Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Cool Cities gives Michigan Theater too much money

1. July 2005 • Murph
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Ann Arbor submitted a grant application in April for $100,000 in State Cool Cities grant money, split roughly evenly between adding a micro-cinema installation at the Michigan Theater and funding an interactive sound/light sculpture on Maynard Street. This week, Ann Arbor was awarded a $100,000 grant – but not for the proposal it submitted. The money was awarded entirely to the Michigan Theater project.

This causes some problems. The grant requires that 1-to-1 matching funds be committed within 3 months, the Michigan Theater wasn’t prepared to find a $100,000 match, and the narrower scope of the funded project means that some partners who may have been found to match the grant for the full project may not be interested in funding only half the project. The Michigan Theater has turned to the Downtown Development Authority to ask for half the matching funds, and hopes to raise the other half through other channels, such as the State Street Area Association, which had originally planned to be a partner for the Maynard sculpture project..



  1. (There’s also some cynical comment going around about how the Governor’s office didn’t want to fund any sort of floofy parking structure sculpture, because the Republicans would use it to attack her come election time…)
       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '05 - 12:06PM    #
  2. I’m glad you posted this, Murph. I really liked the idea of the sculpture. Is it possible that the theater could make the sculpture happen anyway?
       —Lizz    Jul. 1 '05 - 12:13PM    #
  3. I was wondering about this because I saw the article saying they had gotten the grant and it only mentioned the Michigan Theater. Now, on one hand, I am pleased to see they funded the Michigan Theater part of the proposal because it was by far more interesting to me than the parking structure part (which I thought was a pretty silly waste of money and talent) but I hate to see the Michigan Theater in a bind. I can’t imagine though that the same sponsors who were funding the parking structure sculpture wouldn’t fund the Michigan Theater. The same student artists could benefit from the Michigan Theater funding just as much, if not more, than they could from the parking structure sculpture. Maybe they could do a similar, but smaller, project at the Michigan. As for the Michigan, if anyone can find $100,000 in three months, Laura Barnes (their Membership Director—I don’t know if she also does general development work for them) is the person I would most want to be in charge so hopefully they will be able to do this.
       —Juliew    Jul. 1 '05 - 12:22PM    #
  4. Lizz – I don’t know about the sculpture; I expect that it’s not a live question at the moment. The State decided to fund a micro-cinema project at the Mich, and that means the grant money and match probably have to be spent entirely on that, rather than the Theater subdividing it out.

    I don’t know who the motive force behind the sculpture was, but I don’t think it was anybody associated with the Theater.

    It would be tragically ironic if the Michigan got no money because they were awarded twice as much as they were offered. I expect that all of the appropriate ducks will get lined up, though. Three months is a pretty decent amount of time for the kind of people who want to see the Cool City money to round up matches.
       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '05 - 12:54PM    #
  5. Don’t mean to be heretical, but Ann Arbor doesn’t need state funding since it is already one of the state’s only growth poles. This is the major flaw of what the creative class idea has become… a novel isolated cute projects replacing meaningful economic development strategies such as transit funding, job training, small business support, immigrant attraction, etc. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a ineffectual patchwork default strategy in response to the institutional void created by bipartisanship and apathy over regional cooperation.

    Totally off topic but has anyone been paying attention to the Detroit mayoral race? The Det. Freep covered the TV debate here.

    I’ve met Hanson Clarke, really nice guy and the dream candidate for mayor. Looks young, but he’s 48 and is far more tempored than the patron boss style of Kilpatrick. The freep’s coverage also seems to take notice of his charisma. In person he’s actually very self effacing and easy to talk to. In our conversation he confided that at times he’s regreted giving up his initial dreams of becoming a fine artist to become a lawyer/politician. Very cool.
       —daveSomers    Jul. 1 '05 - 12:56PM    #
  6. Dave – I agree with you, but in kind of a cynically selfish sort of way.

