gave a vision of downtown being just as dense to the west of Allen Creek as to the east as a done deal – we need to set aside land before downtown rampages past the valley and builds skyscrapers in the OWS. I didn’t find this to be a realistic vision.

    I didn’t catch a comment from the Mayor along similar lines; I was getting kind of foggy by the end, so I missed the comment/context of what you’re referring to. If the Mayor’s suggesting extending downtown past the Creekway / railroad, though, that’d be news to me.
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 12:10PM    #
  11. “The Kiwanis Guy’s (I apologize, I don’t remember his name) “question”(most of the speakers had trouble sticking to the Mayor’s request that people ask questions rather than make statements) also got surreal, with Kiwanis Guy alternately demanding to know why the Friends didn’t have more vision – why weren’t they talking about extending the greenway all the way down to Briarwood?! and demanding to know why the Friends were calling for 415 W. Washington as a park “in its entirety,”precluding use by Kiwanis and forcing them out of downtown.”

    Ha. That was Dan Dever. Harvard Law grad. I can’t imagine having to deal with him from across the aisle. No thanks.

    I think that it is somewhat predictable that the Friends have appeared to change their tune. From discussing this with some other players involved, I think that Murph is correct: they see that they can’t fight with the warm and fuzzy Kiwanis or the affordable housing crowd.

    So we are left with the lone issue that I had thought that this was all about in the first place…..and again, this is just my opinion…..the Friends live near 1st and William, and they simply don’t want a parking structure there. I think that the Kiwanis saw the same thing, and that’s why he was asking relevant questions.
       —todd l.    Jun. 29 '05 - 02:32PM    #
  12. ”’The longer the council waits, it’s in our favor,’ said Sonia Schmerl, co-chairwoman of the Friends of the Ann Arbor Greenway.”


    ”’I’m happy to wait as the studies unfold,’ Hieftje said. ‘There are many council members that haven’t made up their minds.’

    “Besides the consultant’s study, there is also a floodway remapping that could impact the DDA’s plans that should be completed by September.

    “City Council Member Chris Easthope, D-5th Ward, told one supporter of a full-scale greenway after the meeting it’s unlikely a council member would bring forward a resolution asking for support of the DDA plan without the votes. ”

    These quotes from the News indicate to me that greenway supporters are not as interested in pushing their greenway “vision” as they are about blocking the TSP.

    Who hasn’t had a chance to make up their mind whether the TSP deserves more development and progress?
       —Dale    Jun. 29 '05 - 03:48PM    #
  13. Well, to be fair, I think the Friends have asked some good questions. I don’t, however, think that this translates to we should stall any action infinitely.

    From my conversations with various Parties Who Ought To Know, a lot of the Friends’ questions will probably be answered in the detailed study, site planning and approval-seeking process that the DDA will have to undertake if/once the Council says “yes” to the plan so far.

    * Will there be harmful effects up/downstream? The DDA will basically have to prove “no” to two different regulatory bodies in order to get a 1st/William plan approved.

    * Could parking be built under Ashley and the hillside? It would be fair for Council to ask the DDA to investigate the cost/feasibility of recessing any 1st/William parking into the slope and under the street.

    * Exactly how much underground parking is geographically possible under Klines? How much would the lot be worth to a developer/what would be economically feasible to develop at varying levels of public parking consumption of that underground capacity?

    * How can short-term/high-convenience parking concerns, such as those of Jim Hart’s, be managed during the construction process and afterwards? (This is actually be considered right now in the DDA’s discussion of the parking rate and time structure.)

    Is it fair for Council to ask the DDA to investigate these things? Yes – assuming they weren’t already planning to investigate them – if it’s part of the conditions for moving forward. It is not fair to string the DDA along and demand 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars of studies and staff time (the staff is pretty durn small) when it’s just a stalling tactic and there’s no commitment to actually moving the process along.

    It’s fair for the Friends to ask, “Is this really the best thing right now?” It’s not fair for them to ask that insincerely. I’m just glad that it’s up to Council – and not up to me – to make the assumption that the Friends are sincere and figure out how to address their sincere concerns, in a way that moves the town to a better place. Council has to act in a way that is not only binding on the DDA to advance the goals we want advanced and answer the issues that we see to be open questions, but also binding on the questioners – we’ll assume the Friends are acting out of sincere, unbiased concern for the Good of Ann Arbor, and that their questions are fair and deserve answers if we can also assume that the DDA is acting out of sincere, unbiased concern for the Good of Ann Arbor, and that when they answer questions, they’re answering sincerely. Why hold one group of citizens to a standard of strict scrutiny while demanding that another group of citizens’ motives not be questioned?
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 03:52PM    #
  14. murph, there’s are a few major distinctions between the ‘citizens’ of the dda, and the citizens of the friends. the two bodies are not comparable:

    – the dda, and it’s board (some local citizens, some not) have millions of dollars a year to spend on interests of their choosing/direction. – the friends have no funding source.

    – the dda members live some in town, some out.
    -the friends are comprised of citizens who live in a variety of neighborhoods in town, not just the ows.
    – the dda takes direction from council. – the friends define their own direction based on their interests and concerns.
    – the dda has expressely targeted density and development. – the friends expressely target quality-of-life & environmental issues wrt the allen-creek greenway.

       —bob kuehne    Jun. 29 '05 - 07:01PM    #
  15. The Friends: some of whom are friendly, some not. Some of whom live within a block of the proposed structure, some as many as three blocks away. Some of whom own very valuable real estate that might be negatively impacted, some of whom own extremely valuable real estate that might be negatively impacted. Some of whom are as we speak planting small mouth salamanders on the lot, some of whom have opted for snail darters in the puddles (California condors having been considered and rejected as a flight risk). Some of whom are a pack of raging hypocrites, some of whom are a gaggle of raging hypocrites. Some of whom choose to pick their teeth with the bones of the poor, some of whom use the bones of the poor to scratch their backs. Most of whom would describe themselves on a questionnaire as “fundamentally liberal”, all of whom are, in fact, fascists.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jun. 29 '05 - 07:50PM    #
  16. (Despite significant amusement with regards to the California condors, this little writer doesn’t think he can condone the part about fascists. (The bones of the poor part, on the other hand…))
       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '05 - 08:31PM    #
  17. Murph (#5):

    “The ‘we don’t have the resources’ part is, I believe, an acknowledgement of the criticism that the Friends have proposed no funding mechanisms for the parks, nor for soil pollution cleanup, nor drain improvements; nor have they proposed an alternate plan that could meet the other goals of the TSP without 1st/William. They’ve backed off from presenting an alternative Plan (or even an alternative Vision?) to more of a watchdog role. ‘We don’t think the DDA has provided enough alternatives; we think the community deserves better.’”

    I frankly don’t think that the Friends even has the “burden” of proposing funding mechansims for the parks, drain improvements etc. This is just not their responsibility.

    A greenway has been in the downtown plan for years. The comprehensive plan for Allens Creek I described in the first paragraph, including putting forth the proposed funding mechanisms you ascribe as the responsbility of the Friends—or even a more modest greenway plan—is the responsibility of one agency: the City of Ann Arbor Planning Department.

    Unfortunately, the city has emasculated the Planning Department. One of my biggest concerns about the Hieftje mayoralty, the administration of Roger Fraser, and the the current Council majority, is that they got rid of Karen Popek Hart, and further, basically got rid of the idea of a planning director, period.

    The Ann Arbor Planning Department should have a long-range planning program worthy of the name. It should have a strong, visionary director who, in my mind, should be an urban designer, or at least know good urban design when s/he sees it. We have neither.

    Instead, the Planning Department Department has been diminished (as, from what I have heard from friends back there, all significant citizen advisory committees such as the planning commission, parks advisory commission, and environmental commission). The relevant planning responsibility has been shifted to the DDA, where it really just doesn’t belong.

    In the absence of a capable and visionary Planning Department, there is no vision on the Allens Creek greenway inside the city government. So, you have a bizarre situation where groups like Urban Design Advocates in 2000-2001, and the Friends of the Greenway and Joe O’Neals group today, are stepping into the void (without great resources) left by the failure of the city (which does have the resources) to provide a vision.