    The Cool Cities program was more or less self-defeating the moment the State started it, especially since the grants are basically limited to bricks & morter. It became doubly ridiculous when it started handing out grants, for example, to “a fountain for the Warren city center,” since, one, a fountain isn’t “cool”, and, two, Warren has no city center. (Note: I support some of the grants, like giving money to Eastern Market.)

    So, granted, Ann Arbor needs the cash least, but, if it’s going to use it for something worthwhile (like the Michigan Theater project) rather than for fountains in Warren, I’m happy to support our applying for it.
       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '05 - 01:12PM    #
  7. Don’t mean to continue to derail the conversation, but I found his campaign websites.

    I’m actually hoping that he and Hendrix do not end up splitting the reformers/kick the bums out vote. I’m also totally clueless how deep his support is outside of his senate district.

    Not that I have time to kill while looking for a job and preparing to move, but heck, I may volunteer.
       —daveSomers    Jul. 1 '05 - 01:13PM    #
  8. I see your point Murph, and besides, how can I possibly come out against supporting the Michigan Theatre? I just wish that it wasn’t so symptomatic of the diminished expectations that we’ve come to accept as the State’s urban tepid reinvestment strategy.
       —daveSomers    Jul. 1 '05 - 01:20PM    #
  9. Right. I’d be more happy, I think, to just see the state give all of the Cool Cities money to the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and Detroit CDCs rather than doing this silly “request for flashy projects” thing.
       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '05 - 01:39PM    #
  10. I’m with you both on that.

    I missed out on whatever public process occurred here. Did anyone ask young people what they wanted to see in the city? As nice as the MT project and the structure project might be, I’d be surprised if it was the idea of someone who said, “If only there was this in Ann Arbor, I’d stay here instead of moving to Chicago.”

    What do all you current and recent students want in your ‘cool’ city?

    My best guess is that it would have something to do with transportation (and not just because some of you are planners.) Later-running buses? Cheap shuttles to the airport? An easy way to get to Hudson Mills to play disc golf?

    Or is it all about socializing, drinkin’, and listening to music? (aka, S, D, and R&R.)
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 1 '05 - 02:03PM    #
  11. The A2 Cool Cities Task Force held a couple of meetings this winter/spring to explain the grants available and talk about possibilities; there was one at the Library in January that I went to. After that, the Task Force asked for people to submit short descriptions of potential projects and partners, and picked from among those. That’s the process I know of. The current composition of the Task Force (including a spot designated for a Pfizer representative!) is:

    * Emilie Baratta
    * Newcombe Clark
    * Brandt Coultas
    * Maureen English
    * Leigh Greden
    * Kathryn Lynn Loomis
    * Willieum Jacarl Melton
    * Gary Seelhorst
    * Conan Smith

    And, Steve, you don’t really want to get me started, do you? How about a top 4, which are all based on getting places:

    # Transit service to the airport, at least hourly, 20/7.
    # Transit service to Ypsi and Detroit, at least hourly, 24/7.
    # A transit system that doesn’t stop at 5pm on weekends.
    # My ex-officemate in Chicago pays $600/mo for a beautiful, historic 1BR apartment in a lovely neighborhood where she needs a car for nothing. Where are you going to live in A2 for $600/month and be able to get everything you want without a car?

    (snarky on) Say! Maybe we should ask the Cool Cities Task Force to investigate whether a full-scale greenway is high on the list? Oh, wait, Emilie and Newcombe were two of the most visciously pro-Three Site Plan speakers at the hearing on the 13th, and Brandt also spoke pro-TSP; none of the members (to my knowledge) were among the speakers favoring the Friends’ plan.
       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '05 - 03:19PM    #
  12. Thanks to everyone who participates in this blog—especially those who expressed support of the Michigan Theater! Please find below information about how the Michigan Theater will use the funds granted (as well as the required matching funds) from the State’s “Cool Cities” grant program. We were honored and very pleased to be selected. We will work actively in the community to raise the required matching funds—and we expect to be successful in this effort—especially with hoped for support from the DDA.

    Thanks again, folks—here’s some background information. Please feel free to E-mail me directly if you have any other questions.