    I think most of the animosity towards and criticism of the Friends on this thread, and on this blog generally, is COMPLETELY misplaced. I would recommend that all of the energy being thereby expended should be redirected: to lobbying the City Council to step back from its current misguided path, and create a city Planning Department worthy of the name.
       —Jim Nicita    Jun. 29 '05 - 08:41PM    #
  18. Jim said:

    “I think most of the animosity towards and criticism of the Friends on this thread, and on this blog generally, is COMPLETELY misplaced.”

    I think you’re writing from Oregon and haven’t directly experienced the circumstances that have led to some of that presumed animosity.

    Jim, I don’t disagree with your intent even if we may quibble on the details. You know that. But I DO disagree with your apparent supposition that the Friends are in the right and the city is the bad guy, especially given the facts that the former has done a pretty good job of alienating those who would otherwise be their friends (aka people like me and Murph) with their claim of ideological purity whenever it suits their immediate argument; their convenient shifting of locations of importance when it suits that immediate argument; and their insistence on suggesting this fight is life or death based primarily on their depiction of both city and DDA as unfeeling monoliths (aka ‘the enemy’; witness the wailing about being ‘labeled’.)

    By the same token, I am not here to suggest that the Friends are ‘the enemy’. But they could get a lot more accomplished if they would be honest about their goals and demonstrate a willingness to work to a compromise solution, rather than go about drawing a line in the sand.

    Incidentally, I, too, have a friend in the planning department who has provided me information similar to yours. I, too, agree that the city should have a fully funded and EMPOWERED planning department that does not get dismissed as a tool by the planning commission and is able to make decisions above the petty politics that surrounds the council. However, I know, as you should know, that the funding for such a thing is nowhere in sight. Can we make the department more autonomous? Yes. Can we give it all the resources it would require to function in that fashion? Probably not.

    But let’s not leverage that noble goal on the support of a citizens’ organization whose goals may not be nearly so noble. (They sure could be, but all signs at this juncture don’t point to it, and they don’t seem really willing to talk to those of us who are more even-handed about entities like the mayor’s office.)
       —Marc R.    Jun. 29 '05 - 11:15PM    #
  19. Did anyone else find the Friend of the Greenway from South Lyon especially amusing?
       —Brandon    Jun. 30 '05 - 03:19AM    #
  20. Brandon,
    I wasn’t even gonna go there. I’m quite certain that there are Friends of the Greenway from all over Ann Arbor. It’s a great idea. It’s an idea that I think everyone here approves of in one fashion or another. But, of course, we’re all from Ann Arbor.

    I loved the argument about how she wanted to enjoy the ‘experience’ of Ann Arbor like it was some kind of theme park.

    “So, you have this idealized image of a place where you don’t live and how it can be improved? I see. Been to Baghdad recently? Nevermind…”
       —Marc R.    Jun. 30 '05 - 03:51AM    #
  21. Come on, that’s a cheap shot. You should be glad that you have people from outside the City who think enough about Ann Arbor and care enough about Ann Arbor that they voice an opinion. Does that mean you have to give it the same weight as a resident? No. But I would hate to think that we’re going to start ranking the value of opinions that way. Do taxpayers get more weight than renters? How about long-term versus short-term? Can we ignore students since most of them move away once they finish school?
       —John Q    Jun. 30 '05 - 12:40PM    #
  22. John, interesting that you mention it, since I think many people here think that students, renters, and non-lifer residents (I believe the official OFW-newsletter terminology is “transients” – talk about labeling!) are already neglected as citizens.

    Should non-residents have a voice? Yep. They’re part of the community, whether they’re Friends from South Lyon or Rene Greff, whom Bob K. decries, supra, for being an out-of-towner. As if somebody who lives in South Lyon, but works/plays/?s in Ann Arbor knows anything about the town! As if somebody who lives in Ypsi dares to think that, just because she runs a brewpub half a block of Main St, she knows anything about Ann Arbor’s downtown!

    Ah, the noble drawing of lines between “us” and “them”!
       —Murph.    Jun. 30 '05 - 01:02PM    #
  23. “”I frankly don’t think that the Friends even has the “burden” of proposing funding mechansims for the parks, drain improvements etc. This is just not their responsibility.”

    Well, that’s certainly your opinion. This is where the Rene Greff “this is about Ponies for everyone” comment came from. While we’re at it, can I add an amusement park at taxpayer expense directly across from my brewery, Jim? It’d be swell, and it would really add to the “quality of life” of my customers. Why should I worry that the other poor bastards in Ann Arbor who would have to come up with the $$$ to build and maintain the amusement park? That’s not my concern.

    Yes, this is biting sarcasm, but you’ve just explained why republicans hate liberals so much…”why discuss who’s going to pay for all this? Let’s just make the whole world a big petting zoo!”.

    Come on, Jim. If the Friends are supposed to be looking out for the best solution for all of the citizens of Ann Arbor, they need to know how much this sideshow is going to cost, even if it’s just a ballpark figure. Heck, they did a fine job of explaining how expensive the proposed parking lot is going to be….why release them from telling us how expensive their vision is? You can’t force the city to spend the money needed to hire an estimator to come up with a budget for every ridiculous proposal that comes along.

    And no, I’m not a republican.

    “The Ann Arbor Planning Department should have a long-range planning program worthy of the name. It should have a strong, visionary director who, in my mind, should be an urban designer, or at least know good urban design when s/he sees it. We have neither.”

    Now this I agree with. In fact, we had quite a little thread on this topic when Pope-Hart was let go. Lame, lame, lame.

    Of course, as I have stated many times before, when we do in fact get advice from planning professionals, all that locals need do to is complain real loud about a particular project that furthers the Master Plan, and all that U. Planning experience goes to pot…..and I have to say that this might be the reason the Mayor dissolved her post (and again, I don’t agree with this): no one listened to her anyway, or at least not when it conflicted with a particular neighborhood’s sensibilities, for good or ill.
       —todd l.    Jun. 30 '05 - 02:02PM    #
  24. John Q said:

    “Come on, that’s a cheap shot. You should be glad that you have people from outside the City who think enough about Ann Arbor and care enough about Ann Arbor that they voice an opinion.”

    That may be, and I’ll freely admit to not being in the best of political moods in recent days. Perhaps I should curtail my posting until it passes. But until I hear something genuine from the organization as a whole, my impression of the woman from S. Lyon is that she was a friend of one of the Friends who came in to attempt to add weight by dint of numbers to the discussion. What does that accomplish, especially considering that the meeting was called to get the two (three?) ‘sides’ to exchange information? In the old days, they would have referred to tactics like that only mildly inaccurately as ‘carpetbagging’.

    Someone from South Lyon coming to a local meeting and proclaiming that Ann Arbor NEEDS a greenway down the Main St. corridor, without stopping to examine the fact that she had to drive into town because Ann Arbor likely lacks housing that she can afford and that a greenway as INITIALLY PROPOSED by the Friends will be one of the main blockades to affordable housing in that downtown area, does not strike me as the most helpful addition to the discussion.

    But, of course, the initial proposal (neé DEMAND) has now apparently been left in the dust…
       —Marc R.    Jun. 30 '05 - 03:26PM    #
  25. The woman from South Lyon actually came to the Public Hearing two weeks ago, too, and identified as an Ann Arborite at heart, despite her South Lyon address. She seemed a little more passionate then than this time around. I’m willing to accept her as someone who genuinely cares, and not just a recruit.
       —Murph.    Jun. 30 '05 - 06:18PM    #
  26. Hi All,

    Here is a blurb on a presentation I will be giving in AA on Thursday evening. Hope you can make it. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think may be interested.




    James Nicita, former Ann Arbor resident, greenway advocate and watershed planner with several agencies in town, will present a slide presentation entitled, “Dreiseitl in the Pearl District: Ideas for an Allens Creek Greenway.” The presentation has two parts. First a survey of Herbert Dreiseitl European urban design projects that use storm water as a design element. Second, a preview of Dreiseitl’s new project in Portland Oregon’s Pearl District will serve as a segue to a presentation on the redevelopment of the Pearl District as a whole. The presentation will also provide commentary on how ideas generated by Dreiseitl and by planners and architects in the Pearl District may be applicable to the redevelopment of Ann Arbor’s Allens Creek Valley, including a proposed greenway.