    The Michigan Theater was recently awarded a “Cool Cities” grant to expand its cinema programming capabilities. The grant, which must be matched with local funds, will allow the Michigan Theater to install much-needed digital cinema projection systems. Digital cinema is clearly the technology of modern filmmaking. The Michigan Theater is dedicated to presenting the moving image in all available formats, both traditional and digital, that best suit the filmmaker’s vision and excites the audience’s interest. The enhanced capabilities, made possible with this “Cool Cities” grant, will expand the theater’s programming with three new digital cinema formats:

    •We will purchase two high-definition digital projector systems, one for the historic auditorium and one for the screening room, broadening the range of filmmaking that we can present.

    •We will install a video monitor system in Theater lobbies, which can be used as video galleries. This will allow us to exhibit “small screen� MicroCinema programs in addition to the “big screen� films projected in the historic theater and screening room.

    •We will work with Michigan based filmmakers to stream short digital video “films� in a special section on our website.

    This grant will allow the Theater to become one of the few theaters in the country with this diverse, high-tech, top-level film and digital projection capability.

    Russ Collins
    Executive Director, Michigan Theater
       —Russ Collins    Jul. 1 '05 - 03:30PM    #
  13. Ann Arbor did submit a Cool Cities proposal that included two projects-the MicroCinema project at the Michigan Theater and Sound Fall, an innovative, public art sculpture. The grant reviewers were interested in the MicroCinema project and we revised our proposal. The potential costs of this kind of technology at the Theater far exceed a Cool Cities grant. Do not assume that we asked for ~1/2 of the money for the Michigan Theater because that was the total project cost. We asked for 1/2 for the Theater and 1/2 for the Sound Fall because we thought that was our best proposal. The funder didn’t agree and they had a legitimate point-they were looking for projects with 1 focus, not two.
       —Brandt Coultas    Jul. 1 '05 - 03:37PM    #
  14. Brandt, the formatting software for comments interpretted your dashes as the beginning/ending of a strike-through, so here it is for easier reading, all:

    Ann Arbor did submit a Cool Cities proposal that included two projects—the MicroCinema project at the Michigan Theater and Sound Fall, an innovative, public art sculpture. The grant reviewers were interested in the MicroCinema project and we revised our proposal. The potential costs of this kind of technology at the Theater far exceed a Cool Cities grant. Do not assume that we asked for ~1/2 of the money for the Michigan Theater because that was the total project cost. We asked for 1/2 for the Theater and 1/2 for the Sound Fall because we thought that was our best proposal. The funder didn’t agree and they had a legitimate point—they were looking for projects with 1 focus, not two.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 1 '05 - 03:49PM    #
  15. In response to this: “If only there was this in Ann Arbor, I’d stay here instead of moving to Chicago.�,
    I’d say dog park.
    Sorry, but it is the truth because I refuse to get a $500.00 ticket for letting go of the leash!
    To me, Ann Arbor won’t be cool with another project not related to me hanging out with my pooch.—The dog-crazy girl.
       —Lizz    Jul. 2 '05 - 08:31AM    #
  16. murph: the transit system doesn’t stop at 5 on weekends—it stops at 6!
       —[libcat]    Jul. 3 '05 - 07:13PM    #
  17. I think all and all we couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome for the grant this year. Keep in mind, getting the Cool Cites for Ann Arbor was going to be a challenge regardless of what the project was. For all the reasons that have been listed in this post.

    It’s true, Ann Arbor is doing well, but the main goal of the grant isn’t to help out faultering cities, it’s to attract and retain young workers. We believe Ann Arbor is perhaps the city with the best shot of doing just that. And yes, it will take a lot more than $100k to the Michigan Theater. But beyond the money we get awareness, the value of which is hard to codify. Now, with the cool city designation, there are many other avenues to explore in terms of funding and partnerships.

    We’re already gearing up for next year’s proposal and our hope is that if we can get started early enough we can get together another great round of proposals locally. The State Street area is undergoing some profound and immediate changes right now in terms of development, both public (U of M) and private. Timing swayed a lot of our decision. That is not to say that the other areas in town are not also going thru a period of transition. Who knows what we can all go to bat for come next year.