    The presentation will take place at 7:00 pm in room 1024 of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus.
       —Jim Nicita    Jul. 5 '05 - 04:01PM    #
  27. Oops. Thats this Thursday, July 7.
       —Jim Nicita    Jul. 5 '05 - 04:04PM    #
  28. The announcement of Jim’s program made its way around to my inbox (with the incorrect date) via the infrequent OWS mailing list.

    It opened with this intro: “Curious about how landscape-designs featuring innovative uses of storm water (i.e., rain water run-off) could be a vital part of the proposed full-scale Ann Arbor Greenway? Thursday night is your chance to learn about this from an expert.”
       —Dale    Jul. 6 '05 - 01:22PM    #
  29. I posted this on another thread here, but the projects on the Dreiseitls web site are fun to look at. They are doing some really neat and inventive things.
       —Juliew    Jul. 6 '05 - 03:59PM    #
  30. Dreiseitl’s Pforzheim Water Playground looks very cool, and the Hammersheim Town Square is very attractive.

    I’m hoping to attend Jim’s presentation, but just in case I miss it, here are some thoughts:

    -I wonder if the west-facing wall of the proposed parking structure could be made into a water feature. Maybe with hanging plantings in the summer. That’d be pretty attractive (for neighbors.)

    -Winter will be a challenge, I suspect. What have other places that have freezing/snowy winters done with their water features?

    -AC has pretty minimal flows at times. I wonder if that problem could be easily overcome to keep a water feature going.

    -Would what water does flow be clean enough for human contact? Would it require a lot of processing (minimally, filtering) in order to at least look clean?

    -Keep West Park in mind for this kind of feature.
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 6 '05 - 05:05PM    #
  31. I didn’t write that part about “expert”—I am not; I am just a guy with a camera and a train ticket.
       —Jim Nicita    Jul. 6 '05 - 05:09PM    #
  32. Steve,

    I hope you can make it, but if not, here are some comments on your points:

    Regarding winter, Dreiseitl has a project, the name of which escapes me, and which unfortunately is not on his website, that is designed specifically to be a “winter” water feature. During the winter, the water flows over the sculpture and freezes, creating an amazing ice sculpture that looks slightly different every time. The project is described in Dreiseitl’s book “Waterscapes,” which I recommend to everyone.

    There has been some discussion on this blog as to what could be done in the winter on the First and William site if it were a park rather than a parking deck.

    Aside from such a water feature, I could recommend a fountain and shallow pool that kids could play in the summer (I will show slides of Portland’s Jamieson Square, which I have mentioned previously) and could be a skating rink in the winter.

    Furthermore, the entire greenway should be used for cross-country skiing in the winter. I have mentioned that the greenway should have branches that go up to West Park, over to Bluffs Park, and down to a Huron River greenway. This would facilitate a really first rate urban cross country skiing network.

    Another issue is what would happen at night. Dreiseitl has thought of this too. Check out on his website his project in Hannoversh Munden. Three light pillars light up the town square, including the water feature, and the pool reflects the light onto the facade of the town hall. I was there at night, and there were actually a lot of people enjoying the ambiance. But I could not get slides, because my film was the wrong speed. This project is also in “Waterscapes.”

    Check out the North Park Square link on Dreiseitl’s website. It will also have a big light pillar to illuminate the park at night. The drawing on the website is pretty cool.

    Regarding the minimal flows of Allens Creek, the key to resolving this issue, I think, is completing the recommendations of the Allens Creek Technical Review Task Force, and undertake a dynamic of the Allens Creek hydrologic and hydraulic system. When we know how the system is working, we can make the appropriate interventions.

    Again, Dreiseitl has done something similar. On his website you will find a description of his project in Hagen, where he is analyzing hydrology to restore creek flows and then use these flows in urban design.