    Thank you everyone for your hard work and for your future support of the task force’s efforts.
       —Newcombe Clark    Jul. 4 '05 - 04:21PM    #
  18. To build on what Murph said, I think the Greenway is the exact opposite of what the Cool Cities initiative is about. What we need are places people can walk to for services-like groceries-in the downtown area. And we need people to live downtown. You know, people manage to live in lots of cities without a park every other block.
       —JennyD    Jul. 4 '05 - 04:45PM    #
  19. I agree with JennyD – the Greenway thang is in direct opposition to creating a cool, vibrant downtown. Parks are nice, but we already have a lot of them. We don’t need open space downtown, we need more services and housing density and reasons to go downtown. Parks are really only useful til dusk, and not terribly useful in the winter. What a waste of downtown space to expend it on a purpose which is only usable in the daytime and summertime – especially when the winter is so long here! We need to use the space downtown to a better and higher purpose if A2 is ever going to be ‘cool’ again.

    On the grant itself, I was disappointed that the light/sound sculpture didn’t get funding, but I am tickled to death that independent video is going to get a boost here. How exciting!
       —Laura    Jul. 5 '05 - 08:25PM    #
  20. One of the most used parks in all of Ann Arbor is Elbel Field, which is directly in the Allen Creek floodway. There are people there every day of the year, most hours of the day. It is a very big draw, especially since it is in an area of modest houses and apartments with small or nonexistent yards. The City of Ann Arbor Parks and Rec, the University, most of the nearby residents, and dog owners use it regularly. In addition, the University runs their Outdoor Adventures Rental Center out of the small building at the corner. Now, First and William is not going to be Elbel Field, but there are opportunities to have a park that is well-used.

    In addition to cars, the people moving in to Eaton, Klines, and First and Washington are going to bring dogs. It would be nice to give them a small unpaved spot somewhere downtown. It seems funny to me that people who are for a dog park are so against a green space that would probably be used by a lot of dogs. They like to have something other than pavement beneath their feet.

    As for a parks not being cool? I would recommend anyone who thinks that to go to Jim Nicita’s presentation tomorrow night. The only thing that drew a universal “wow, that is so cool!” from the people around me at one of the TSP/Greenway meetings was some of the pictures of interactive water features that have been done around the world. Unfortunately, I can’t go because I would love to see this, but you can look at the Dreiseitls web site for some examples of some tremendously interesting projects. If done correctly, it could be something really fun, interactive, and educational.

    I’m not naive enough to think that all parks are great. I think it is very possible that a park at First and William or any of the proposed “Greenway” sites could end up being places to pick up hookers and drugs. But I think there is enough community support and enough creative thinking around this to make it something that actually is “cool.”
       —Juliew    Jul. 6 '05 - 11:51AM    #
  21. Hookers and drugs? Hookers and drugs are pretty cool! That part of town has been damned boring since they shut down the Tokyo Health Spa. But still, I think the small park the DDA is proposing offers plenty of room for an assortment of hookers, junkies, plus a few dogs. I mean as long as they all remain verticle….
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 6 '05 - 12:14PM    #
  22. PSD—you should check out the new “karaoke bar” on the site of the old spa on Liberty.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 6 '05 - 02:07PM    #
  23. according to reliable sources, sex and drugs are (still) offered up nightly in the alley behind the arena sports bar.
       —peter honeyman    Jul. 6 '05 - 03:53PM    #
  24. Peter: That’s where Current’s offices are, and while I’ve been out there at night many a time, I’ve never seen sex or drugs (that weren’t mine). I’m disappointed in the alley!
       —js    Jul. 6 '05 - 08:39PM    #
  25. my son, er, source, who likes to stay up all night, sitting on my stoop smoking cigarettes, reports that the action is in the 3-4 AM period.
       —peter honeyman    Jul. 7 '05 - 07:16AM    #