    Finally, regarding water quality, Dreiseitl separates out cleaner roof runoff from street runoff. He only uses roof runoff in his water features. This is cleaner to begin with, but then he goes further. The water is further cleansed via green roofs, or biotopes at ground level. I can attest to the very good water quality in (most of) his projects. His focus is on play spaces for kids, and the water quality of these water features is quite good.
       —Jim Nicita    Jul. 6 '05 - 07:04PM    #
  33. Hm, I might have to go to this as well. I spent a summer working for a community center in the Pearl District a couple of years ago. Jim, is this the water sculpture that was installed in 2002, or a different one? In the one I’m thinking of, it was a beautiful stone/brick basin in which the water filled and receded during the day. It was intended by the City to be in keeping with the sophisticated feeling of the area, so that the childless 20/30-somethings and empty nesters who were living in this very urban area would want to gather around it. Instead it became a dog and toddler wading pool, attracting people from everywhere BUT the Pearl District. I found it quite amusing, but people who paid lots of money and ended up right next to a gazillion loud toddlers and dogs did not.

    I do have to say that thinking about the Pearl District makes me want parks. They developed everything into really expensive condos and apartments and forgot to put much green, so I found it very hot and very depressing. I know they were planning on adding some parks as I was leaving, and I hope they have.
       —Lisa    Jul. 6 '05 - 07:25PM    #
  34. “Furthermore, the entire greenway should be used for cross-country skiing in the winter. I have mentioned that the greenway should have branches that go up to West Park, over to Bluffs Park, and down to a Huron River greenway. This would facilitate a really first rate urban cross country skiing network.”

    That’s a lot of street crossings. How is that going to work with cross-country skiing?
       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 6 '05 - 07:42PM    #
  35. Thanks for the pre-presentation response, Jim.

    I’m wondering where the roof runoff would come from. Maybe we’ll just have to (finally) commit to making the water in the creek cleaner by dealing with the overall watershed runoff.

    I think Bruce has a point about XC potential. It may work out at times, but with the street crossings and the changing climate (hotter and drier expected in Michigan), making it a focus probably wouldn’t make sense.
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 6 '05 - 09:00PM    #
  36. I went to a BBQ this weekend attended by a couple of Ann Arbor cops. Their take on the Greenway is that it will be nearly impossible to patrol at night given the city’s current police budget. They don’t think a linear, narrow, treed park running through the city is a good idea, at least from a crime prevention point of view.
       —JennyD    Jul. 6 '05 - 09:37PM    #
  37. I can see their concern. If they can’t drive their cars down the Greenway, it’s a pretty nice escape route for Criminals on foot/bike/motorcycle/snowmobile.

    Practicaly speaking, I suspect if a Greenway gets built at all, it’ll be so narrow as not to be much different from the current train track route, anyway. I don’t think they’d ever push through a wider path requiring significant purchase of property—it’d piss too many people off and be WAY to expensive to be worth it.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 6 '05 - 09:44PM    #
  38. Just from the descriptions, it sounds like the water features are great. But back to my broken record issues: what have they done for affordability in the past and how could it be integrated into a plan that promotes urban development (eg, oh, say, the three site plan)?
       —Dale    Jul. 6 '05 - 10:14PM    #
  39. Scott – bicycle cops are pretty bad-ass. I don’t think I’d want to try to escape one on my bike, greenway or no. The motorcycle angle is one I hadn’t considered.

    In general, though, I imagine the police are more concerned with the difficulty of monitoring and responding quickly to calls along the greenway – Chief Oates was saying at the public hearing that the parks near downtown generate calls for the police at a much higher rate than other parks.
       —Murph    Jul. 6 '05 - 10:38PM    #
  40. Bike cops are bad-ass, it’s true. But they don’t bike around in winter. Someone needs to write a novel about a bank heist using snowmobiles as the escape vehicle.

    Maybe the downtown parks generate more calls simply because there are more eyes on them? I hear Park Northfield, a county park north of AA is known primarily as a cruising and drug trading spot because it’s so under-used. The dog park people actually submitted a plan to the county to turn it (or part of it) into a dog park, and some of them run their dogs off leash there because there’s nobody around to complain.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 7 '05 - 08:16PM    #